Wolves – both images of them and the live, furry kind – filled the Southern Ute Museum on Aug. 16.
Ambassador animals from Wolfwood Refuge attended the opening reception and talk for “Living With Wolves,” which will be on display at the museum through Nov. 30.
The display is part of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, which advocates for expanding wolves’ North American territory to Colorado’s Western Slope.
Part of the reason wolves need to return to Colorado is to provide a Western corridor between packs living in Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona, explained Delia Malone of the Sierra Club, who spoke at the event. Wolves currently live in about 15 percent of their historical range in North America.
With 17 million acres of public land, 280,000 elk and 420,000 deer on the Western Slope, Colorado provides an ideal habitat for wolves, she said.
There also are 500,000 head of cattle and 175,000 sheep in the area, she said. Wolves are responsible for one-hundredth of 1 percent of predation on livestock herds, she said. They also could help improve the elk population, which currently has 30 to 40 percent infection rates of chronic wasting disease. Because wolves attack sick and weaker animals, they could help improve overall herd health.
Paula Watson, founder of Wolfwood Refuge, advised the 70 people attending the talk that wolves and wolf hybrids don’t make good pets.
Wolfwood houses 53 animals, making it the largest wolf refuge in Colorado. Howling, pack behavior and the sheer size of the animals means they quickly outgrow backyards, and they have to be turned over to a refuge. About 60 groups visit the refuge every year, and volunteers are welcome, she added.