A litter of gray wolf pups has been spotted in Colorado for the first time in around 80 years, according to state wildlife officials.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said last week that several staff members have observed at least three pups of the endangered species in June. The parents are believed to be M2101 and F1084, or John and Jane as they're known by CPW, who were seen with the pups in the area north of Denver.
The gray wolf species was eradicated from Colorado in the 1940s and had not been seen again in the area since Jane arrived in the state in 2019 and John joined her in 2020. Now, the first pup siting marks a major milestone in the reintroduction of the species into the state.
In November, Coloradans voted on a ballot initiative that would require the state to work on a plan to reintroduce, restore and manage gray wolves in Colorado by no later than the end of 2023. With the most recent sighting, Colorado officials announced that the restoration effort is well underway.
“Colorado is now home to our first wolf litter since the 1940s," said Gov. Jared Polis in a statement. "We welcome this historic den and the new wolf family to Colorado. With voter passage last year of the initiative to require re-introduction of the wolf by the end of 2023, these pups will have plenty of potential mates when they grow up to start their own families."
CPW staff say they will continue to monitor the pups from a safe distance, an estimated two miles from their den.
“Our hope is that we will eventually have photos to document this momentous occasion in Colorado's incredible and diverse wildlife history, but not bothering them remains a paramount concern," said CPW biologist Libbie Miller.
In October of 2020 it was announced that the gray wolf would be removed from federal protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) nationwide and the rule has since gone into effect as of January of 2021.
Even with the gray wolf no longer part of the federal list, they are still considered an endangered species by the state of Colorado. Capturing or killing a gray wolf in the state is punishable by a fine of $100,000, jail time and/or loss of hunting license.