Life on the west side is characterized by resident mule deer walking down the middle of the road, neighbors asking neighbors to “PLEEEEASE” not leave their trash out the night before, and even photo-traps to capture a pair of bobcats breakfast. And those are just the mammals. Soaring above it all is a daytime population of redtail hawks, a nighttime population of a variety of owls, and if you’re truly lucky (and a genuine bird nerd), you might see a Cooper’s Hawk rocketing through the ponderosa or a Peregrine Falcon swooping through the skies at nearly 200 mph.
Life in the foothills is not just rolling hills and trees. It’s life among native species of animals that also call the same neighborhoods home. Rockrimmon Elementary’s mascot is the mountain lions, and on at least one occasion, my own children enjoyed recess indoors because their mascot decided to um, “visit” during daylight hours. On the south end of town, Broadmoor Elementary’s mascot is the bears for a reason (see the 2008 Senior PGA at the nearby Broadmoor Golf Course)
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has the burden of maintaining most suburban complaints with wildlife. CPW is funded entirely by license fees, and let’s face it, when the neighbor decides to feed the resident black bears dog food, that’s a problem that dozens of $30 fishing licenses is not going to solve quickly. But as a fan of the organization, I will say simply: they do their best. Among some of their many great attributes are publishing “how-to’s” on life in the foothills. One of their best is titled simply: “Living with Wildlife“. Among their many quality tips are the following:
- Avoid Conflicts: don’t put yourself or family members in situations that invite a conflict with an animal. If you’re terrified of mountain lions for instance… don’t hang out in open space at 2 a.m.!
- Don’t feed wildlife. It simply encourages non-wild behaviors and encourages an unsafe proximity to human interaction.
- View wildlife from a safe distance. Leave babies alone.
- Know what to do when you encounter an animal. For instance, a bear.
I had lived in Colorado for 24 years before I ever saw a bear “in the wild”. I happened to start selling real estate a week before I turned 24. Three months into my career, when it probably should have already been hibernating, I saw a bear in Ute Pass. I have seen a bear almost each year since, and only three of those occasions have been in the “wild” in places where you’d expect to see a bear like along the South Platte River. More often than not, they’re in my own backyard. Most frightening was when I observed a monstrous 300+ pound bear walking out of my garage… and then seeing my 7 year old’s head peep out the other side of the garage to make sure he was gone! Bears are special animals, innately curious and highly opportunistic. But this particular bear was destroyed the next year (unfortunately, along with her cubs) because she had grown so adept at opening garage freezers and trash-diving. No longer was this bear eating an idyllic diet of acorns; not when there was the opportunity to binge on leftovers.
As CPW states: “If they (bears) find food near homes, campgrounds, vehicles, or communities, they’ll come back for more. Bears will work hard to get the calories they need, and can easily damage property, vehicles, and homes. Bears that become aggressive in their pursuit of an easy meal must often be destroyed. Every time we’re forced to destroy a bear, it’s not just the bear that loses. We all lose a little piece of the wildness that makes Colorado so special. So please, get the information you need, and share it with your friends, neighbors, and community.”
Other great resources you can find online from Colorado Parks and Wildlife include:
Feeding Wildlife Puts Everyone at Risk (hey, give this to your neighbor!)