Intro to “The Wildlife”
So when it comes to being a responsible homeowner and locking up all the things the local wildlife find appetizing, I must admit I am negligent. YOU try getting three teenagers to close the fridge, much less shut the garage doors behind them in the evenings. The fact is, if you live this close to the mountains, you WILL encounter some of the local wildlife…which is not at all scary…or shouldn’t be. Here’s what you’ll find:
Mule Deer…perhaps the most common because they like to forage around people’s houses for tasty shrubs and occasionally hang out for safety. The biggest danger they present are hazards to drivers not paying attention, especially in neighborhoods. You’ll see A LOT of them, year round, and in the spring when the new fawns are quickly learning to avoid cars, they look like kids scampering about. You have to marvel at just how well they blend into the wooded background here…almost invisible unless they are moving. Over time, however, your eyes will get used to picking up their movements and catching them before they step off the curb. It’s also a good idea to flash your lights to warn on-coming drivers who may have missed them. Bottom line, they are of course, harmless unless you are a 3-year old black lab who thinks she can run them down. Very frustrating, indeed. Oh and your dog chasing deer can cost you up to $500…..
Then there are the bears. We don’t see them too often, maybe a 2-8 times a year depending on how closely you live to the mountains. True stories from our hood, one made its way into our garage (apparently the kids left both the garage and the fridge doors open…go figure) and one helped itself to some OJ and a frozen chicken, leaving muddy prints on the door and shelves! Our other neighbors came home to one eating ice cream in the garage, when they shooed the bear out and had closed the garage door, he later tried to break back thru the door to finish the ice cream he had started eating earlier. Others have had them balance- across a deck fence to get to a bird feeder. And there is always the crazy neighbor-lady who thinks she’s the bears’ friend and throws leftovers over the deck for buffet night. Bottom line, bear incidents are mostly, almost exclusively, limited to brief encounters near a food source and most often the bears move on when people get involved. Calmness is key and firm tones usually move them along. Three-year old labs, however, like to get involved so best not to let the dog try to make friends. Bear attacks are extremely rare and usually involve a mom and her cubs so best to give them space and they will move on. Again, keep calm. My first bear encounter in the woods behind the house had me running for my life…or so I thought…that bear barely noticed me…and since then I marvel at their activities from a distance. My favorite bear story is when the Waldo Canyon fire was raging, the small town of Green Mountain Falls was evacuated with the power and gas shut off to prevent fires. Many residents came home to see bears had moved in, drawn by the smell of food spoiling in the house and no competition for the tv remote!
Whatever you do – don’t feed a bear. A fed bear is a dead bear.
Sometimes you’ll see a fox (which look like large house cats) around your house or crossing the road. Once I had the backdoor open and was in the kitchen fixing lunch when one wandered in. He was all calm when he looked up at me, like he was asking for the bologna skin I’d removed, and it took me a second to register what was going on. Finally, for lack of something clever to say, I shoo’d him out of the house, uninterested in whatever the fox had to say. They tend to keep to themselves..unless you are a meatball on a rock with a nighttime camera aimed at it. Turns out, neighbors get fussy when you do that.
Finally, the big scary…the big cat…the Mountain Lion. Attacks are extremely rare although encounters are often reported in the news. The last attack on a person in Colorado Springs was in..wait for it…never. Unless you count man’s best friend and then it was back in March 2013 where a lion snacked on a poor dachshund right in front of the owner. No kidding, I go running with my lab who I lovingly call cougar-bait on the trail. It’s a best friend-thing. Anyway, with such rarity it’s hardly worth mentioning but if you forget everything written here, remember that you never run from a mountain lion…always throw rocks, look big, grab branches, make noise. They rarely ever attack a prey who fights back. All that said, funny story…one day my neighbor was clearing out some scrub-oak branches between our houses and when asked, he replied that he was making a nice spot for the deer to lie down because they frequent the area. A few days later we awoke to half a deer (yes…half!!) just under the bedroom window. Apparently a mountain lion had turned the new deer-lounge into a bed and breakfast!! Yikes! Also learned that animal control won’t come fetch half a deer from your yard…that’s your problem. Now, if they managed to feast in the road (never mind the blood trail leading around the house…) then animal control can be called in.
Most of us like living amongst the wildlife here in the Springs and aside from having to clean up a tipped over trashcan or replace a few favorite plants in the yard, life is pretty harmonious. My office window has a view right onto a favorite trail used by deer and bear and regardless of how “into my work” I am, I always stop and marvel at the grace and the serenity of the animals moving past it. It’s a connection to be shared with the outside…a feeling like you are more than just an observer but rather a good neighbor that gets to meet others that live nearby.