By: Scott Harrison
Posted: Nov 23, 2018 07:25 PM MST
Updated: Nov 24, 2018 09:31 AM MST
TELLER COUNTY, Colo. – Time is running out for an endangered Mexican wolf that escaped from a wolf sanctuary in Divide the same day it arrived there.
The wolf, a year old and blind in one eye, was reported missing Nov. 11 from the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in the Teller County town of Divide, after being brought from a similar facility in California.
Authorities didn’t announce the escape until Nov. 21 because they said the animal poses no threat to humans and it was believed the wolf would be found quickly.
Wolf Center officials declined to comment on the situation, but the wolf reportedly escaped through an opening in its pen that staff didn’t notice and that has since repaired.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have set up traps in hopes of catching the wolf.
Federal officials are concerned about the wolf’s ability to survive because of its age and physical condition, and because it has never been in the wild.
Officials worry that the wolf could be struck by a vehicle or mistaken for a coyote and shot.
Divide-area residents have mixed feelings about the wolf’s escape.
“I’m not too worried about it,” one man said. “I’ll just keep my pets inside. But I think the wolf will be found. Wolves are survivors.”
“I’m concerned about the wolf breeding,” another man said. “Breeding with coyotes, even dogs.”
The Mexican gray wolf is native to Arizona and New Mexico, but was nearly wiped out by hunters and ranchers using traps and poison in an effort to protect livestock.
No more than 114 Mexican wolves are believed to remain in the wild, and the subspecies has been listed as endangered since 1976. Killing them is illegal except in cases of human self-defense.
Around 300 of the wolves live in captivity and are part of breeding programs to increase the wolf’s numbers in its native habitat.
The Wolf Center has two more Mexican wolves.