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18 calves found dead so far on Western Slope, investigated as possible wolf kills

Wildlife officials are investigating a report of dead domestic cow calves on White River Forest lands in Rio Blanco County.

RIO BLANCO COUNTY, Colo. — Colorado wildlife officials said on Friday that they're investigating a report of dead domestic cow calves near Meeker that might have been killed by wolves – the first such investigation in Rio Blanco County.

Eighteen dead calves have been identified so far, killed over about two weeks in an area spanning a few miles. The calves "show damage consistent with wolf depredation," and officials are working to collect additional evidence, such as scat and tracks in the area, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.

If it's confirmed that wolves were responsible for the livestock deaths, then CPW will work with livestock producers to respond to damage claims and implement approved hazing methods.

No wolves have been reintroduced into Colorado, and recent incidents involving wolves aren't related to reintroduction efforts.

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Credit: KUSA

Until recently, the last known resident wolves in Colorado were here in the 1940s. But two wolves that migrated separately to the state in 2019 and 2021 have produced a litter of pups in High Park in Jackson County. The High Park pack has eight known members – the female, the male and six pups. 

Jackson County ranchers said as recently as May that wolves have attacked and killed livestock there.

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Because of the distance between Meeker and High Park and because of recent sightings of the High Park pack, it's unlikely that the Rio Blanco County calf deaths were caused by that pack, a CPW spokesman said. 

Other than the High Park pack, six wolves were spotted in Moffat County in 2020. Only months later, state wildlife officials learned that hunters just across the state line in Wyoming likely killed three members of the pack.

Most dispersals into Colorado are believed to have come from the Greater Yellowstone Area, according to CPW.

Gray wolves may not be taken for any reason other than human self-defense. CPW said an illegal take of a wolf may result in a combination of penalties, including fines of up to $100,000, a year of jail time, and a lifetime loss of hunting license privileges.

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