About three weeks after I moved here, our friend, Honey, was out gathering dandelions behind the apartment complex. I couldn’t blame him. It was a beautiful spring afternoon, and the Eagle River was a perfect backdrop for a little flower-picking. But Honey had to go—in the most polite way, of course—because Honey was a black bear.
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Since moving here, I have come to realize that these encounters are ordinary. There have been a few more bears stop by, a moose attempting to cross Highway 6, and many other furry (or not so furry) friends. But these encounters, as fun as they sometimes are, bring to light a real question: What does one do when Honey is in the backyard picking dandelions? Who is there to call?
Before calling anyone, it is important to leave the animal alone. We want Colorado’s wildlife to stay wild; harassing an animal is never an appropriate way to get it to leave or handle a conflict. This includes feeding. When we leave food out or do not secure our trash, it encourages wild animals to continue coming to a place where they know they can find food, thereby creating more and more opportunities for potential conflict. If you do find yourself in conflict with a big game animal (e.g. deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, bear, or moose), you should call your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office.
When it comes to finding animals like bats, it’s actually best to let the critters be. If you find a bat hanging from your house, from a tree in your yard, or even in your attic, it’s probably only there temporarily and will soon be on its way. Bats are extremely beneficial for controlling insect populations, and we need as many of them as we can get! If you come in contact with a bat or any other animal that could possibly have rabies, such as raccoons, foxes, coyotes, or skunks, be sure to call Colorado Parks and Wildlife as well as the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. Both of these resources can provide you with information on how to exclude bats from your home, when to exclude bats from your home, and what you should do if you come in contact with a possibly infected creature. Though rabies is incredibly rare, it is always best to err on the side of caution.
Our friends, the beavers, pose a different problem. Oftentimes, these wood-hungry rodents will gnaw down beloved backyard trees and dam up creeks behind our homes. While this is all completely natural and even beneficial for riparian environments, waking up to the chiseled trunk of a tree that was standing the night before is no fun. With beavers, it’s best to take preventative measures before any conflict arises. You can surround the lowest few feet of your trees with fencing or wire. But do know that if you see a beaver waddling around the waters behind your home, it’s a sign of a healthy watershed.
So let’s review: Who are you gonna call if you find yourself in conflict with local wildlife, if you’re concerned about some furry new visitors, or if you just want more information on living with wildlife? The answer is simple: it’s not Ghostbusters, but pretty close—your local office of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Ellie Katz is a Naturalist at Walking Mountains Science Center. Though a devoted fan of Michigan’s Great Lakes, beaches, and overwhelmingly deciduous trees, she’s excited to spend the summer in Eagle Valley, explore the southern Rockies, teach some kiddos, and maybe learn a thing or two to boot.