It’s been a whirlwind for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) since the public voted to reintroduce wolves to the Centennial State in 2020—including negotiating a deal with Oregon to obtain canids and navigating an 11th-hour lawsuit from local ranchers seeking (unsuccessfully) to stall the effort. But while CPW released 10 wolves into Grand, Summit, and Eagle counties this past December, that’s only the first step toward a successful reintroduction. Here’s what we can expect in the years ahead.

Within One Week

The wolves will likely make their initial kills just days after their releases. Elk should comprise the largest portion of their diets, which will also include deer and moose, plus the occasional farm animal and small mammal.

1.5 months

CPW can’t predict when the wolves will establish new territories—which typically range from 20 to 120 square miles—but canids reintroduced toYellowstone National Park in 1995 started to carve out ranges 35 to 40 days after their release.

Winter 2024–’25

Because established packs typically don’t accept solo wolves, it’s more likely those set free in subsequent winters will couple up with wolves released at the same time or with wild-born young adults who’ve left their birth packs.

February 2025

Mating season takes place in February, and while there’s a chance that some of the wolves released at the end of 2023 will pair off immediately, a CPW spokesperson says it’s likely most of the animals will mate for the first time in early 2025.

April 2025

Gestation only lasts nine weeks, meaning the first litters—usually four to six pups—will arrive in April. Packs typically consist of six to 10 wolves: a breeding pair, their offspring from the previous year or two, and the current year’s litter.


It will take three to five years for CPW to release the 30 to 50 wolves called for in its reintroduction plan, a time frame and number that depends on how successful cooperating states are at trapping wolves for relocation to Colorado and the survival rate of the new residents.


Wolves’ lifespans are about six years in the wild, so by the mid-2030s, all the wolves in the Centennial State should be Colorado-born or transplants from neighboring states who cross the border on their own.

Long Term

CPW’s objective is to build a self-sustaining population, but it doesn’t have a schedule for reaching that goal. Instead, once Colorado’s wolf population hits at least 50 for four consecutive years, the CPW commission will downlist the animals from state endangered to state threatened. Then, once the agency counts at least 150 wolves two years in a row—or 200 wolves at any point—it will delist the species entirely.

This article was originally published in 5280 March 2024.
Nicholas Hunt
Nicholas Hunt
Nicholas writes and edits the Compass, Adventure, and Culture sections of 5280 and writes for