CategoriesColorado Ranches Ranch Lifestyle Wildlife

Colorado Ranch Wildlife – ​Black Bears: Living Bear Aware

As temperatures rise, so do your chances of encountering a black bear in the mountains and on your western Colorado ranch. These majestic animals have been in deep hibernation all winter long. With the warm spring air rolling in, the bears start to make their grand entrance back into forest society. Safety is key when it comes to interactions with large mammals, such as the Black Bear. At the end of this article you will find tips on how to live “bear aware” in the high country. But first, let’s talk about these glorious animals that reside in our beautiful state.

Colorado Ranch Wildlife - Black Bears: Living Bear Aware

Black Bear Habitat

The Black Bear population has increased immensely in the past decade. It is now estimated there are around 19,000 black bears in the state of Colorado. Although this sounds like a big number, your chances of running into them are still quite rare. Most bears stick to a lower level mountain forest elevation before hibernation, where there are plenty of fruits and nuts for them to forage on to beef up for their winter sleep. Their habitat range may span anywhere from 10 to 150 square miles, and gravitate toward areas with abundant food for them to eat.

Black Bear Mating Season

Every June is mating season for bears. Male bears start reproducing at the age of three, whereas females are not ready until they are five years old. The mother bear carries her fertilized egg for about 7 months. During this time an amazing process called delayed implantation happens. If the mother does not have enough fat reserves for the winter, her egg is reabsorbed and she will have to try again next mating season. If the egg does survive, the cubs will be born in their den during hibernation in late January. They remain with their mother for a year and a half to learn all they need to know for survival. After that time, they are independent enough to sustain themselves on their own and will separate from their mother, usually during the summer months.

Black Bear Mating Season

Hibernation begins for black bears in late October. During hibernation, bears do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate. It is quite amazing! Male bears can lose up to 30% of their body fat during hibernation, while lactating mothers can lose up to 40%. Male bears usually emerge from the den a couple weeks before females and cubs. This starts around Mid-March, which is why it is so important for you to be aware of your surroundings while out on your ranch during this time of year.

How To Be "Bear Aware"

During warmer months when bears are active, Colorado Parks and Wildlife strongly recommends putting away your bird feeders. Also, make sure to lock up your trash cans or store them in an area bears cannot access. Last, but not least, if you have an outdoor pet it would be best to move their food inside during the six months of bear activity. Bears are frequently attracted to wild animal feed, pet and people food, and trash. This means they will stroll onto your property in hopes of an easy meal if these food sources are available to them. This could result in a bear/human encounter, and can ultimately result in the injury or death of either party. Some other important tips:

  • Pick ripe fruit before it falls, and remove any fruit that has already fallen to the ground
  • Keep all windows and doors closed and locked – screens are flimsy barriers
  • Clean your BBQ grill after each use and lock it down
  • NEVER feed bears or allow any refuse or pet food to be eaten by bears

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By doing these simple things, you help keep bears wild and our state rich with this amazing wildlife. For other insight into wildlife commonly found on mountain ranches, check out the other blog posts on our site.

When you are in the market for a beautiful ranch to call your own, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you. Until then, stay bear aware!

CategoriesColorado Ranches Ranch Lifestyle Wildlife

Colorado Ranch Wildlife – The Howl of the Coyote

If you have been enjoying time on your Colorado ranch, you have undoubtedly heard the howl of the coyote. At once beautiful and eerie, it reminds us of our close proximity to the wild and how fortunate we are to coexist with animals such as the coyote, bear, moose and mountain lion. To some Native American tribes, the coyote represents a revered teacher who uses mischief and trickery to teach needed lessons. To livestock ranchers they represent a nuisance. Many of these ranchers are turning to non-lethal control such as using livestock protection animals like llamas, donkeys and the Great Pyrenees dogs to keep these predators at bay.

Colorado Ranch Wildlife - The Howl of the Coyote

Appearance and Diet of the Coyote

Coyotes are smaller than their cousin, the gray wolf, weighing anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds. They have yellowish-brown to sometimes gray fur and beautiful amber eyes. Their body is three to four feet long and ends with a long bushy tail.

Coyotes are omnivorous and opportunistic when it comes to feeding. In essence, they will eat anything available which explains their ability to thrive with the encroachment of civilization when other animals have perished. It will feed on bird seed, rodents, berries, garbage, birds and, unfortunately, small pets. For this reason, it is important to keep your pets indoors at night. Small dogs especially should be closely supervised—especially at dawn and dusk when coyotes are most active. If one of your family members is a cat, consider keeping them indoors if your ranch is in coyote territory.

Viewing Coyotes in Colorado

With the declining number of wolves and cougars, their top predators, coyote populations are at an all-time high. They can be found in the deserts of the southwest to the snowy tundra of Alaska and in almost all of the 48 states in-between. A beautiful place to view these magnificent creatures is Rocky Mountain National Park. They can be spotted frequently, even during the daytime hours, and are regarded as the park’s most cunning predator.

Coyote Behavior

Coyotes are secretive and shy in nature. They tend to sleep during the day and hunt at night. They are skilled hunters with excellent eyesight, hearing and a strong sense of smell and can run up to 40 miles an hour. A single coyote tends to pounce on its prey while a pack of coyotes often use distraction as an effective hunting method.

