A wolf that captured headlines for making a 1,000-mile trek from Montana to Colorado is dead.
Authorities say her carcass was recovered last week in northwest Colorado.
In an email, Ed Bangs, gray wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, confirmed her death and said his agency and the Colorado Division of Wildlife are investigating, “but at this time cause of death has not been determined. … Nothing more can be said while we let those guys do their job.”
Bangs said the investigation was being handled by law enforcement personnel, which is typical for wolf deaths.
“We want our law enforcement people to be able to do their job,” Bangs said. “Right now everything is under investigation, including the cause of death. Until they figure out what’s going on, we don’t want to compromise their investigation.”
Colorado DOW officials also confirmed the death, but referred calls to Fish & Wildlife.
Known as 341F (she was misidentified previously by the Colorado DOW and widely reported as 314F), the 18-month-old female was a member of the Mill Creek pack, which lives between the towns of Gardiner and Livingston, Mont.. She was collared by wildlife officials as part of a research program with the University of Montana to improve wolf monitoring techniques. Biologists say she strayed from her pack in late September in search of a mate.
Satellite data detailed an epic journey through some of the West’s wildest places to a place where wolves had been eliminated some 70 years before. She crossed Yellowstone National Park, wandered through western Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest and headed into southeastern Idaho and northeastern Utah before ending up in northern Eagle County, Colorado.
This adventurous wolf sparked Colorado’s imagination. She made us think about what Colorado is missing without its wolves,” said Gary Wockner, a former member of the Colorado Wolf Working Group.
Native wolf populations in Colorado were wiped out by the late 1930s. The last record of a native wolf killed in Colorado was in 1943. In June 2004, a radio-collared wolf from Yellowstone was found killed by a passing motorist on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs.
Data from her collar showed the wolf had left Colorado and wandered into south-central Wyoming before returning to the state. Authorities suspected she was dead when her collar stopped showing movement.
Bangs said a complete necropsy would be conducted to determine what killed this wolf. Among Northern Rockies wolves, 26 out of every 100 wolves are killed, almost all of them shot by animal control officers or poachers. Among long-dispersing wolves like this one, most are hit by cars or illegally killed, he said.
“When we helped to restore wolves to Yellowstone and central Idaho in 1995, we hoped it would someday lead to the return of wolves in Colorado,” said Suzanne Asha Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife. ““We hope that this wasn’t the result of foul play but will do what we can to support the state’s investigation including offering a reward for information leading to conviction if this was an illegal killing of an endangered species.”