Gray wolves are some of the most majestic and intriguing animals on the planet, and thanks to recent historic restoration efforts, these magnificent animals are returning to their ancestral habitat. For centuries, wolves and other wildlife have played crucial roles in Colorado’s ecosystems. However, beginning in the mid 20th century, the gray wolf population has diminished. Once some of Colorado’s most prominent apex predators, gray wolves were officially classified as an endangered species in the United States and became protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1978. Now, over four decades later, the once-endangered gray wolf population is being reintroduced to the state of Colorado through historic restoration efforts.
In 2020, residents of Colorado voted in favor of passing Proposition 114, a plan for reintroducing and sustaining the gray wolf population in the state. At the time that this proposition was introduced, wolves were considered an endangered species on a state and federal level. Proposition 114 was introduced and passed with a mission to change that. Thus, the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan was developed, with a goal to start the reintroduction process by the end of 2023. On December 18th 2023, the first five gray wolves were successfully released by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife team into Grand County, Colorado. By the end of the year, ten gray wolves had been triumphantly reintroduced into the state of Colorado.
This successful inaugural release represents a significant milestone in Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s ongoing efforts to restore the region’s wolf population. As the wolves ran off into their new habitat, cameras were there to broadcast this historic moment to Colorado residents and animal lovers worldwide. Now, leading pet safety brand, Impact Dog Crates is proud to showcase the pivotal role that its innovative crates played in safeguarding the wolves throughout this incredible journey.
The Journey from Oregon to Colorado
In mid December of 2023, ten gray wolves were captured in Oregon. By the end of the month, all ten wolves had been released into Grand County, where they have gone on to thrive in their new habitat. So how did the Colorado Parks and Wildlife team succeed in carrying out this historic release?
“There were months of preplanning,” said Eric Odell, Wolf Conservation Program Manager, Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Discussing the preparation process, Odell detailed the planning and logistics involved in the months leading up to the first release. Afterall, when undertaking a project of this size and magnitude, there are many factors that come into play. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife team knew there would be logistical challenges that they would encounter, and it was their steadfast commitment to going above and beyond to be prepared that allowed for the team to navigate any challenges they faced. It was during this preparatory phase that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife team focused specifically on one crucial element; the safety of the wolves.
Prioritizing the Wolves’ Safety
“Animal welfare was one of our primary concerns,” Eric Odell said. “We needed a safe and secure way to transport the animals, and we needed something that was sized to fit in the planes we were using.”
Knowing that all wolves would have a lengthy journey via planes and vehicles, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife team recognized the importance of ensuring the animals’ physical safety and wellbeing throughout this interstate journey. When transporting animals, whether in the air or on the ground, one of the most effective ways to do so is by protecting them in a sturdy crate. However, not just any crates could do the job. The first five wolves to be released, two females and three males, weighed between 70 and 110 pounds. So, it was absolutely vital that the chosen crates were durable and resilient enough to protect these very powerful animals. Thus, this prompted the agency’s search for secure dog crates that would be capable of undertaking the incredible responsibility of housing and safeguarding the gray wolves.
“Looking into Impact Dog Crates, we found that these were very well designed crates that allowed for safe transport and minimized risk.” Said Odell. Having been recommended Impact Dog Crates by a fellow professional in the field who had previously utilized these crates, Eric Odell and the rest of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife team decided on the Impact High Anxiety Dog Crates for the job.
Constructed from heavy-duty aluminum, the Impact High Anxiety Dog Crates are unparalleled for pet protection. These innovative crates were engineered specifically to secure highly anxious or destructive animals of all breeds, sizes, and temperaments. From its welded structure to the four butterfly latches for extra reinforcement, every component of the crate is meticulously designed to provide the highest level of protection- whether for at-home or on-the-go use.
In the weeks leading up to the inaugural December 18th release, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife obtained a total of 12 Impact High Anxiety Dog Crates. After making a few modifications to the interior floor of the crates, and adding additional handles on the side, the crates were ready to provide a secure, temporary enclosure for the wolves as they made their way to their final destination.
Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Inside The Transportation Process
Following their capture in Oregon, the wolves were then brought to a processing station, where they were weighed, measured, collared, and placed into their Impact High Anxiety Dog Crates. With the safety of the animals being of utmost importance, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife team were prepared to utilize the heavy-duty crates to safeguard the wolves as they embarked on their journey.
Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
To ensure the wolves were in a controlled and safe environment, they were secured in their Impact Dog Crates overnight ahead of their journey to Colorado. The wolves would remain secured inside of their crates until they reached the final release site in Grand County. The following morning, nestled inside of their crates, the wolves were loaded onto a plane to be taken from Oregon to Colorado. Throughout the duration of the plane flight, the wolves remained safeguarded in their crates, with the reinforced, heavy-duty aluminum construction ensuring that these majestic animals were receiving the maximum protection during their journey through the sky.
“They did great in their Impact Dog Crates,” Odell affirmed. “The wolves were totally comfortable, with no scratching or broken teeth or claws.” Discussing the wolves’ behaviors as they were housed inside of the crates, Odell emphasized just how well the wolves did, remaining comfortable and calm throughout the entire journey. In fact, inspections of the crates after the successful releases showed no signs of anxious chewing or scratching.
Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
After touching down in Colorado, the final leg of the wolves’ journey began. The crates, with the wolves secured inside, were then lifted into trucks for a brief ride to the release site location. It was at this Grand County release site that the crate doors were opened one at a time, and in a moment later viewed by millions worldwide, the wolves sped off into their new home.
“I was very impressed with the quality of the Impact High Anxiety Crates that we used to transport wolves from the source site to Colorado for our wolf restoration effort,” said Eric Odell, Wolf Conservation Program Manager, Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “When undertaking any wildlife restoration effort, animal safety is a top concern. The crates were well constructed and provided a very safe and secure way to hold and transport the wolves.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife released five gray wolves onto public land in Grand County, Colorado on Monday, December 18, 2023. Pictured is wolf 2303-OR. Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
A Historic Achievement
The inaugural release of the first five gray wolves, and the subsequent releases of the next five wolves over the next few days, were monumental successes. Reflecting on this historic achievement for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife team, Odell stated, “We are very pleased with the reintroduction efforts”.
One month after the inaugural releases of the ten gray wolves, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife team is happy to report that the wolves are all thriving and in good health. Monitored closely by state-of-the-art GPS technology, the wolves have swiftly adapted to their new habitat and are already making interesting movements around the Western state.
Stay Informed on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Wolf Reintroduction Efforts
Over the next three to five years, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife hopes to release a total of 30 to 50 gray wolves into the region. Animal lovers are encouraged to keep up with the agency’s wolf reintroduction efforts by visiting the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website, where updates about the wolves progress and movements are regularly shared. For more incredible behind the scenes footage of the wolf reintroduction efforts, individuals are also encouraged to follow the official Colorado Parks and Wildlife social media accounts.
Special thanks to Eric Odell and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife team for speaking with us about the wolves’ incredible journey to Colorado. The Impact Dog Crates team is so proud to know our crates were there to keep the wolves safe throughout this process.