Paw Print Another Sign That Wolves Might Be Returning to Rocky Mountain National Park

Is there a gray wolf roaming Rocky Mountain National Park?

A paw print 4 inches across is a tantalizing piece of evidence that indicates gray wolves just might be returning on their own to Rocky Mountain National Park.

It was back in early December when park volunteers reported that a wolf-like canine came out of the woods at Moraine Park. While cameras set up to capture images of any wolves that might have trekked from Yellowstone National Park down to Rocky Mountain have failed to produce any evidence, last week biologists found a 4-inch-wide paw print in the park that most likely came from a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid.

Of course, if wolves return on their own to Rocky Mountain they would create a multitude of issues. On one hand, they'd make a small contribution, at least initially, to reining-in the park's burgeoning elk herds. Too, they'd add a great contribution to the experience of park visitors, who no doubt would be enthralled to hear the howl of a wolf.

But Rocky Mountain, at little more than 250,000 acres, has only a fraction of the habitat Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres provides, and so any wolf packs that became established in Rocky Mountain likely would venture beyond the park's boundaries and create problems for neighboring towns. But since wolves currently are listed as "endangered" in the Lower 48 under the Endangered Species Act, managing them could be problematic in some eyes.

Yes, this will be an interesting chapter in Rocky Mountain ecology.

Comments

We reintroduced the wolves so it is our responsibility to manage them in balance with other points of view.

We are the ones who destroyed them in the first place and brought the problem on ourselves, we need to protect them and reintroduce them but the law needs to be enforced as well we have seen the problems that are happening all around us because of the lack of care we have given this planet. Since the wolves seem to be going on their own there we should allow them to continue to allow them to reclaim territory and while Rocky Mountain National Park is smaller when the area can handle no more some can be relocated to another National Park where there used to be wolves as well.

Very exciting. In addition to the "problem" of wolves naturally recolonizing an ecosystem of which they were- and should be- a vital component as a top carnivore, there will be great opportunity. After spending several months in Yellowstone several winters ago studying/ exploring the human-wolf relationship, both ecologically and economically, I see this as wonderful news- and so too should those people in the area looking for an ecotourism opportunity and environmental education opportunity. It will be interesting to see if the NPS has got what it takes to do it's job and provide protection for the RMNP ecosystem as a whole, the community of wolves moving back to another portion of their homeland and providing the educational/ wilderness experience for those of us who prefer to venture into the wildlands....

With today's expected change of the rules to allow more shooting of wolves and the plans of wolf management that have been approved for the states (especially those of Wyoming and Idaho), it will be interesting to see whether the expansion of a wolf here and there into Colorado (as well as into other states; for instance Oregon) happens before the wolf populations face decimation.

What a mess we tend to make of things; I'm amazed we are all so confident of what the proper management answers are. We all seem so eager to manage and the necessity of it. Manage we do and then some, but each generation seems to think it can manage away the errors of the past. They only manage to exacerbate things. In an ethical woods, we mostly tend to fluctuate between cycles of chopping everything down and planting everything back, as though we are chemists who can reduce our world to a couple variables. But, it's for naught, and those of us who are observing will continue to be shocked and saddened by all who are left suffering by our choices. As we celebrate the wolf, I fret as I see the next chapters ready to unfold.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Bravo Terry,,,I feel exactly as you do.