Coyotes form strong family bonds, with mates remaining together for several years. Mating takes place in January and February which has led to some reports of aggression during this time as the coyote searches for a den in which to raise its young. Coyotes will fiercely defend their young in late spring and are more often seen at this time as they search for food throughout the daytime hours to bring back to the hungry pups. Dens are usually on sandy hillsides, steep creek banks, as well as in thick underbrush and are solely used to raise their young after which time they are abandoned.

Living With Coyotes

With their close appearance to our canine friends, people have been known to unwisely approach these wild animals. It is always best to give them the space they deserve and make sure that they see you as the alpha. To this end, never feed a coyote or bring in any type of food that may attract them such as bird seed, pet food, or fallen fruit. If you see a coyote when hiking, stop and look right at it. Do not continue, do not ignore it, and do not run. If it continues to look at you and does not leave the area, make yourself look as big as possible by raising your arms and shouting in an authoritative tone.

Coyote attacks on humans are extremely rare. There have been only two recorded incidences in the Unites States and Canada of humans being killed by these skilled hunters. In most cases, coyote attacks are due to people being bitten when defending their free-roaming pets or when feeding the wild animal. For the most part, humans have learned to peacefully coexist with this cunning, intelligent animal.

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CategoriesColorado Ranches Ranch Lifestyle Wildlife

Colorado Ranch Wildlife – Red Foxes on your Ranch

For such a small creature, the red fox is quite the majestic beauty. There is something magical about seeing one saunter across the grounds of your ranch, especially after a fresh snow. They are commonly found in many habitats throughout Colorado. These habitats include woodlands, open pastures, as well as urban areas closer to the city. They are rarely found in desert lands and their preferred habitat would be an area near water. These loners like to travel solo and typically stick to an area of around 5-10 square miles.

Colorado Ranch Wildlife - Red Foxes on your Ranch

The fox is one of the smaller members in the Canidae family. Weighing in around 8-15 pounds and growing to a length of only 3-4 feet, including its tail. And don’t let his name fool you. Although red is the most common color for this animal, it does vary in color. It can also be seen in cross, silver, and black. The one trait that remains common, is the white tip on its tail. These animals have a rather short life span, of just five years, when living in the wild. Which is less than half of its peers living in captivity, they can age up to 15 years.

Spring is mating season for the foxes. The male foxes mate in burrows with the vixen for several days. After that takes place the vixen is then in gestation for up to two months. An average litter size is around six kits, although there have been reports of vixen having up to 13 kits. The kits (also known as pups) mature rapidly. They are quite independent around 20 weeks but stay close to their den until fall comes. That is when they move out and begin a life of their own.

It is imperative to remember a few things about these animals should you cross one on your ranch. Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds us that they are NOT pets. As cute and cuddly as they appear, never approach, feed or try to capture a fox. These are wild animals and you should treat them as such. The best thing to do if you see one, is to admire it from afar.

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CategoriesColorado Ranches Ranch Lifestyle Wildlife

Colorado Ranch Wildlife – ​The Elusive Lynx

Although it’s likely you’ll never see one in person, the lynx are most certainly out and about, roaming Colorado’s mountainous landscape. Some Colorado Ranches do have lynx wander onto their property. There was a time in history when these beautiful creatures were nonexistent in our state. The lynx population dropped to a staggering low in the early 1900’s due to European settlers poaching the animal for its thick fur to sell internationally. The lynx was placed on the endangered species list in 1975, a year after the last lynx was trapped by a hunter in Vail. Big game hunting took this animal away from our land for some time. But in the 1990’s, Colorado Parks & Wildlife began devising a plan for their reintroduction.

Colorado Ranch Wildlife - The Elusive Lynx

Reintroduction of the Lynx to Colorado

The reintroduction plan for the lynx took shape in 1999. Colorado Parks & Wildlife brought 41 lynx from Canada and Alaska to Colorado. These 41 lynx were then released wearing monitoring radio and satellite collars. This was an easy way to track their breeding, population, and monitor the geographic span of their habitat. Their range covers approximately 20 square miles. Over roughly seven years, 218 lynx were successfully introduced back into Colorado. These cats now largely reside in the desolate San Juan Mountains and have begun to live that wonderful Colorado life again. It is now estimated that somewhere between 150-250 cats are roaming our back country, an area many people wish they could call home.

Facts About The Lynx

Lynx typically weigh between 20 and 30 pounds. They have a very similar stature to that of the bobcatwith a few distinct differences. Their feet are much larger, since having larger feet allows them to move swiftly through packed snow. A lynx tail sports a solid black tip and is about half the size of its relatively large hind foot. Their coat is greyish in color during the winter months, and turns to more of a reddish tone during the summertime. Their distinct ear tuft is an easy way to identify a lynx.

Their main source of nutrition is the snowshoe hare, but they also feast on other small mammals like mice. They breed in the winter and, after only nine weeks of gestation, the female lynx gives birth to a litter of around four kittens.

