In most situations, people and wildlife can coexist. The key is to respect the wildness of wildlife. Most dangerous and potentially harmful encounters occur because people fail to leave the animals alone. Wildlife should not be harassed, captured, domesticated or fed. Intentional or inadvertent feeding is the major cause of most wildlife problems, and it is illegal to feed deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn sheep and elk in Colorado.
Today, bears are sharing space with a growing human population. Curious, intelligent and very resourceful, black bears will explore all possible food sources. If they find food near homes in our community, they’ll come back for more. Most conflicts between people and bears can be traced to easy-to-get-at human food, garbage, pet food, bird seed or other attractants. When people allow bears to find food, a bear’s natural drive to eat can overcome its wariness of humans. Bears can easily damage property, vehicles and homes. Bears that become aggressive in their pursuit of a meal must often be destroyed. Every time a bear must be destroyed, it’s not just the bear that loses. We all lose a little piece of the wildness that makes Colorado and Genesee so special. Please do your part to keep bears wild!
Don’t inadvertently provide food for bears:
- Much of what people throw away smells like food to a hungry bear. Standard metal or plastic trash cans won’t keep out bears. Once bears learn where it’s easy to get at the garbage, they’ll come back again and again. Never leave trash or recyclables out overnight. Empty cans and boxes still smell like food. One study showed that simply putting trash out only on the morning of garbage pickup cuts the chances of a bear visit from 70% to 2%.
- Don’t let your bird feeder become a bear feeder. Bird seed is often the first reward a bear gets for exploring human places. Consider using bird feeders only when bears are hibernating. If you do use your bird feeders year-round, hang them at least 10 feet off the ground (or 10 feet higher than the bear can climb).
What to do if you see a bear:
- Bears don’t typically attack people unless they feel threatened. Bears will generally back away or climb a tree when they encounter humans. You never want to block potential escape routes for a bear.
- It is in the bear’s best interest that it not feel comfortable around homes and populated areas. If you see a bear around your house, scare it away by making noise (yelling, clapping your hands, banging pots, blowing an air horn, etc.) from a location inside your house.
- If you see a bear at a distance, leave it alone and make noise as you leave.
- If you surprise a bear, stand still, stay calm and talk in a normal voice as you slowly back away. If you’re on a trail, step off on the downhill side. Be sure the bear has a clear escape route that you are not blocking.
- If a bear approaches you, never turn your back and run. Look big and back away slowly.
- If attacked, fight back. Convince the bear that you are not worth the trouble.
For more information: Colorado Parks + Wildlife has a number of short videos about bears: what to do if you see one; how to bear proof your home, and others.
While mountain lions and bobcats have been sighted in Genesee, they are generally calm, quiet and elusive. They tend to live in remote, rocky areas where deer and elk are plentiful. Such conditions also exist here in Genesee. Most dangerous encounters occur because people fail to leave wildlife alone! Do not attempt to feed, approach or harass wildlife!
If you encounter a mountain lion or bobcat:
- Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
- Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly and firmly to it. Move slowly.
- Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it safely. Running may stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion and stand upright.
- Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. If you’re wearing a jacket, open it and hold the edges out wide. If you have small children with you, protect them by picking them up so they won’t panic and run.
- If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches or whatever you can get your hands on without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly. What you want to do is convince the lion you are not prey and that you may in fact be a danger to the lion.
- Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back. People have successfully fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Remain standing or try to get back up!
- More Information on Colorado Parks & Wildlife Site and Episode 1: Mountain Lion Biology & Historical Perspective
All Front Range communities are home to coyotes. These clever canids have readily adapted to our food and habitat-rich environments. Coyotes have adjusted very well to human-disturbed environments and now thrive in close proximity to people. Coyotes are active year-round and become more visible during their breeding season, which occurs from February through March. Coyotes can be seen throughout the day but are especially active at dawn and dusk. Coyotes are opportunistic hunters and will prey on small mammals and domestic pets. They have been known to approach people too closely. We can coexist with coyotes by following a few basic guidelines.
- Never feed coyotes!
- Remove attractants from your yard, including pet food, water sources and bird feeders.
- Secure trash in a container with a locking lid or put trash out on the morning of pickup.
- Always supervise your pet when outside, especially at dawn and dusk.
- Never leave cats or dogs outside after dark.
- If you must leave your pet outside, secure it in a fully enclosed kennel.
If a coyote approaches you:
- Yell, throw rocks or sticks at it, spray it with a hose, and make noise.
- Do not run or turn your back.
- Follow the guidelines for mountain lions and bobcats (above) to appear to be as big and loud as possible.
- Face the coyote and back away slowly.
- If attacked, fight back.
- More information
Red foxes are beautiful animals and can make for an enjoyable wildlife viewing experience. There are four genetic color variations under the red fox “umbrella”: red, silver, black and mix. Red foxes are not pets and they should not be approached, fed, harassed, captured or domesticated. The same guidelines apply to red foxes as those for coyotes. Store all garbage in wildlife-proof containers and, when possible, keep your pets indoors.
Deer and Elk
Deer and elk are common sights in our Open Space and meadows. It is important to keep a safe distance because they can become aggressive. Juvenile deer, elk and other wildlife may look vulnerable or in danger, but their mother is likely nearby. Approaching, handling or feeding young animals may do more harm than good. Please do not pick up or inappropriately “rescue” young wildlife.
What is rutting season? It’s when the elk and deer lock horns in a powerful display of dominance to fight off weaker males, protect their pride, and demonstrate superiority to attract a more enticing female. Keep these tips in mind during the the Fall months for observing the elk in the area.
- Elk and Deer are wild animals which must be observed from a safe distance to avoid injury or death. If an animal is carefully watching you and appears “jumpy” when you move, you are too close.
- Keep pets secured on a leash and do not allow them to bark at, lunge at, or chase wildlife.
- Never block traffic. Move your vehicle to a safe place completely off the roadway to watch elk/deer.
- Do not imitate an elk call, or bugle, when elk are irritable during the rut. This can endanger you and the elk/deer.
- Elk and deer know no boundaries, but people do. Respect private property when viewing wildlife.
*If you are concerned about unusual wildlife behavior, report it to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s non-emergency number at 303.277.0211.
Every summer we have a number of rattlesnake sightings in Genesee. Rattlesnakes have been expanding their range and emerging from their dens earlier in the spring than in past years. With our fox population nearly wiped out from mange, the expanding rodent population is enticing for rattlesnakes.
- If you see a rattlesnake on the trail, don’t try to find out if it really is a rattlesnake. Just take a few steps back and plan your next move.
- 30/30 Rule – walk 30 feet away from the snake and give it 30 seconds to leave the trail.
- Wait for the snake to move; if it doesn’t, walk around it, giving it a wide berth.
- Carefully check your surroundings for other rattlesnakes if you move off trail
- Rattlesnakes are reclusive. They are not aggressive. Any reaction is typically defensive, especially when they are surprised.
This information is from Andrew DuBois, education specialist with Jefferson County Open Space. You can find out more at adaptationenvironmental.com and adaptationenvironmental.com/rattler-tattler-blog.
There is an interactive page on the Jefferson County Open Space website to report any wildlife encounters (Jeffco.us/3620/Human-Wildlife-Interactions). If you are bitten or for an emergency, call 911.