“The howl of wolves officially returns to Colorado" – watch as first wolves in over 80 years are released into the wild

Five gray wolves were released in an effort to create a self-sustaining wolf population in the state
Five gray wolves were released in an effort to create a self-sustaining wolf population in the state (Image credit: Travis Duncan/CPW)

The next time you go hiking or camping in Colorado, you might be treated to the howling of wolves in the distance. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has released a video showing the moment gray wolves were released back into Colorado's wild after a more than 80 year absence. 

Five wolves captured in Oregon were released on Monday in what the department calls "a historic effort to create a permanent, self-sustaining wolf population" in the state.

The measure took place three years after Colorado voters passed the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan plan to restore the local wolf population. Wolves have not been seen in the wild here since around 1940.

“Today, history was made in Colorado. For the first time since the 1940s, the howl of wolves will officially return to western Colorado," says Colorado Governor Jared Polis in his remarks.

“I am proud of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff for their hard work to make this happen. The shared efforts to reintroduce wolves are just getting started and wolves will rejoin a diverse ecosystem of Colorado wildlife.”

In the video, which you can watch below, three males and two females fitted with GPS collars are seen being transported in crates from trucks where they are released onto public land in western Colorado one by one. According to the official press release, CPW will repeat this process until at least 10 - 15 wolves have been reintroduced by mid-March 2024. 

Needless to say, the reintroduction has not been without controversy. As recently as last Friday, a federal judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting the release of wolves after members of the Colorado cattle industry filed a lawsuit against CPW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in an attempt to block the measure. Those who oppose the plan cite concerns about their livestock, while supporters hope the move will restore biodiversity.

The long term plan is to release between 30 and 50 wolves in Colorado over the next 3 - 5 years. Gray wolves are currently listed as an endangered species in Colorado. The foundation for the reintroduction program was laid in 1995 when an experimental wolf population was released in Yellowstone National Park. Reintroduction efforts have since spread to Idaho, New Mexico and Arizona.

Grey wolf (bronze colored) standing tall, looking over his domain in Yellowstone National Park

The foundation for the reintroduction program was laid in1995 when an experimental wolf population was released in Yellowstone National Park (Image credit: John Morrison)

Wolf safety

With just five wolves in the entire state of Colorado today, your chances of encountering one in the wild are miniscule, and they are likely to give you a wide berth. 

In the very unlikely event that you do encounter a wolf in the wild, you can protect yourself by making yourself appear bigger, standing your ground, securing your dog and making noise by shouting, using your hiking whistle or banging your trekking poles together. Learn more in our article on what to do if you encounter a wolf on the trail.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.