Rocky Mountain National Park officials, who just recently announced a program to reduce elk numbers in their park, might get some help from nature. Officials say a black-colored canine spotted on December 4 possibly was a wolf.
According to a story in the Estes Park Trail-Gazette, the animal was seen in Moraine Park by two park volunteers when it came out of the woods about 200 feet away.
“This is a credible sighting,” park biologist Jeff Conner told the newspaper. “We can’t confirm that it was a wolf, or a wolf hybrid though.”
On December 5 park personnel were taken to Moraine Park, where they found paw prints that were about 4.5 inches wide and 5 inches long.
“They were definitely not a coyote and we could rule out a vast majority of domestic dogs,” Ranger Conner said. “We are confident this was not someone’s dog running loose.”
Earlier this month park officials announced plans to cull elk herds with marksmen and try birth control to blunt growth in the herds. Exactly how many elk are in the park varies throughout the year. While the range of animals in recent years has been pegged at somewhere between 2,200 and 3,100, according to wildlife biologist Therese Johnson, during the past five winters the average count has been between 1,700 and 2,200. The park's objective is to keep the winter population between 1,600 and 2,100.
Interestingly, back in March 2006 there was another possible wolf sighting, also of a black canine, not far from the park. That sighing was made by a Colorado Division of Wildlife officer who managed to videotape the animal near the Wyoming-Colorado border and just to the northwest of Rocky Mountain National Park.