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  • Keep Routt Wild

KEEPING ROUTT WILD – How you can help local wildlife

Keep Routt Wild shares tips for how to help local wildlife this spring after a tough winter.

Bear caught in Steamboat Springs
A captured bear stares from its cage before relocation. Unfortunately, the bear was later euthanized for a second transgression. (Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Courtesy)

Welcome to the first column from Keep Routt Wild in the Community section of the Bugle! For

those who are unfamiliar with Keep Routt Wild, we are a community organization dedicated to

preserving wildlife and wild places in Routt County. You can view our website here, and our

Board of Directors here.

We are blessed to live in Routt County, with its abundant wildlife and backcountry. Whether

you hike or bike, or travel by horse or ATV, it’s always exciting to spot a moose or hear the

prehistoric call of a sandhill crane. These are the moments that remind us why we went

outdoors in the first place.

This column will be part of our education initiative, bringing timely information to the

community on how we can better coexist with local wildlife and habitat. Keep Routt Wild

believes people will generally do the right thing when shown the reason why, and we’ve

witnessed real behavioral change due to our educational outreach.

This brings us to two current issues facing the community: bears and ungulates.

Bears: Our local bears are awake and hungry. Ideally, they’d be searching the forest for food

and staying far away from people. However, access to easy calories from human sources brings

these usually timid critters into town to dine on trash, bird feeders, and pet food. This

represents a danger to humans and the bears themselves. Bears are enormously powerful

omnivores and are real threats to children and adults once they lose their fear of people. For

this reason, many bears are euthanized once captured in town.

You can help by following these bear-aware practices:

  • Secure your trash in bear-proof trash containers

  • Keep your trash can in the garage or another secured location when possible

  • Do not put out your trash container outside until the morning of the pick up

  • Make sure dumpsters are securely closed

  • Do not leave any food or trash where accessible by bears

  • Do not leave pet food outside where accessible by bears

  • Keep your car doors locked, preferably without food inside

  • Keep bird feeders out of reach of bears

Following the above best practices will ensure that our bears are kept wild and alive, and our

residents safe.

Elk in the Yampa Valley
The image above shows three elk with clear signs of malnutrition: protruding ribs, hips and backbones. (Bob Strong/Courtesy)

Ungulates: Our elk, deer, and pronghorn herds have been dealt a blow from a historic

winterkill this past season. Very high mortality has been reported for last year’s calves and

fawns, and many pregnant females have aborted their young due to a lack of fat stores and

calories. We are likely to see the impacts of this for several years.

The survival of the remaining animals depends on them expending as few calories as possible

while they bulk up on greening habitat as the snow disappears. Once again, you can help.

Please honor all seasonal trail and area closures. If you see wildlife, please keep your distance

to leave them undisturbed, so they can use their remaining calories surviving instead of fleeing

from humans. Finally, keep any dogs leashed and away from wildlife. While dogs are man’s best

friend, they aren’t friends to wildlife at all. Elk and deer will readily flee from dogs, expending

scarce calories in the effort.

We are privileged to live alongside our amazing local wildlife. Please join us in practicing these

wildlife-friendly practices so future generations may enjoy them too.


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