Cordillera’s expansive open space provides exceptional habitat for big game animals like elk, deer, moose, bear, and mountain lion, and many smaller carnivores and herbivores like fox, coyote, pine martens, ermines, marmots, skunks, racoons, squirrels, and chipmunks. They remind us of the beauty and quality of Cordillera’s natural environment, and we love to watch them, learn about them and photograph them. With wildlife close at hand, however, comes great responsibility.
First and foremost, wildlife needs to remain wild. While Colorado Parks and Wildlife will implement controlled feeding of deer and elk during extremely harsh winters, all wild animals are much better off if allowed to obtain food naturally at all times of the year. Artificial feeding disrupts normal behaviors and congregates animals, increasing stress and exposing them to harassment by domestic pets and collisions with cars. Unnatural foods create nutritional problems, especially for deer and elk, and concentrating animals can result in the spread of disease. Backyard feeding may also bring predators like mountain lions or bears into closer proximity. Normally reclusive and cautious, predators can become less wary and more emboldened with repeated visits to residential areas. This puts people, pets, and the predators themselves in peril.
A 1992 law makes it illegal in Colorado to intentionally place or distribute feed, salt blocks or other attractants for big-game animals.
Anytime big game animals are encountered is a time for caution. Deer, elk, and moose can charge unexpectedly for a variety of reasons, using horns or hooves to cause injury. Viewing these majestic animals is best done from a distance.
It is very unlikely that you will see a lion in Cordillera as they are very shy. Bears, while also shy, are a bigger concern. They have an outstanding sense of smell, and they are always hungry. Opportunistic, smart, strong and persistent, bears eat almost anything. They are attracted to the smell of garbage, pet food, bird food, barbeque grills and even food stored or left in cars. In Cordillera, pet food should never be left outdoors. Grills should be meticulously cleaned and/or stored indoors. Garbage containers should be placed at the driveway entrance the morning of pick up and should be back in the garage at the end of that same day. Bird feeders quickly teach bears that homes are good places to find food. They should not be used outside the hibernation season, March through the end of November.
Bears can break into cars, and they will enter a home if given a chance. You should deadbolt exterior doors, especially if your house has lever-style door handles, and close ground floor windows, especially if you are cooking. If a bear gets into your house, make noise, give it room to escape, and report any intrusion to Public Safety. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials will want to locate bears that break into homes or become nuisances, as repeat offenders are trapped, moved and may eventually be euthanized. As the saying goes, “a fed bear is a dead bear.”
It is a good idea to make some noise when walking on Cordillera trails. Loud conversation, singing or occasional shouts (“yogi!”) will notify predators ahead and allow them to move away in advance of your arrival. If you encounter a bear or a lion on the trail, do not run. Stand together and/or be tall, raise a jacket above your head if you have one to look as big as possible, and make some noise. They should quickly move off. If a bear or lion stands their ground, it is time to slowly back away. Do not meet their gaze, as they may perceive this as a threat. If cubs are spotted in the area, it can be a potentially dangerous situation.
Cordillera expends significant resources to protect wildlife populations and preserve the quality of critical wildlife habitat. Leash laws are strictly enforced, movement corridors have been permanently set aside and specific hiking trails are closed during the spring to prevent disturbances to calving areas. Encounters with aggressive animals or observations of an injured animal should be reported immediately to Public Safety, who will in turn contact Parks and Wildlife officials.