Researcher: Paw print proves wolves back in Colo.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colorado – For more than a month, rumors of a wolf in Rocky Mountain National Park teased biologists with evidence of its presence ” a paw print here, a sighting there.
But it wasn’t until last Thursday that researchers found a print large enough to convince them that a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid might be roaming the area. The print could have only been left by such a creature, said Dave Augeri, a Denver Zoo biologist.
“The only dog breeds out there that could have left a print that large are a massive malamute or a Great Dane,” Augeri said. “It’s definitely unlikely a Great Dane was in the field.”
The track was about 4 inches across and found off a trail heading into open fields.
Augeri and another expert, Richard Reading, discussed Augeri’s observations and looked at photos of the print and both arrived at the same conclusion: the mark belongs to a wolf.
The discovery comes about six weeks after park volunteers said they saw a wolf and park staffers spotted tracks similar to those of the animal.
Although wolves are native to Colorado, the predator was wiped out by the 1930s by ranchers, government agents and others who shot, trapped, or poisoned the animal. Environmentalists have advocated releasing wolves into the park to restore the predator to Colorado to help reduce the elk herd that is overgrazing the park.
Wildlife officials have said wolves from nearby states will eventually return to Colorado. The Colorado Division of Wildlife confirmed that a large black animal caught on video by wildlife officers last February in northern Colorado was a wolf.
In 2004, a dead wolf was found along Interstate 70 west of Denver. Its radio collar showed that it was from Yellowstone National Park.
Augeri and his crew have placed five cameras in the park in hopes of gathering more evidence.