Wildlife Information

Wildlife Information

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 including foxes, coyotes, 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. Keep reading below for more information about wildlife feeding and wildlife encounters.

Wildlife Feeding

First and foremost, wildlife need to remain wild.  While Colorado Parks and Wildlife may implement controlled feeding of deer and elk during extremely harsh winters, 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 in one place can result in the spread of disease. Backyard feeding may also bring other wild animals including mountain lions or bears into closer proximity. Normally reclusive and cautious, these animals can become less wary of humans and more emboldened with repeated visits to residential areas, which can put people, pets, and wild animals 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.

Wildlife Encounters

Any time 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 mountain 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, the end of November through March.

Bears can break into cars, and they will enter a home if given a chance. Homeowners should deadbolt exterior doors, especially if the house has lever-style door handles, and close ground floor windows, especially when 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.

It is a good idea to make some noise when walking on Cordillera trails. Loud conversation, singing, or occasional shouts (“yogi!”) will notify animals 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 be tall by raising a jacket above your head if you have one to look as big as possible, and make some noise. If a bear or lion stands its ground, it is time to slowly back away. Do not meet the animal’s gaze, as this action may be perceived as a threat. If cubs are spotted in the area, be especially cautious in this 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.