Colorado Wolf Kills Calf for First Time Since Reintroduction

by Vern Evans

A wolf killed a rancher’s calf on Tuesday morning in Grand County, Colorado, in the same area where 10 wolves were recently released as part of the state’s reintroduction effort, a press release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced. It was the first livestock depredation event to occur since the first release, which occurred over three months ago between Dec. 18 and 22.

CPW officers responded to the rancher’s call that morning. After investigating the carcass and the scene around it, officers determined a wolf was the culprit. It is unclear how many wolves might have been involved, and the investigation is ongoing.

“The results of this investigation indicated wounds consistent with wolf depredation,” CPW area wildlife manager Jeromy Huntington said. “The field investigation found multiple tooth rake marks on the calf’s hindquarters and neck, and hemorrhaging under the hide, consistent with wolf depredation. Wolf tracks were also found nearby.”

The identity of the rancher remains unavailable to the public. They requested not to be contacted, according to CPW. If they submit a claim for the loss to the state, they can receive fair market compensation for the calf up to $15,000. 

The incident only adds fuel to what is already an extremely hot fire in Colorado — hot enough to convince recently-appointed wildlife commissioner Gary Skiba to resign on March 7 before the state Senate could vote to confirm his appointment by Gov. Jared Polis. As Skiba writes in an op-ed about his decision, he is a lifelong hunter and angler who worked as a state wildlife biologist for 24 years. But his stance as pro-wolf restoration was all it took for some hunting and conservation groups to paint him as an enemy, he claims. 

One of the most common arguments against wolf reintroduction was that wolves were already repopulating parts of the state on their own. In 2019, one year before Colorado voters approved the controversial ballot measure to reintroduce wolves, CPW announced the arrival of a collared female wolf from a Wyoming pack. That wolf stuck around Jackson County, where it found a mate and birthed a litter of pups in 2021. A spate of wolf depredations on livestock followed later that year, including two attacks on the same ranch in Jackson County.

Read Next: 5 Wolves Released into Colorado Reintroduction Area

On Wednesday, CPW issued another press release detailing work they are doing in partnership with the Colorado Department of Agriculture to bring in range riders to protect livestock herds in counties near the reintroduction sites. The two agencies are crafting budget proposals that would give them the capacity to hire riders and do other livestock-predator mitigation work. Additionally, a Wolf Depredation Compensation cash fund receives $350,000 annually from the state’s General Fund to compensate ranchers for livestock depredation events of all kinds. 

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