Colorado this week announced the birth of a first litter of gray wolves in 80 years on its soil, a major milestone for efforts to reintroduce the species to this western state.
In early June, a state biologist and an employee in charge of resource management each reported observing two previously identified wolves, John and Jane, with three cubs from a distance.
Litters typically have four to six Cubs, so other newly born wolves may simply not have been seen yet.
“Colorado is now home to our first litter of wolves since the 1940s,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis said in a statement Wednesday, calling the milestone “historic.”
Residents of that state voted last year in favor of a law to reintroduce these predators by 2023.
“We continue to actively monitor the den, while exercising extreme caution so as not to inadvertently jeopardize the survival of these young,” said biologist Libbie Miller. “Not disturbing them remains our main concern.”
Some 250,000 wolves inhabited the country before European settlers carried out extermination campaigns during the 20th century.
Today there are around 6,000 gray wolves scattered across 48 states. There were only a thousand left when the United States declared them a protected species in the late 1970s.
Despite this good news from Colorado, environmental groups remain very worried about the future of this species, after former US President Donald Trump stripped it of some federal protections last year, exposing them on the hunt.
In March, hunters in Wisconsin killed 216 wolves in three days, twice as many as allowed, and which represented almost 20% of the population in that state.