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Possible Wolf Spotted in Rocky Mountain National Park


Could wolves be returning to Rocky Mountain National Park?

Rocky Mountain National Park officials, who just recently announced a program to reduce elk numbers in their park, might get some help from nature. Officials say a black-colored canine spotted on December 4 possibly was a wolf.

According to a story in the Estes Park Trail-Gazette, the animal was seen in Moraine Park by two park volunteers when it came out of the woods about 200 feet away.

“This is a credible sighting,” park biologist Jeff Conner told the newspaper. “We can’t confirm that it was a wolf, or a wolf hybrid though.”

On December 5 park personnel were taken to Moraine Park, where they found paw prints that were about 4.5 inches wide and 5 inches long.

“They were definitely not a coyote and we could rule out a vast majority of domestic dogs,” Ranger Conner said. “We are confident this was not someone’s dog running loose.”

Earlier this month park officials announced plans to cull elk herds with marksmen and try birth control to blunt growth in the herds. Exactly how many elk are in the park varies throughout the year. While the range of animals in recent years has been pegged at somewhere between 2,200 and 3,100, according to wildlife biologist Therese Johnson, during the past five winters the average count has been between 1,700 and 2,200. The park's objective is to keep the winter population between 1,600 and 2,100.

Interestingly, back in March 2006 there was another possible wolf sighting, also of a black canine, not far from the park. That sighing was made by a Colorado Division of Wildlife officer who managed to videotape the animal near the Wyoming-Colorado border and just to the northwest of Rocky Mountain National Park.


Regarding the possible wolf sighting in RMNP in 2007--
On September 9, 2003 my husband and I were alone up at Sprague Lake right as it was just becoming light. We like to hike before the crowds. I went to the restroom and when I came back my husband said he saw a coyote over near the dumpster. He handed me the binocs and left for the restroom. I located the "coyote" with the binocs so I could get a really close look. It was running away from me towards the wooded hill near the far end of the parking lot. As I moved the binocs along towards the hill I came eye to eye with a large dark gray wolf face with the dishing of the muzzle. The smaller canid ran up to this big gray one (roughly 2 x as big) and did the submissive yelping that immature or subordinate canid species perform to adults/superiors. The bigger canid performed the return acceptance greeting and they turned and ran off up a gravel trail on the side of the hill. As they ran away I noticed that the hinds legs of the larger one had the outward sloping angle that wolves display.
My husband returned from the restroom and I told him and we ran over to the site to look for tracks but unfortunately there was pea sized gravel all along the trail so no luck and no pictures as it happened too fast.
To support my claims that it was a wolf and not a coyote or dog, as a child I played everyday with a young blind wolf that my neighbor had chained up in his backyard (it was the 60s). In addition, I have lived on farms in central Missouri where coyotes and coydogs are common. I also have a BS in wildlife biology, a MS in Entomology and 30 years of research experience at the University of Missouri-Columbia, admittedly in stream ecology and not wildlife biology.
I know that strangers don't want to believe me as I have no proof, but I have been saying ever since that it was just a matter of time before other reports of wolves in the park occurred. I'm thrilled to hear about it!

My husband I saw 2 wolves behind one of the visitor's centers in the alphine area a few days ago. One was white and the other was very light colored. We watched them through binoculars as they went up the side of the mountain.

This time of year wolves tend to be pretty ragged looking. Wolves are very opportunistic animals able to adapt to a wide range of prey, which can be their downfall when it includes domestic stock. Based on personal experience, an encounter with a wolf is more likely during the summer months. It may be the relative abundance of life and natural sounds that mask the presence of humans or the fact that they are simply more relaxed during the warm season. A close up with a wolf is memory that stays with you.

I am positive I saw a wolf while I was driving through the Rocky Mountain National Park on Tuesday, July 13, 2010. I was driving very slow, it was running toward me on the opposite side of the road, and as I slowed to a stop, it trotted right in front of my car, stopping on the shoulder of the road and turning to look at me. I had a REALLY good look at it, less than 10 ft away, for a good 10 seconds before it ran off into the forest. This animal was a little bigger than my dog (70 lb husky), and had the face of a wolf, not the narrowing snout of a coyote. It's ears were distinctly wolf, not coyote. Its coat was mottled grey, with a little brown and white. It's body and legs were quite husky compared to the lankiness I've seen in coyotes. I have no doubt that this was a wolf. Amazing!

On Sunday July 11, 2010 my wife and I were driving back from a hike at Cub Lake in RMNP and spotted what we believed to be a wolf running up the hill near the Moraine Park Museum. The animal looked exactly as described by Marie Maloney in her posting on July 15, 2010. It was not the typical longer, thinner legged coyote that we have seen before. It appeared much thicker and lower to the ground than most coyotes we have seen. It continued up the hill and disappeared before we could get our video camera on it (of course).

wow, glad to hear someone else saw what was likely the same wolf, Chip, being just two days earlier and about 25 miles away (my encounter was just a couple miles east of Medicine Bow Curve on Trail Ridge Rd.) I too wanted to photograph it, but as soon as I reached for my iPhone on the passenger seat, the wolf turned and headed into the trees. What a pleasure and an honor to have seen him/her though!

July 24, 2011 
Fishing the creek about a mile south of Ditch Road just out side the park I witnessed a large, dark gray,canine, larger than a coyote with a wolf like build running through the tree line paralleling Trail ridge road.  It had the gait of a wolf and was about 100 yds in front of me crossing the trail headed North.  No doubt it was a wolf or hybrid. 

Hey Alan,
Could you give a more detailed description of your location, maybe using landmarks on the Trails Illustrated map of Rocky Mountain National Parkor on the correct USGS quad.  I'm interested in figuring out exactly where the sighting was.

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