Whether you’re in the mountains listening to elk bugle or exploring one of Colorado’s state parks, encountering wildlife is a fairly common occurrence. Now that summer is here and more outdoor adventures are on your calendar, it’s even more important to remember that we are the visitors in the forests and mountains.
These safety tips will keep both you and the wildlife safe.
Colorado is home to a sizeable population of black bears, and it’s not uncommon to see them when you’re out in nature. Bears are incredibly resourceful. If they get a whiff of your food because you’ve neglected to store it properly, they’ll be more than willing to break into your cooler, car, tent, and anywhere else.
If you encounter a bear:
Every person recreating in Colorado should read the State Parks and Wildlife Department’s guide to hiking and camping in bear country. You’ll learn how to identify black bears (they aren’t always black), store food properly, and keep yourself (and the bears) safe.
This safety tip cannot be overstated. It’s perfectly fine to photograph wildlife, but it’s not okay to get too close for comfort to get that perfect shot for Facebook or Instagram. It’s disrespectful and dangerous, as one woman found out when she was charged by an elk in Yellowstone National Park.
If you’re really serious about getting some great photographs, invest in the proper camera gear that lets you zoom in from a safe distance.
If you’ll be hiking or camping in a place with park rangers, chat with them before heading out. They know their park and have insider info, including the most common types of wildlife and how to stay safe. For example, they may know there’s a mom and baby moose wandering one of the trails or a bear hanging around a campground. Those are wildlife encounters best avoided.
Mountain lions (cougars) also roam our trails. They’re usually active at night, and while attacks are rare, they have been known to happen, even in broad daylight. Keep children and dogs close to you. Being smaller makes them more vulnerable to attack.
If you encounter a cougar:
Do not touch or feed any animal in the wild, even if you have the opportunity to pet a cute and seemingly cuddly marmot or other critter. This isn’t just a safety tip, either. It’s critical to remember the wildlife we love needs to remain wild to survive.What’s your craziest, or most exciting, wildlife encounter story? What types of animals have you seen while exploring the great outdoors? Share your stories in the comments!