Videos of what was thought to be a wolf pack in Park County led to a wildlife investigation and later determination that the animals seen were dogs.
According to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife news release, the video was taken on April 25 in an area about eight miles south of Fairplay and circulated on social media.
After receiving a report on the video, wildlife officials launched an investigation to make an informed, science-based decision as to whether the footage and video were in fact of wolves.
Eric Odell, CPW’s species conservation program manager, said: “We take a conservative approach to describing whether there are wolves in a particular area, and this case is an example of why we don’t have an immediate response or public response. “
Shortly after the initial sighting, the Park County Sheriff’s Office released information about a group of large cross-breed St. Bernard dogs that had escaped from an enclosure in the field of view video. Nevertheless, wildlife officials met with the reporting party to determine the exact location.
During a site investigation, three wildlife officials found canid tracks in the snow and built a cast set for analysis. One drop of blood, two separate hair samples and two urine samples were collected and sent to a laboratory for genetic testing. There was an outcry in the area.
“Especially on something as sensitive as a wolf, we always want to do everything in our power to examine it to the best of our ability to confirm it, or not to confirm that What is it,” said Mark Lamb, an area wildlife manager. of Fairplay, said in the release. “We want to make sure we’re doing our due diligence and that everything is correct before releasing any information.”
The samples collected were submitted to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service laboratory and the results returned on Thursday were positively associated with a domestic dog.
As part of the CPW investigation, wildlife officials searched the immediate vicinity and more in grid format from an airplane on 27 April in search of an elk carcass that was part of the original sighting report. No body was found.
“The flight allowed us to try and cover our bases to make sure that if they were wolves and they moved, we were able to detect any signs of wolf activity,” Lamb said. “It would be looking for any dead wildlife that we did not find. For a pack of four to five wolves, we would have found some deer or elk carcasses or animal carcasses and we could find nothing, even. That’s where the initial report came from.”
Wildlife officials said they appreciate the public reports, but they also urged people to be careful about jumping to conclusions based on a single source.
“We are grateful to those who reported this so that we can look into it and know for sure, at least with this one particular case,” Lamb said.
A gray wolf pack has been documented in northwestern Colorado near Walden.
Those who believe they have seen a wolf are asked to fill out a CPW wolf sighting form online. Not all sighting reports will generate a response by wildlife officials, however, each report will be assessed individually.
“We’re looking at these alleged sightings to see what’s going on,” Lamb said. “We evaluate what information the public gives us to the best of our ability and take next steps when we feel we need it.”