Colorado Governor Jared Polis says he welcomes the presence of gray wolves after Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials on Wednesday confirmed there is a pack in the northwestern part of the state.
"I am honored to welcome our canine friends back to Colorado after their long absence," Polis said in a statement, noting it's "very likely" that the wolves confirmed in Moffat County are the first pack found in Colorado since the 1930s.
CPW said that an investigation of an animal carcass was conducted on Sunday, leading to officers hearing the wolves howling and spotting them using binoculars.
"Right after our two officers heard the howls from the wolves, they used binoculars to observe approximately six wolves about two miles from the location of the carcass," said JT Romatzke, northwest region manager for CPW. "After watching them for about 20 minutes, the officers rode in to get a closer look. The wolves were gone but they found plenty of large tracks in the area."
CPW said the wolves are under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since they're federally protected.
"While the animals have naturally migrated to our state and their presence draws public interest, it's important that people give them space," Polis added. "Due to their Protected status, there are severe federal penalties for anyone that intentionally harms or kills wolves in our state."
CPW said earlier this month that an eyewitness report from late last year and a discovered elk carcass indicated "likely presence" of a wolf pack in an area near the Utah and Wyoming borders.
The confirmation this week comes as Colorado voters are set to decide on a plan to reintroduce gray wolves to the Western Slope in the November election.
Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF), the primary group backing the initiative, previously told The Center Square that if wolves were back in Colorado it "bolsters our argument for a Colorado solution to the problem."
The initiative would require CPW to create a plan to restore gray wolf populations in the state. It would also provide some financial compensation to owners who might lose livestock to wolves.