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Hikers report wolves

John Colson

A local man and California woman believe they spotted two adult wolves in the Capitol Lake area this week, and state wildlife officials say they might be correct.”They were right there,” said Chloe Minor of Carmel, Calif., describing how she and Aspen resident Gary Foster came within about 20 feet of the animals while hiking about 10:30 a.m. Monday.”And these were no coyotes,” she added emphatically, to which Foster agreed.A Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman said Minor, 37, and Foster, 46, called the DOW to report the sighting. He said he could not say whether the animals were wolves.”It is certainly possible that there are wolves in Colorado,” said Randy Hampton, the agency’s Grand Junction spokesman.But, he said, “I am not aware of any reports of wolves that are using Colorado as home range.” Instead, he suggested, these could be wolves that have migrated north or south from places where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been reintroducing wolves, such as Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico or Arizona.”It’s impossible to confirm that these are wolves,” Hampton said. “It’s also impossible to say that they’re not.”Minor said she and Foster had risen from a night of camping a couple of miles from Capitol Lake, a short distance below the snow line on Capitol Peak, and were roaming around the area on a trail when they saw the animals appear before them.”It scared me,” Minor said. “They looked at me, then ran off a little, then looked at me again and took off.”After the sighting, she said, she spotted a jackrabbit leaping through the brush, “so I thought maybe they were chasing it.”Hampton and other state officials said there have been reports of wolflike animals in the Colorado mountains recently, and that there have been cases of dog-wolf hybrids either being released or escaping into the wild around the state.The last native gray wolf living in the wild in Colorado was killed in 1935, according to the DOW, and no wolves were seen in the state for decades.Two years ago, a car on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs hit and killed a female wolf that had apparently wandered into Colorado from the Yellowstone National Park area.And on Feb. 16, DOW officials managed to capture images of what is believed to be a gray wolf north of the town of Walden, in the northern part of the state.Hampton said wolves can travel up to 50 miles in a day as they roam for food and mates, and have appeared hundreds of miles from where they were last presumed to be.But, he cautioned, such sightings often “turn out to be something else,” such as a dog, coyote or hybrid.Still, he said, the DOW will investigate this report, as it does all such sightings.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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