MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. — A video taken by one of two men hunting in the far northwest corner of the state last October is further indication that a pack of gray wolves could be residing in Colorado, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
That video, along with a recently discovered elk carcass that was thoroughly scavenged in the same area near Irish Canyon, strongly suggests that a pack of gray wolves may be living in Colorado, CPW said.
Two eyewitnesses reported seeing what they observed to be six wolves traveling together last October near the Wyoming and Utah borders, according to CPW.
"The sighting marks the first time in recent history CPW has received a report of multiple wolves traveling together," said CPW Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke. "In addition, in the days prior, the eyewitness says he heard distinct howls coming from different animals. In my opinion, this is a very credible report."
In the 7-second video clip, two large animals are spotted running through tall grass before going out of frame. You can watch the clip below:
After learning about the scavenged elk carcass, which was located just a few miles from the location of the potential wolf sightings, CPW said it initiated an ongoing investigation. Wildlife officers observed that tracks surrounding the elk carcass were consistent with those made by wolves.
"The latest sightings add to other credible reports of wolf activity in Colorado over the past several years," said Romatzke. "In addition to tracks, howls, photos and videos, the presence of one wolf was confirmed by DNA testing a few years ago, and in a recent case, we have photos and continue to track a wolf with a collar from Wyoming’s Snake River pack.
CPW said it will not take direct action, and wants to remind the public that wolves are a federally endangered species. The public is urged to contact CPW immediately if they see or hear wolves or find evidence of any wolf activity.
The last of the native wolves in Colorado are believed to have been killed by humans in the 1940s.
Earlier this week, a proposed ballot initiative to bring gray wolves back to the state officially qualified for inclusion on the November ballot.
The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF), a group working to bring the gray wolf back to Colorado, delivered 215,370 petition signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State's office in early December.
If passed, the initiative would force CPW to come up with a plan to reintroduce wolves to the Western Slope by 2023. The ballot measure includes compensation for ranchers who lose livestock to the wolves.
WATCH: Could CPW decide that six wolves in Colorado are enough?
The Stop The Wolf Coalition, an organization against the ballot initiative to bring wolves back, used the news of this potential pack to say "forced re-introduction" is "dangerous" and that this is "in direct contradiction to pro-wolf groups' claims that wolves are non-existent in Colorado."
Rob Edward, the president of RMWAF, calls the recent evidence of a pack "a good sign," but not a reason to stop pushing for a re-introduction.
"I would not want to bet Colorado's future wolf population on a founding population of 6 probably fairly related animals."
Edward said the state needs a recovered population of more than 100 wolves to restore the natural balance of the ecosystem.
"We want to reintroduce wolves so that these few venturers have somebody to hook up with quite literally," said Edward.
9NEWS asked CPW to speak about the ballot initiative, but they declined citing Colorado's Fair Campaign Practices Act. However, that law has a provision that allows agencies to express opinions as long as they are not spending more than $50 doing so.
CPW said in an emailed statement "the Division of Parks and Wildlife and the Parks and Wildlife Commission are bound by the restrictions contained in Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act and the cases interpreting it. Staff and leadership of the Division and the Commission are committed to ensuring a fair election takes place. The Division of Parks and Wildlife has not adopted a formal resolution or position on this ballot initiative."
In 2016, a CPW commission decided against re-introducing the gray wolf for reasons explained in this document.
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