Wandering Pets Spell Trouble
Dogs are a two-fold problem for wildlife. When left to roam, they form packs and harass or kill wildlife. This is especially true in mountain and foothill subdivisions. A pack of dogs—well fed or not—often kill or mutilate deer and domestic livestock. Also, dogs and cats left unattended, even in a fenced yard, serve as potential food for coyotes and mountain lions.
Be aware of the potential predators in your area. Keeping a dog inside a fenced yard won't necessarily prevent an attack. It's best to keep your dog in a covered kennel or inside your home. In more urban areas, keeping your dog in a fenced yard will usually prevent problems. Respect other people's space and keep dogs under control. In Colorado, law enforcement officers are authorized to destroy dogs seen chasing wildlife and fine the pet owners.
Cats become part of the food chain when allowed to roam. They are easy prey for mountain lions, coyotes, and foxes. The presence of free-roaming cats can cause predators to remain in areas where they may not be welcome. Also, cats prey on small, ground-dwelling wildlife and birds. Keep cats under control, especially during the spring bird-nesting season.
The Young and the Restless
During spring and summer, people often encounter young animals in urban areas, the mountains and the plains. In all cases, the rule of thumb is: Leave them alone! Deer, elk, and other mammals often leave their young while feeding, relying on the young animals' natural camouflage to protect them. Don't assume that just because you don't see the parents, the young have been abandoned.
In cases where newly hatched birds have fallen from their nest, return them to the nest if you can do so safely. Or, place them on a high branch to keep them away from pets.
Keep in mind that when young birds begin to fly, they often spend time on the ground before they perfect their flying skills. If this appears to be the case, leave them alone and let them learn. There are very few cases of 'abandoned' wildlife. If you are absolutely certain the parent animal is dead (hit by a car, for example), mark the location on a map or measure the mileage from a landmark and report it to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Wildlife Laws You Should Know
Wild animals are fascinating creatures to observe. While they are intriguing to some and hopelessly cute to others, they do not make good pets. Wild animals are difficult to keep alive in captivity. Moreover, they usually cannot fend for themselves if they are confined for any length of time and later released. For these reasons, it is illegal in Colorado to possess most species of native wildlife.
Despite the fact that wildlife is best left alone, there are instances when people pick up injured or orphaned wildlife. If this does occur, call the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It is illegal to attempt to rehabilitate injured or orphaned wildlife without state and federal permits, and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife will put you in touch with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area.
Litter and Wildlife
Countless birds, especially ducks and geese, are injured or killed in Colorado every year because of thoughtless people who litter. Discarded plastic six-pack holders, fishing hooks, and fishing line are all potentially lethal to wildlife.
Plastic six-pack holders can get wrapped around the necks of birds. Because these birds can still swim and fly (making them almost impossible to catch), they often die of starvation.
Fishing equipment, too, is a fatal form of litter. Hooks often cause serious injuries to the eyes and beaks of birds. Fishing line can get tangled around the birds limbs and cut off circulation.
To ensure that you aren't responsible for these types of injuries, please pack your trash out and dispose of it properly.
If you have a wildlife problem, call the nearest CPW office during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For emergencies occurring after these hours or on weekends, call the nearest Colorado State Patrol Communications Center. Or contact your local law enforcement agency.
The Colorado State University extension offices can assist in solving residential wildlife problems. Call 970/491-6281 (Fort Collins) for help, or call your local extension office.
Pest control agencies that specialize in wildlife can assist with many problems for a fee. See Handling Conflicts with Wildlife below.
Handling Conflicts with Wildlife
If you have nuisance wildlife issues that cannot be resolved, please check the yellow pages in your phone book under Pest Control.
If you have conflict issues involving big game species, you should contact your local CPW office. (Big game species include deer, elk, pronghorn, sheep, goats, bear, and moose.) Before calling, read the appropriate articles linked from the Living with Wildlife main page to learn how to reduce potential conflicts with wildlife.