A lone wolf

A lone wolf

A large black canine photographed north of Walden earlier this month has been confirmed as the first wolf sighting in the state in four years.

The wolf was spotted July 9 by a member of the public as it roamed near the Colorado Forest State Park, not far from the Wyoming border. Photos of the wolf were sent to wildlife officials who confirmed the male as a “dispersing” gray wolf from Wyoming’s Snake River pack.

Although wolves were systemically killed off in Colorado in the 1940s, they have been known to wander into the state from Wyoming over the years. The last credible sightings in Colorado were in 2015. In April of that year, a trail camera near Walden captured images of a wolf. That same month, a hunter near Kremmling mistakenly shot a wolf while coyote hunting.

Gray wolves have been restored in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, Minnesota and Arizona. Under the Endangered Species Act, harming, harassing or killing a gray wolf other than in self-defense is illegal.

The recent sighting has wolf-reintroduction advocates howling at the moon. “This is great news, because it reaffirms that wolves are trying to come home on their own,” the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project said. “But ... one wolf sighting simply isn't enough – wolves are pack animals, and they need to be able to successfully travel together to restore Colorado's population.”

The nonprofit is working to gather 200,000 signatures to bring a wolf-reintroduction initiative to Colorado voters.

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