Coloradans should expect to see wolves in Colorado, according to wildlife officials.
"It is increasingly likely that the growing wolf populations and range in nearby states will eventually expand across state lines," Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said in a statement sent to Denver7.
"Wolves are known to travel long distances and we expect that they will continue to come into the state on their own," said CPW Director Bob Broscheid. "We have a duty to let the public know about this possibility to help prevent someone from accidentally killing a wolf."
Wolves are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act in Colorado. Killing a wolf can result in criminal charges, a year in prison and fines up to $100,000.
Wolves have been spotted in Colorado:
- 2004, wolf killed in vehicle collision on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs.
- 2007, two CPW wildlife officers captured video of an animal with strong wolf-like characteristics along the Colorado-Wyoming border, a few miles north of Walden.
- 2009, a radio-collared gray wolf found dead north of Rifle.
- 2015, a trailcam near Walden captured photos of an animal that appeared to be a wolf.
- 2015, a small-game hunter mistakenly killed what he thought was a coyote near Wolford Mountain Reservoir, a few miles north of Kremmling. Officials said an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified the animal as a gray wolf.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chose to not charge the hunter after their investigation determined he was hunting legally, did not intentionally kill the wolf and immediately reported the incident to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials," Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.
Learn more about wolves on CPW's website. The website also has a Wolf Sighting Form if you see a wolf.