If you spot a lynx while strolling around on your ranch, here a few tips to avoid conflict:

  1. Do not approach the animal if it is near a kill or toting around its young.
  2. Do not offer Lynx or any other wild animals food.
  3. Never run from a Lynx, it has a natural instinct to chase.
  4. Try to appear larger in size, as this may frighten it which would in turn cause it to flee.
  5. Never turn your back or take your eyes off the animal when it is nearby.
  6. Speak calmly, but loud as you slowly back away.
  7. If the animal has not regressed after all of this, then be more assertive by shouting, raising and flailing your arms in the air. If you have anything that could be thrown at the cat, this would be a good time to do it.

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CategoriesColorado Ranches Ranch Lifestyle Western Lifestyle

Colorado Ranch Wildlife – ​Living with Moose

Moose, the largest member of the deer family, can weigh as much as 1800 pounds and reach a height of seven feet at the shoulders, making them the tallest wild mammal currently roaming through North America and now frequenting Colorado ranches across the state. Due to their massive size, they enjoy very few predators save man, wolves, bears and cougars. When they live to adulthood, their survival rate is 95 percent, and their average lifespan is 10 to 15 years.

Colorado Ranch Wildlife - ​Living with Moose

Bighorn Sheep Behaviors

Today, the moose population in Colorado exceeds 1,000, up tremendously since their reintroduction in 1978 when only a few stray animals remained. Colorado moose are slightly smaller than their cousins that dwell in Alaska, the Shiras moose tops out at about 1,200 pounds and reaches six feet tall. There are an estimated 1.5 million moose living in North America.

Because moose are vegetarians, they are most frequently spotted where there is brush for them to graze on. They favor riparian habitats—land by a river or stream—and you can often see them near willows, their favorite food, as well as in aspen and pine forests. One of the best places to see these magnificent animals is State Forest State Park near Walden. Due to the park’s population of 600 moose that live there year-round, it has been named the official moose capital of Colorado.

Moose Behaviors

Moose are extremely curious animals and are generally unafraid of humans. While normally docile, a female moose can be protective of her calf, and a male can be territorial, particularly during mating season in September and October. Only during this time do they use their six foot antlers, which are shed after mating season. Be sure to keep dogs away from them as this can initiate aggressive behavior since moose can mistake dogs for wolves.

In general, it is best to give moose their space, and stay at a distance. If you see a moose with its ears laid back, head cocked, licking its snout, or hair raised up on its neck, back away slowly. If the moose does decide to charge you, get something large between you and the moose such as a tree or large boulder. If nothing is available, run as fast as possible and don’t let them knock you to the ground – where they will typically stomp on you. Keep in mind that, though they look cumbersome, a moose can run up to 35 miles per hour.

Watch Out For Moose When Driving

The biggest physical threat to moose are vehicle-moose collisions. Because of their stature, a run-in between a moose and a car usually causes serious injury to both the animal and the people in the car, not to mention the car. Pay close attention when driving along Colorado’s mountain roadways, particularly when signs are posted warning of wildlife crossings, and during sunrise and sunset when moose are most active.

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CategoriesColorado Ranches Ranch Lifestyle Western Lifestyle

Colorado Ranch Wildlife – ​Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep are one of the most unique and iconic animals in the West, and frequently wander onto Colorado Ranch real estate. Chosen as the state mammal of Colorado, nothing typifies the rugged, beautiful landscape of snowy peaks and cold, rushing rivers more than these amazing creatures.

Colorado Ranch Wildlife - ​Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep (occasionally misidentified as ‘mountain goats’) are best known for their dense, thick, fully rounded horns on mature males. These horns alone can weigh up to 30 pounds, up to one tenth of the animal’s maximum weight. The females have horns as well, but they are thinner and do not curve in such a marked way, and the younger males do not develop them until they are three or four years old.

Bighorn Sheep Behaviors

Usually grouping in large herds during the winter, and unable to move easily through deep snow, the sheep prefer sunny, south-facing slopes, and are often spotted in the disturbed areas near roads and highways where non-native grasses often grow year-round.

During warmer months, the largest herds will often separate into groups of ten to thirty, as they spread out through verdant alpine slopes, seeking out the dense, ground level vegetation or low shrubs they prefer. During the ‘pre-rut’ season, the males will attempt to establish a mating hierarchy through repeated ‘clashes’ or full speed head-butts, against other males.

Bighorn Sheep & The Colorado Ecosystem

Bighorn sheep are considered a crucial bio-indicator of the health of an ecosystem because they are quite susceptible to human impacts such as interruption of grazing pattern due to development; stress during winter months from human intrusion into their habitat; as well as diseases introduced by domestic livestock such as pneumonia and scabies. In fact, a population that once soared into the millions in North America was nearly decimated by these diseases in the late nineteenth century.

Because this amazing species is so essential to the delicate balance of life in the Rocky Mountains, conservation groups such as the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society work tirelessly to educate the public and preserve the bighorn population. The successful reintroduction of a herd near Kremmling, Colorado in 2014 is one of the great successes of these efforts, allowing bighorn sheep to once again roam their native land. Hunting tags for both rams and ewes are highly sought after and are carefully regulated to support these conservation efforts.

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