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A gray wolf found dead in Colorado on April 18 was killed by a mountain lion, according to necropsy results announced this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The wolf was one of 10 released in Grand and Summit counties last December as part of a reintroduction plan approved by Colorado voters in 2020. The animal was found dead in Larimer County and collected by the USFWS, which conducted the necropsy. In a May 14 statement, USFWS spokesman Joe Szuszwalak said the wolf likely died as a result of trauma from predation. “Although not definitive, the puncture wounds in the skull are consistent with those typically inflicted by a mountain lion,” Szuszwalak noted.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will release 30 to 50 wolves within five years. The multi-year project, which has been called “the most ambitious wolf reintroduction effort in the U.S. in almost three decades,” is intended to fill in a major gap in the gray wolf’s North American range, which once stretched from northern Canada to the southwestern United States. The reintroduction was slowed after Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana refused to contribute wolves for the effort, and Colorado had to secure the animals from Oregon.

According to Colorado officials, the other nine wolves are still alive, bringing the total number of gray wolves in the state to 11. Two wolves remain from a pack that migrated from Montana. According to an activity map released by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which collects GPS data from all collared wolves in the state, the reintroduced pack has roamed widely: Between March 26 and April 23, wolf activity was detected in watersheds ranging from south of Interstate 70 near Vail to the Wyoming border.

It’s not unheard of for mountain lions and wolves to tangle in areas where their ranges overlap. In Washington, at least four GPS-collared wolves have been killed by lions in the last decade. In Wyoming, on the other hand, wolves rank above mountain lions in the pecking order. It’s thought that the lion’s escape tactic of climbing trees evolved as a defense mechanism for escaping wolf packs. Lion predation of wolves, on the other hand, is thought to occur mainly when lions encounter a solitary wolf.

The reintroduction plan calls for the gray wolf, currently listed as State Endangered in Colorado, to be “downlisted” to State Threatened when biologists count a minimum of 50 wolves in the state for four successive years, and delisted entirely when a minimum count of 150 is observed for two consecutive years.