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Wildlife Safety Tips

With Aspen being one of the most desirable destinations to discover the great outdoors, it’s a good thing to keep in mind that humans aren’t the only residents exploring this area. Whether you’re hiking through the mountains or taking a stroll through town, it’s not uncommon to encounter wildlife, especially during the summer months. Before your next outing, be sure to remember these safety tips that will keep both you and wildlife safe.

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Smaller furry mammals - chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, fox, and deer – are just some of the more well known wildlife that reside in Aspen, and will most likely make their way closer to town. Although these little creatures are adorable, it’s crucial not to make them feel threatened by touching or chasing them, as they are wild and will defend themselves.

Most of the time, Colorado’s large mammals like elk, bears, or cats, are tucked away in the mountains, and occasionally they might head closer to town. Elk are beautiful animals providing quite the sight to see. The spring and fall are seasons for mating and calving, and therefore, it’s vital that spectators take precautions, as Elk can be more aggressive during these times. If the larger creatures like bears or cats get too close to your home, don’t approach or corner them, and be sure to call Aspen Police Department if you feel they are a threat. 
 
There have been three recent incidents reported in the news involving humans and bears in Aspen.  Due to these incidents, ACRA wants to remind locals and visitors about proper human behavior during bear season. Wildlife officials have stated that the most recent incidents have occurred from bears looking for "easy meals in populated areas."  The most recent incident on Sunday night occurred by leaving a trash bin open. “By attempting to scare the bear out of a dumpster, the man exposed himself to significant danger,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Matt Yamashita. “It is likely the bear felt cornered and it reacted aggressively. As we have warned over and over again, this is the exact scenario that can happen when people and bears interact, and why it is so dangerous for bears to be around people".

Bears:

  • Avoid eye contact
  • Walk away slowly
  • Fight back if attacked
  • Don’t run
  • Do not feed
  • Leave trash bins closed and secured
  • Don't leave food, trash, or anything that smells in your car
  • Keep all bear-accessible windows and doors closed and locked, including home, garage and vehicle doors
  • If a bear comes near your home, do your best to chase it away. Yell, blow a whistle, clap your hands and make other loud noises. Never approach or corner a bear.
  • Mothers with cubs are dangerous. If you find yourself near, or between a mother and her cubs, back away, shout in a deep voice, and try to make yourself appear large. 
  • For more bear safety tips, visit Colorado Parks & Wildlife. 

Mountain Lions:

  • Act like a predator – maintain eye contact, don’t run, don’t bend over, wave your raised arms
  • Make yourself appear larger
  • Make noise
  • Fight back
Moose:
  • Moose view dogs as coyotes, which are a threat, and they will attack, which is why you should always keep your dog on a leash in common moose territory (which in 2019 does include Smuggler Mountain Road)
  • Never walk between a cow and a calf. 
  • Never approach a moose, walk the other direction and take the long way around. 
  • A moose may display warning signs before they become aggressive such as: raising the hair on their neck, laid back ears and licking of the snout. (More information from CPW here
  • If a moose feels threatened they will attack, they will often bluff charge first, but if they do make contact they will kick with their hooves and trample you. 
  • If a moose displays aggressive behavior or begins to charge, run as fast as you can and try to put a large object, such as a boulder, car, or tree, between you. 

Other General Safety Tips For All Wildlife:

  • Do not touch or approach wildlife.
  • Do not chase wildlife. Keep pets on leashes. 
  • Maintain a safe distance. Use binoculars or a zoom lens to get a better look.
  • Posting photos of the wildlife to your social media account only draws larger crowds, which can agitate animals and create a dangerous situation.
  • Follow the rule of thumb: if you can cover the entire wild animal with your thumb you're at a safe distance. This distance is usually 100 yards from wildlife. Use binoculars or a camera with zoom to view animals from a safe distance.
  • Be alert – if an animal appears startled or changes it’s behavior, or walks away, you are too close.
  • Never feed the wildlife, keep animals wild and healthy.