For Immediate Release, May 18, 2015
Contact: Amaroq Weiss, (707) 779-9613, email@example.com
Feds Investigating Whether Animal Killed in Colorado Was Endangered Gray Wolf
DENVER— Federal officials are conducting DNA tests on the remains of a 90-pound, wolf-like male animal shot in northern Colorado to determine whether it was an illegally killed endangered gray wolf from Wyoming. The animal was reportedly shot on April 29 by someone who claims to have mistook it for a coyote, according to a Facebook post and photo.
“I’m afraid we’ll find out that another intrepid traveling wolf has been killed,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves add so much to our world by keeping our ecosystems healthy, and western Colorado has plenty of room to welcome them back — but once again recovery of these beautiful, endangered animals is being threatened by gunfire.”
Dozens of wolves that dispersed far from their home territories in the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes states, seeking mates, have been killed in recent years, often by people claiming to have mistaken the animal for a coyote. Coyotes, which are common and aren’t federally protected, are smaller than wolves with more pointed snouts and ears, whereas wolves appear bulkier and with markedly longer legs and a bushier tail.
Wolves are an endangered species everywhere in the United States except Alaska, Idaho, Montana and portions of Oregon, Washington and Utah. But the Department of Justice has systematically failed to enforce the Endangered Species Act in respect to illegal shootings of animals supposedly mistaken for unprotected wildlife species —notwithstanding that a fundamental rule of firearm and hunter safety is never to pull the trigger without being 100 percent sure of the target.
“Wolves in Colorado deserve real, on-the-ground protection,” said Weiss. “That means keeping them on the endangered species list, letting people know they’re around and are protected and prosecuting those who kill them. Beyond that, it means developing a science-based recovery plan to ensure that not just dispersers but entire wolf families can once again thrive in Colorado to stave off extinction and help keep ecosystems in balance.”
If confirmed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be a wolf, this would be the fourth wolf known to have reached Colorado since reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995. Two were killed, one on Interstate 70 in 2004 and another of the banned Compound 1080 poison in northwestern Colorado in 2009; another wolf was videotaped in North Park in 2007. The last original wolf in the state was trapped and killed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Conejos County in southern Colorado in 1945, as capstone to an extermination program on behalf of the livestock industry.
Scientists have identified western Colorado as containing important habitat for wolf recovery. The Center compiled and analyzed studies that identified 359,000 square miles of additional habitat for gray wolves in 19 of the lower 48 states that could significantly boost the nation’s 40-year wolf recovery efforts. The study indicated the gray wolf population could be doubled to around 10,000 by expanding recovery into areas researchers have identified as excellent habitat in the southern Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon area, Northeast and West Coast. Instead of expanding wolf recovery efforts, however, the Fish and Wildlife Service is considering stripping federal protections from wolves throughout most of the Lower 48 states.
The report documented 56 instances over 30 years where wolves have dispersed from existing core recovery areas to states where they have yet to reestablish, including Colorado, Utah, California, New York, Massachusetts and Maine. These events, which frequently ended in the dispersing wolves being shot, highlight the need for continued federal protections and recovery planning to increase the odds for dispersing wolves to survive and recolonize former terrain. The most famous dispersing wolf, OR-7, traveled hundreds of miles from northeast Oregon to California and has started a family along the border of the two states. A 57th wolf, named “Echo” in a contest among schoolchildren, was seen last year along the Grand Canyon and then shot in December in Utah.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.