Seeing more wildlife lately? There’s a reason for that…

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From the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department of Natural Resources

Are people seeing more wildlife moving into neighborhoods and parks vacated by people during Colorado’s stay-at-home order? Or are people simply seeing wildlife that’s always around during hours when we are typically at work? A Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist says the human quarantine would have to continue for years to get wildlife to truly change their behaviors.

CPW has not noticed wildlife activity outside of normal behavior since people began sheltering in place. It will be hard to make any inferences in the short term.

“I think you are going to have short-term movements, but you likely will not see anything drastic,” explains Shannon Schaller, the Senior Wildlife Biologist for CPW’s northeast region. “It takes a while for wildlife to figure it out. It’s an over-time, repeated and learned behavior that generally has to become habitual. I don’t see any real changes coming for wildlife, although individual animals or species are going to be opportunistic.”

In principle, if parks, trails or open spaces are crowded with people, wildlife will go to areas with less disturbance. If urban areas, parks or open spaces that provide food, shelter or water are quiet, you could see wildlife utilizing those areas more.

“Wildlife learns to adapt to what we are doing and as we change,” Schaller said. “Whether that is being outside more, concentrating in places where we leave trash, or because we avoid an area, then they learn to adapt to that. I would not say that all species adapt instantaneously, it is a learned thing over time, but clearly most wildlife would like to avoid confrontation with people.” “They do learn to enjoy the benefits people sometimes provide, like illegally leaving out food,” she continued. “But as we slow down or even eliminate our activity in certain areas and they feel the comfort of being able to hunt, eat or rest because we are not there, that’s logical.”

What could be expected given current affairs is that there will be more wildlife observations than what normally takes place. With more people at home looking or being outside, wildlife sightings could go up. This won’t be a new phenomenon, the animals have always been there, but they may have previously gone undetected.

“In Summit County when I got calls about wildlife, most often it was from people who were at home and not working,” said Schaller, recalling her previous days as a wildlife officer. “If you sit at home and now have more eyeballs looking at our neighborhoods and across the landscape, it probably is not an increase in anything, it is just now you are home to see it or have the time to sit and watch.”

CPW does not recommend people report normal wildlife sightings – such as expected behavior of feeding, resting or moving across the landscape – and asking wildlife officers to respond unnecessarily. Given current affairs, they should not be responding to what is normal behavior. Those calls tie up dispatchers and/or wildlife officers for what otherwise should be for emergency calls only.

“Clearly something like a mountain lion or bear is something they should call on, especially if it is in close proximity to humans,” Schaller said. “Protect your pets from interacting with all wildlife, do not approach wildlife and leave any newborns you see alone – 99 percent of the time they are not orphaned if their mother is not right there with them.”

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KellyR

Just recently we have had an unwanted visitor. A raccoon has decided to scratch thru the screen on our back porch and live there. I think he must have heard about the “shelter in place” order. The cats appear to be not concerned.

Dennis Gardiner

We have many geese and duck where we live. Lately I’ve seen them just standing in the middle of our 8-lane expressways. They don’t even move when you approach with the car. More often than not, I’ve had to change lanes and go around them.

Alvin

Has anyone seen what happens to a road (paved or not) that has been by-passed and is no longer in use?
Grass, weeds and the like take back what man changed.

Left alone nature reclaims everything. Leave a car parked in the desert long enough same thing – it disappears (yes it does take a long time – not so much in the “rust belt”) and a cactus grows where it once sat.

We have deer, rabbits roaming past out home frequently, I don’t much like it when they eat my shrubs, but, we leave them at it – this was their home long before I came along disturbing them.