Wildlife sightings ring in spring around Aspen
Ground squirrels found in local parks and trails are reproducing at a rate that Pitkin County Open Space and Trails senior ranger John Armstrong said he’s never seen before.
The small, four-legged member of the rodent family is highly prolific, said Colorado Parks and Wildlife supervisor Perry Will.
Will directly supervises Colorado’s northwest region, which includes Pitkin County and the surrounding area, and has worked for the organization for about 40 years.
“These guys can have litters of up to about 10,” Will said, adding that the ground squirrel has been a familiar species to the Front Range for a number of years. However, when it started migrating to the Roaring Fork Valley is less clear.
Armstrong recalled seeing the critters in the area within the past four or five years, but never prior to that.
While it’s tough to pinpoint any one reason behind the animal’s influx locally, Will said, it is “likely just a response to our climatic conditions.”
“We’ve had good moisture, which is good conditions for pastures, growing grass and digging burrows. And there’s good food availability,” Will said. “It’s newfound country that’s conducive to their life cycle.”
In other wildlife news, as winter transitions to spring, the bears are waking up, as The Aspen Times reported Tuesday.
Aspen Police Department community response Officer Dave Paschal said earlier this week that the department received two bear reports over the course of four days.
On Wednesday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reported that its Glenwood Springs office received four phone calls for bear-related incidents during the month of March.
“We’ve had a few conflicts, but not anything terrible yet,” Will said. “Mainly just (bears) getting into peoples’ trash.”
Armstrong said he’s also noticed quite a bit of mountain lion activity over the past few months, meaning tracks in the snow and the remains of other animals that are killed by mountain lions. He said it is a rare occurrence to actually see the animal.
Herds of elk also may be found roaming the local lands, especially at Sky Mountain Park, Cozy Point trail and McLain Flats Road.
“If you go up on the hillside and in the fields, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll see elk,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong and Will both said they have also seen fox, rabbits and coyotes in the area.
Will also reported recent moose sightings, and said one’s chances of encountering moose are significantly higher than they used to be because the animals’ population is thriving.
Should a moose encounter occur, individuals should demonstrate caution, Will said. Moose are very dangerous and will show aggression toward people.
To reduce the likelihood of conflict with moose, Will suggested hikers leave their dogs at home.
“If you have a dog with you, your chance of having a conflict with a moose is 100 times greater,” he said.
As with most wild species, Will said it also helps to maintain a fair level of distance.
“That’s why people want to live here, because of the beauty and wildlife we have,” Will said. “So just please respect it and live in harmony with them.”
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