Accommodating People and Wildlife
More than 90 percent of Coloradans responding to a survey believed in the importance of having wildlife in their neighborhoods. As the state’s population continues to grow, the very wildlife so many value and the land necessary for it to survive is greatly impacted. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife is committed to working with land use planners, developers, and homeowners to assist with development designs that accommodate people and wildlife.
Open Space Areas
Large contiguous blocks of open space are of greater benefit to wildlife than smaller, isolated parcels. An effective method to preserve large blocks of habitat is by clustering development. Ball fields, golf courses or mowed detention ponds usually offer little in the way of wildlife habitat. Open areas including unmowed native grasses, shrubs and trees can support a diversity of wildlife, even if they are relatively close to residential areas. The proper coordination and planning of open space, trails and corridors can greatly benefit wildlife.
Hike/bike trails impact wildlife in two basic ways: direct replacement of habitat by trail construction and disturbance of wildlife by people using the trail. The removal of grass, trees, shrubs and other vegetation when a trail is constructed can cause significant impacts on habitat, especially in high-value wildlife areas, such as stream-side (riparian) zones. People passing on a trail may cause wildlife, especially birds, to avoid the trail area.
The best way to minimize negative effects of hike/bike trails is to route trails away from high-value wildlife habitats such as riparian zones, nesting sites, or other critical wildlife areas. Topography or vegetation may be used to help create visual barriers to minimize disturbances to wildlife.
In some cases, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife may recommend leaving one or more corridors through a proposed development to allow wildlife to continue moving through the area. Recommended corridors may follow streams since waterways and surrounding vegetation serve as natural pathways for wildlife. Other times, corridors may be suggested in areas away from streams, taking advantage of topography, vegetation or historical movement patterns.
Another component of development that affects wildlife is the vegetation used in landscaping. The initial landscaping established by the developer often sets the tone for other plantings in the community. Planting native flowers, shrubs and trees, as well as controlling noxious weeds and creating wetlands can benefit wildlife.
These covenants encourage positive interaction between wildlife and humans.
Building Envelopes—Building envelopes may be used to maintain larger areas of native plant species that offer food and cover for wildlife. Also, these envelopes can create buffer zones adjacent to areas of critical wildlife habitat. Building envelopes can establish areas that allow wildlife movement, and may even allow for increased residential privacy.
Pets—Uncontrolled pets are a significant threat to wildlife. Domestic cats kill millions of small mammals and birds every year. Uncontrolled dogs can harass and kill a variety of animals. Pets that are not in a secure shelter at night may become prey to wildlife. All pets should be under control, preferably leashed, kenneled or kept indoors.
Proper Trash Containment—Wildlife can become a nuisance and cause damage when it finds an easy food source such as garbage. Developers can help residents keep their property safe by creating covenants that require the storage of garbage in secure plastic or metal containers with tight fitting lids. Homeowners should store garbage cans in a closed shed or garage and only put trash out when it is scheduled to be picked up. Residual garbage odors can be reduced by periodically cleaning the trash cans with hot water and chlorine bleach.
For wildlife, the less fence the better. If fencing is necessary, then it should allow for relatively free movement of wildlife. Solid rail fences provide highly visible boundaries that are easy for wildlife to overcome.
Fencing for livestock can easily incorporate designs that allow for wildlife movement without additional cost. Spacing smooth or barbed wire 16-22-28-40 inches from the ground allows for passage of Pronghorn, deer and elk with reduced fence damage. Leaving a 12-inch gap between the two highest wires will help reduce entanglement and wire twisting.
Chain link fences severely restrict wildlife movement. However, chain link for kennels can provide security for pets from predators, provided the kennel is fully enclosed, including a roof.
Future homeowners should be notified of wildlife that exists in the area. Colorado Parks and Wildlife can provide free brochures and additional information about wildlife which can be distributed at property closings. With accurate information, residents can take the appropriate precautions when moving into wildlife habitat.
Who Do You Call?
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is responsible for managing, conserving, and protecting wildlife. Your concerns about wildlife are our concerns as well.
The inclusion of suggestions made in this text will help planners and builders address wildlife issues in their counties and developments.
Wildlife representatives will be glad to meet with developers and planners to provide input on specific proposals. CPW has a variety of information on animals that may inhabit your area. To obtain brochures or more information, contact your nearest CPW office.