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It’s a girl! Wildlife officials now say gray wolf tracked since 2019 in Jackson County is female, not male

A gray wolf roaming northern Colorado near the Wyoming border since 2019 was mistakenly identified as male, but Colorado and Wyoming wildlife officials now say not only is the wolf a female but she has paired with a male gray wolf, who was documented in Colorado in February.

The two are showing signs that they share a den, but there is no evidence they have bred, Rebecca Ferrell, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman said.

“This is unique because it is our first male and female pair traveling together here in Colorado,” Ferrell said.

The female wolf, now known as F1084, was captured and collared in 2017 in Wyoming by a crew working for Grand Teton National Park, Ferrell said. At the time, the wolf’s gender was recorded as male. In 2019, that wolf was spotted in Colorado and because the tracking information said it was male Colorado wildlife employees believed that was the case.

When a male gray wolf was captured and collared in Jackson County, which is near the Wyoming border, CPW reported that it had been seen with the other wolf, now known as F1084. The male wolf collared in February is known as M2101.

The two have traveled together for several months, and by tracking both wolves biologists noticed a change in behavior that indicated the two might be male and female rather than two males. Biologists from Colorado and Wyoming shared notes and reviewed DNA taken from the first wolf in 2017 and determined that it is female.

Ferrell said the misidentification of the first wolf’s gender was human error.

The male is hunting alone in a pattern, but he always returns to the same place, likely a den he shares with the female. The female wolf is generally staying in the same area, and not moving as much as the male, Ferrell said.

“We’ve got a man on the move and he’s always coming back to the same spot,” she said.

Wildlife employees will install more cameras in the area where the wolves have been seen and keep monitoring the pair to see if they have pups.

Gray wolves were eradicated from Colorado around 1940 and naturally migrated back into the state in 2019 when F1084 separated from Wyoming’s Snake River pack.

In 2020, CPW confirmed the presence of a group living in Moffat County in the northwest corner of the state. That group, consisting of three females and one male, shared similar DNA, which was found in scat samples taken near an elk carcass. Biologists do not know if any of them were born in Colorado or exactly how they are related.

Colorado voters approved a referendum in 2020 to reintroduce gray wolves by the end of 2023 on public land in western Colorado west of the Continental Divide. That measure was opposed by ranchers, who fear the wolves will kill their livestock. The referendum requires state wildlife officials to set up a fund to compensate livestock owners for any losses.

The wolves still are considered endangered in Colorado and it is illegal to kill one.

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