The fate of the wolf in Colorado is another sorry tale of historical excess on the part of those who came west. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the wolf once roamed widely throughout the state. Unfortunately, Americans and Europeans moving to the region during the Nineteenth Century quickly decimated the wolf’s staple diet of bison, elk, deer, and smaller mammals. The wolf then began attacking domesticated herds to survive. As a result, their fate was even worse than that of the buffalo – total annihilation. By the 1940s, wolves had vanished from Colorado.
Last week, I was lucky to encounter some wonderful folks from an organization called the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation, located near Guffey, Colorado in Park County. For Guffey’s annual “Chicken Fly” celebration on July 4th (another story), Mark “Wolf” Johnson brought along two young wolves who had been born in captivity – Apache and Cherokee.
As I lingered around the cage, the male wolf, Apache, suddenly began jumping around excitedly. I quickly saw what was getting him so worked up – a man was approaching. The two were obviously fast friends. The fellow entered the cage and the wolf jumped on him, licking his face, then rolling on his back to get his tummy scratched. Apache the wolf was behaving like any other loving, domesticated canine.
It was utterly enthralling.
Addendum: My brother lives in the mountains near Nederland and took this picture of a critter in his back yard in February 2011. Looks like a wolf, doesn’t it? I’m thinking it could be a hybrid — since we still officially have no wild wolves in Colorado (though apparently there are a few these days). I’ve written to Mark — maybe he’ll have an answer. I’d sure like to know.
Second addendum: Mark and other wolf experts say it’s a coyote!