As the wolf reintroduction fight howls in Colorado, wildlife officials are fielding more reports from people who suspect they’ve spotted a wolf in the wild.
A release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife last week noted they are tracking a wolf in Jackson County and a pack of six wolves in northwest Colorado. The agency reported a “credible wolf sighting” in the Laramie River Valley of Larimer County and posted photos of a “large wolf-like animal” spotted by campers in Grand County. Wildlife biologists also reported that analysis of scat from the pack in Moffat County revealed the presence of a parasite that can lead to hydatid disease in livestock, deer, elk and moose. Through a rare chain of events that involves people inadvertently eating infected poop, people can contract the disease from dogs.
Voters will decide on wolf reintroduction in November with a ballot measure that directs Colorado Parks and Wildlife to begin reintroducing 10 gray wolves a year in the state starting in 2023.
Wolf reintroduction opponent Denny Behrens — who leads the Stop Wolf Coalition, which includes the support of commissioners from 39 rural Colorado counties — last week warned in a fundraising email that the discovery of disease in wolf scat presents “a major public health and safety threat in Colorado.” His group filed open records requests for reports from state biologists analyzing the pack in Moffat County.
“We can’t let pro-wolf radicals put people at risk for their insane agenda,” wrote Behrens, who last year traveled to Idaho to interview an unidentified woman who suspects she contracted hydatid disease from wolves.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists studied scat from wolves in Northwest Colorado and determined that several members of the pack were infected with a parasitic tapeworm common in wolves in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. The Echinococcus tapeworm is transferred through eggs in the scat of wolves, dogs and coyotes to sheep, cattle, goats, moose and elk that eat the feces and contract hydatid cysts. Dogs can catch the disease when they eat an infected animal and people can catch the disease when they accidentally ingest soil, food or water contaminated by dog waste.
“Human cases are rare,” reads the Centers for Disease Control page on the Echinococcus parasite.