Almost 40 years passed before anyone thought to miss the gray wolf. Wolves, along with grizzlies, had been deliberately eradicated in western states in the name of protecting people and their livestock. The last wolf in Colorado was killed in the 1930s. By the time they were added to the list of endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act in 1974, they existed only in a small corner of northeastern Minnesota.
In the decades that followed, humans would undertake concentrated efforts to undo the damage of their ancestors, reintroducing gray wolves in Idaho and at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in 1995 and 1996. But the move has been met with polarized responses: for every conservation group that would have howled in celebration, there was a hunter or a rancher loading a round into the chamber.
Although Colorado residents have long expressed positive feelings toward having wolves returned to the state, Colorado’s Wildlife Commission has come down on the opposite side, leaving Colorado out of deliberate reintroduction efforts. Were wolves to return to Colorado, they’d have to arrive on their own, migrating from the reestablished packs in neighboring states. And as Wyoming once again puts forward a wolf management plan which, if approved, would deprive wolves in that state of the protections of the Endangered Species Act, that path becomes more harrowing, and the likelihood of wolves gaining a foothold in the southern Rocky Mountains decreases.