Colorado, particularly the Western Slope, is known for an abundance and variety of wildlife. Wildlife has traditionally lived in rugged country but is now venturing into the more populated areas. Humans increasingly live and recreate in wildlife habitat resulting in more animal encounters and displaced wildlife.
Observing wildlife is fascinating and yet some people get dismayed because it might appear that an animal has been abandoned. Despite what could look like an abandoned or injured animal, it’s vitally important not to interfere. Do not harass, try to capture, or feed the animals. Animals who grew up in the wild do not make good pets. Learning to respect the wildness of wildlife is essential, including the porcupine or raccoon in an apple tree, family of skunks under a front porch, or squirrels in the fireplace. Even if they are unsettling, do not interfere. Fall and winter is a particularly stressful time for most wildlife. Fall is breeding season while winter can be stressful searching for feed. The spring and summer are seasons for babies.
Another important concept of living with wildlife (especially birds and big game) is to keep cats and dogs contained or leashed to prevent chasing wildlife. Dogs are a constant threat throughout the year. There is a law protecting wildlife such that if an adult observes a dog chasing wildlife, he or she can shoot the dog. Dogs, even the sweetest and gentlest, can find great fun chasing wildlife. This causes additional stress to wildlife and can result in the animal being caught in fencing, in highway encounters, or using up critical energy reserves. Additionally evidence suggests that domestic cats kill millions of songbirds annually.
Feeding wildlife causes major problems and in many cases, is illegal. It can be harmful to big game, such as deer, elk, and bear. That’s because the animals can become dependent on
unnatural foods sources found in landscaping, crops, or feeds. Feeding wildlife can also cause the animals to congregate and possibly transmit disease through population, create traffic hazards when wandering close to roads, draw them away from their historic winter range, or prevent migration.
Wildlife can occasionally become a nuisance. The key to avoiding issues is due diligence in securing homes and outbuildings. Cover window wells with grates or hardware cloth; close holes around and under foundations, sheds, and outbuildings; use locking tops for garbage cans as well as pet or animal food containers; and fence gardens. Bird feeders should not be accessible to other wildlife.
Many birds (except starlings, sparrow, and pigeons) are protected. Shooting or the use of poisons to kill birds and animals is illegal and strictly regulated by the federal and state governments. Contact your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office for information and advice on how to handle wildlife problems before you take any action.
Raccoons, skunks, and squirrels – Removing tree branches that overhang buildings, capping chimneys, and repairing attic holes will help prevent entry. To prevent them from invading desirable locations, bury wire mesh eighteen inches underground. Raccoons are especially adept at pilfering garbage and pet food containers. Tight fitting lids that clamp or tie down will help if they are tipped over. Take away any food sources that might draw these critters to your home!
Deer and Elk tend to move to lower elevations during winter months often placing them in areas that are populated with homes and roadways. In areas where deer are common, shrubbery and gardens may be damaged, however, deer avoid flower bulbs that have strong odors. Elk and moose tend to avoid human interaction more than deer. At certain times of the year they can be dangerous if interacting with humans because they are extremely protective of their calves.
Bears enter residences in search of food causing potential damage to both themselves and to homes and vehicles. Since a bear’s sense of smell is 100 times more powerful than ours, it helps us to understand how pet food containers, garbage cans, and the smells from last night’s food on the BBQ grill can all bring in the visitors. Take appropriate precautions to bear-proof your property including hanging bird feeders during seasons when bears are hibernating. Using locking garbage canisters, and remove items with sweet odor including candles, etc.
Living with Bears
Living with Wildlife