Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in Move To Steamboat and Yampa Valley magazine which published on December 23, 2022.
Many people who visit or move to the Steamboat Springs area may not realize that their new home is a natural haven for a wide range of wildlife who become their new neighbors.
Black bears grab a lot of the headlines, but the Yampa Valley is also home to elk, deer, foxes, coyotes, cougars, prairie rattlesnakes, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, osprey, grouse, raccoons, skunks, and more.
“We are surrounded by good habitat for wildlife. The city of Steamboat is nestled in a valley, so we’re really getting into its habitat and often growing in it,” said Lexi Stine, director of adult programs at Yampatika, a nonprofit environmental education organization. profit.
Steamboat and much of Routt County are surrounded by a national forest and that close proximity means more wildlife nearby. Additionally, the diverse habitat throughout the Yampa Valley, ranging from montane shrubland to riparian and wooded areas, ensures good habitat for a wide variety of animals.
“There’s a little bit of everything for a lot of wildlife,” Stine said. “People are more concerned with knowing what to do when they encounter these animals.”
That means newcomers need to educate themselves on the best way to interact and live safely with wildlife, from securing bear-resistant trash cans to keeping dogs on leashes.
Yampatika and Colorado Parks and Wildlife educators shared seven top recommendations, noting that specific animals have different rules of engagement for learning. Experts encourage people to pick up brochures, sign up for an educational outing with a Yampatika naturalist, or check the CPW website for tips and short videos.
Routt County is good habitat for bears, and the proximity to natural lands combined with bad human habits also attracts some bears to live within the city limits. Be prepared to close and lock first-floor windows and doors, lock vehicles (yes, bears are smart enough to open some car doors), and seal gaps under porches and decks that bears and other animals may consider a threat. attractive den. Secure trash and pet food inside a closed garage or sturdy shed, avoid hanging bird feeders, and pick fruit from above and below trees.
“If you’re not being smart about food sources, the animals will feel comfortable on your property,” Bubenheim said.
If residents see a bear, enjoy the site for a short time, then make the bears very uncomfortable by blowing horns or making loud noises, from banging pots to using air horns. Learn more at http://www.steamboatsprings.net/bears.
watch out for the moose
In the past 20 years, the Shiras elk population in Routt County has increased sevenfold to about 350 animals, including about 30 elk that live on Steamboat Resort’s national forest lands, according to CPW terrestrial biologist , Eric Vannatta.
Give large, long-legged moose plenty of distance and be sure to leave the animals an obvious escape route. Keep all dogs on a leash. Dogs appear to be natural predators of moose, so when a dog approaches a moose to check on it and decides to run back to its owner, the moose may follow.
“The most important thing to remember is that you can encounter wildlife at any time,” Stine said. “Keeping dogs on a leash is a really good way to make sure you don’t inadvertently disturb or harass wildlife.”
Stay alert on the trails
On trails or in open spaces, residents may encounter various types of wild animals and should be aware of their surroundings and make noise. Do not walk or cycle with headphones on. Some people chose to walk around with an easily accessible can of bear spray in a side pocket, but learning the proper use of the spray is key first.
“You shouldn’t be afraid to recreate, but educate yourself for potential encounters with some of our many wildlife species,” said Libbie Miller, a CPW wildlife biologist for 26 years.
Let the babies be
Spring can be a time to meet young wildlife. Do not pick up or “rescue” those cute little “orphaned” animals. The mother is usually nearby and hides the young from her while she forages for food, or a baby bird may sit outside the nest while she learns to fly, according to CPW.
“What humans might misinterpret as ‘abandonment’ is actually wild animals living healthy, wild lives,” according to CPW.
beware of signs
Some popular recreation areas and trails close December 1 through April 15 to protect winter elk habitat and again during spring calving seasons May 15 through June 15. Obey all closing signs.
“The elk closures exist because the elk are very stressed during the winter and are essentially on a starvation diet,” Stine said. “They expend a lot of energy staying warm and moving through deep snow. Humans are often viewed as predators. If we scare the moose in the winter, they run away and burn up valuable energy and are less likely to make it to spring.”
Learn more at cpw.state.co.us/learn/pages/livingwithwildlife.aspx.
drive with caution
Wear extra caution when driving local roads, especially at dawn and dusk, to avoid collisions with wildlife. Strikes with wildlife are very common due to travel patterns and migration corridors that cross county highways and byways. Slow down, stay alert, look for movement along the roads, and be prepared for animals traveling in packs.
A critical time to be careful is during the early November shift to daylight saving time, when more people are driving home in the dark and animals may be migrating from higher to lower elevations.
Don’t Forget the Leash Routt County residents love their dogs, and many owners find that their canine is a great one to instantly remember. But that’s rarely true when a dog sniffs out wildlife. Steamboat is home to several established off-leash dog parks, with more information available at http://www.SteamboatDigsDogs.com.
To contact Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.