Wildlife managers in Grand County urge caution with predator/pet conflicts
March 1, 2016
Living in the mountains brings both risks and rewards.
The stunning beauty of the high country is complicated by the relative danger of traveling through such grandeur over snow covered icy roads. Likewise the abundant and amazing wildlife that calls Grand County home can be dangerous to humans, livestock and the pets we call family.
Recently a few Grand County residents have experienced conflicts with wildlife, with reports appearing on social media of chickens and even dogs being killed by coyotes in east Grand. Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CP&W)
"The easiest and arguably most important step people can take to reduce incidences is to insure no food is left out for wildlife to consume," said District Wildlife Manager Jeromy Huntington. "This includes making sure bird feeders are well out of reach for deer and other larger animals."
"This goes back to feeding," said Huntington, referring to the oft-repeated concern CP&W has about local residents leaving food out for wildlife.
"By not feeding wildlife people can reduce the amount of prey in developments. Predators will follow their prey. If you have a lot of prey in town then it increases the chances of a predator being in town."
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Predators that call the high country home; such as foxes, coyotes, bears and mountain lions, are opportunistic hunters. "If [predators] happen to be in an area where people have chickens or pets that are available they might take advantage of that opportunity for a meal," Huntington said.
Coyotes are omnivores and can survive on a surprising variety of food but they are also cunning and intelligent hunters. Like most hunters they can be highly territorial.
"With coyotes and dogs the issue could be territorial," Huntington said. "They might look at a dog as a competitor or trespasser."
The size of the dog in question would make a difference as to whether coyotes or other predators would consider the animal prey with smaller dogs more likely to be viewed as food by wild animals, he said.
"If you have a big dog it might run off coyotes and not be as much in danger."
The most common incidence between coyotes and humans are instances when coyotes have followed people and dogs. Huntington advised that pet owners should fight back against coyotes or other predators that might attack them or pets, and recommended using sticks or rocks in an effort to deter the animals before attacks occur. Making lots of noise and attempting to make yourself appear as large as possible are also good plans of action.
Coyotes can be found throughout Grand County but Huntington said he has noticed recurring issues near the Granby Ranch Conservation Easement. Posted on the easement near the Fraser to Granby Trail trailhead is a sign from CP&W stating that coyotes are active in the area and what precautions folks can take.
Those with pets should keep them on leashes while walking through areas with coyote activity. Pet owners should use extra caution while walking or hiking any time between dusk and dawn when coyotes are most active. Likewise, pet owners should try to avoid potential or known den sites and areas of thick low lying vegetation.
Huntington used lightening strike prevention as an analogy for wildlife attacks on pets.
"You don't know where it (lightening) is going to strike next so you just take basic precautions. It is kind of the same thing here," he said. "If you leave your dog off leash and walk where there are predators you are taking a chance. You might go years without conflicts but it just takes one time."