Colorado Springs is home to a rich variety of wildlife. The closer you are to the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, the more likely it is that you will see larger wildlife like deer, bears, and mountain lions. However, residents even within the city limits have frequent encounters with smaller species such as bobcat, coyote, fox, rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, and wild turkey. There are some basic rules and tips for living harmoniously with wildlife that every Colorado Springs resident should keep in mind.
Respect Their Space
Do not approach wildlife regardless of how friendly they may seem. Keeping a safe distance helps preserve wildlife’s natural behaviors and ensures both their safety and ours. Deer might be especially trusting as they have learned to associate people with food. But even deer can get aggressive, particularly during mating season. Always watch and observe from a safe distance. Of course, wildlife can also enter your living space. Deer are notorious for devouring flowers in the summer and pumpkins in the fall.
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Do Not Feed the Wildlife
Feeding wildlife might seem harmless, but it can lead to dependency on humans and pose dangerous risks to both the animals and residents. It’s crucial not to encourage animals to associate humans with food.
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Awareness of Surroundings
Stay alert when adventuring in the outdoors, especially on trails and in the mountains. This awareness can prevent unintended encounters with wildlife and ensure safety for everyone. Hikers can use bells or loud conversations to alert wildlife that they are in the area. Don’t run or hike with headphones, watch your surroundings, and stay on trails. This is particularly important in prairie areas since we have rattlesnakes in Colorado Springs. Venturing off of established park trails increases your chance of encountering a rattlesnake. You can run into “rattlers” even in busy parks like Gardens of the Gods.
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Responsible Pet Ownership
Keep pets vaccinated and on a leash. Colorado Springs has a leash law, and it is vital to keep dogs leashed out on trails. Dogs are instinctually predatory animals and will chase and disturb wildlife. There have also been situations where off leash dogs run up ahead on the trail, disturb a bear, and then run back to their humans with the bear chasing them. Please pick up and carry out your pet’s waste. Putting it in a bag and leaving it on the side of the trail does not count!
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According to city ordinance, the west side of Colorado Springs requires bear safe trash cans if you decide to pull your trash out early on trash day. These trash cans are an easy solution to avoid having your trash can emptied by a bear and having to clean up the mess.
Colorado Springs has a huge deer population. Deer are hard to spot and can be found on the side of the road throughout the day, but in increasing numbers during the dusk and dawn hours. Drive safely and keep an eye out for deer when driving in wooded areas.
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Tips for Specific Wildlife Species in Colorado Springs
Colorado has a large population of black bears (no grizzlies here in Colorado Springs!). There is a motto here in Colorado: a fed bear is a dead bear. There are regulations for bears who repeatedly visit residential areas looking for food, damage property or threaten public safety:
- “A nuisance bear” is a bear that causes a threat and damage but does not threaten public safety.
- “A dangerous bear” is a bear that threatens public safety.
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Wildlife officers might relocate nuisance bears so they can hopefully break the pattern of visiting residential areas. Depending on the situation, they may be forced to euthanize a dangerous bear. Either way, it’s our responsibility to protect bears by not leaving out food that can attract them. Being “Bear Aware” means you avoid leaving out trashcans, bird feeders My neighbors accidentally left their garage door open and a bear found ice cream in the garage refrigerator. The same bear came back the next night to try to repeat dessert time, and ended up severely damaging the closed garage door.
Bears are typically found on the west and north side of Colorado Springs. The further east you go, the more populated the area is which means fewer bears. Things can get dangerous when bears have cubs or when they are surprised. Many hikers wear bells to avoid accidentally surprising bears or other wildlife.
I have lived on the west side of town for more than 12 years and have never seen a mountain lion (I am ok with it). However, I have heard them killing deer on our property and seen mountain lion scat. Be aware that if a mountain lion kills a deer in your yard, they will eat half and come back for the rest the following day. The city will not assist you in removing the deer carcass.
Mountain lions are particularly active during dusk and dawn. They tend to roam the more remote and quiet areas of the woods, as well as further up the mountain west. They are more likely to be in areas with woods and some open space. Rangers will post signs at trailheads if there has been recent or regular mountain lion activity. Do not wear head phones so that you stay aware of your surroundings and learn what to do during an encounter. You might be surprised that mountain lions will chirp like a bird.
In neighborhoods, smaller pets could fall prey to mountain lions. It’s a good idea not to leave your pet unattended outside even if the area is fenced in.
Coyotes have been sighted (and heard) in all parts of Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas. They travel in packs, can be aggressive, and even attack domestic pets. Attacks on humans are rare but have happened. Again, do not encourage or approach coyotes. If coyotes threaten your pet, start throwing rocks or sticks to frighten them away. This is another good reason to always keeps dogs on a leash when out hiking.