A DNA test of scat samples is all that remains before a western Colorado ranch owner knows for sure if wild wolves are present on his land.
Paul R. Vahldiek, Jr. is the majority shareholder and CEO of The High Lonesome Ranch, 300-square-miles of private and permitted BLM lands on Colorado’s west slope.
One of his ranch managers, plus an expert wildlife tracker, have already reported wolf sightings and positively identified tracks and howling on the vast acreage.
Wolves were extirpated in Colorado in the 1940s by federally-funded bounty hunters. If wolves return naturally—migrating from Wyoming to Colorado—they would be federally protected as endangered species and could not be relocated, removed, or killed.
Vahldiek, committed to the conservation of private lands and wildlife, has been working for years to determine the baseline ecology of the ranch, to see if it might be suitable for wolves. He believes the return of wolves on the property might restore the landscape to ecological health. Vahldiek told Wildlands Network:
“It seemed logical to me, based on what happened in Yellowstone National Park, that keystone species like wolves might have a positive effect on biodiversity and restoring the health of aspen groves on this property.”
I reported in my MoJo article Gone about the mission of Wildlands Network (then called The Wildlands Project) to reconnect and restore wildlands across North America. Vahldiek is committed to conserving The High Lonesome Ranch as a key wildlife linkage within Wildlands Network’s “Western Wildway,” a 5,000 mile stretch of plateaus, canyons and mountains running between Alaska’s Brooks Range and northern Mexico’s Sierra Madre.
The video, of what was presumed to be a wolf, was photographed in Colorado by the Colorado Division of Wildlife in 2007.