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A gray wolf.

Coming on the heels of the initiative to reintroduce wolves in Colorado, the Parks and Wildlife Department (CPW) issued a press release regarding the tracking of wolves and the presence of disease in their scat in the state.

The press release issued earlier this month cites “several known and some additional credible reports of potential wolves in the state at this time.” There are two new reports of sightings, including a “credible wolf sighting” in Laramie River Valley and in Grand County, where two groups of campers reported activity by their campsites.

In the Laramie River Valley incident, wildlife biologists are attempting to confirm the sighting after someone reported seeing the animal wearing a “wildlife tracking collar, which indicates it is likely a dispersal wolf from monitored packs in Montana or Wyoming.” However, the biologists have been unable to detect a signal or visually confirm the animal.

“Importantly, this sighting occurred east of the Continental Divide, making forced wolf introduction even less necessary,” said the Coloradans Protecting Wildlife in a press release, urging the withdrawal of reintroduction of wolves. “If wolves were to be introduced to the state, the introduction would be west of the Continental Divide, and over time, it is likely that those wolves would spread to the eastern parts of the state. The Larimer County sighting indicates that wolves are already spreading eastward naturally.”

On the weekend of June 6-7, a camper was able to take two photographs of the animal and submitted them to CPW. Wildlife officials and biologists responded to the area to confirm what type of animal it was and whether it was a wolf or wolf hybrid. CPW confirmed that no wolf hybrids were reported missing at the time.

“Any other year, they would not have even put out a press release. What was contained in there was not news,” Rob Edwards with Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, a group in favor of wolf reintroduction, told the Colorado Sun. “They didn’t have anything to report. The photo from Grand County, that was not a wolf. Everyone who knows wolves or has worked with wolves and has seen that photo says it’s a wolf hybrid—a dog. But the overall effect of that release is to make it seem as if there are suddenly wolves throughout northern Colorado.”

In addition to the new reports, the release updated the status of the wolf known as “1084M,” which is currently being tracked in Jackson County and the wolf pack known as the “NW Wolf Pack” in Moffat County.

According to the department, the NW Wolf Pack has been “relatively quiet of late.” In January of this year, CPW biologists observed “approximately six wolves” about two miles from an animal carcass, which contained several “wolf-like tracks” surrounding it.

“As we have made clear, CPW will not take direct action in these cases,” said Dan Prenzlow, CPW director. “We have the leading experts on wildlife management and species recovery working for our agency, but while wolves remain federally protected, they are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We will continue to work with our federal partners and monitor the situation.”

Disease tracking

CPW biologists also reported that scat collected from the NW Wolf Pack showed the presence of eggs of the tapeworm Echinococcus canadensis (EC). Adult EC tapeworms can live in the intestines of wolves, coyotes, livestock, deer, elk, and domestic dogs. The presence of the parasite can lead to hydatid disease.

According to the CPW, with hydatid cysts, “the tapeworm eggs hatch, and immature worms (larvae) migrate out of the intestine to form hydatid cysts, typically in the lungs and liver.” When wolves or dogs eat the cysts, the worm can develop into an adult where shed eggs are present in their feces.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states direct contact with dogs, “particularly intimate contact between children and their pet dogs,” may lead to human infection. However, the CDC reports that cases in humans are rare.

The CPW continues to monitor for hydatid disease to establish baseline data and reports the last time it was seen in Colorado was in 2017 when a hydatid cyst was found in a moose. However, they note that the “tapeworms have been found in wolves in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.”

CPW is asking campers, hikers, and landowners to report if they see or hear any wolves to their online wolf sighting form at www.cpw.state.co.us.

You can also visit the recently launched website by Colorado State University that answers questions about wolves in the state, human and pet safety, and wolf policy. It covers protection under the Endangered Species Act and Initiative 107 (the plan for reintroduction of wolves in the state). — Charles Wallace, WLJ correspondent

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