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Wildlife

The concept may seem strange, but most of us encounter wildlife in the city every day. In fact, cities have entire functioning ecosystems, with herbivores, omnivores, carnivores and scavengers in addition to people, pets, cars, houses, roads, buildings and businesses. 

Animals that live in cities tend to be intelligent and adaptable, and have been able to change their lifestyles in order to take advantage of these urban habitats. The city of Denver has more food, year round water supplies, and endless possibilities of shelter to support a greater number of individual animals than a comparable sized prairie!


As the City of Denver continues to grow, wildlife will be impacted and sometimes displaced. Some species continue to live in open-space areas while others have adapted quite well to urban living. View tips from DPR's natural areas experts on how to avoid conflict with urban wildlife.


Animal Information & Resources

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Canada geese are a common species in the Denver Metro Area.  They are easy to identify and are noticeable with their dark black heads and white chinstraps.  A Canada goose can reach 20‐25 lbs in size. 

Traditional parks with large expanses of Kentucky blue grass lawns and open access to shallow lakes are unintentionally ideal and preferred goose habitat.  Geese feed on the grass, have open views in all directions to watch for predators and have easy access to get on the water to escape from potential danger. 

Considerations & strategies for making areas less attractive to geese:

  1. Reduce available food (short, manicured lawns) and replace with taller grasses, ground covers, less foraging area.
    • Mow less often; geese prefer grasses shorter than 6 inches high
    • Eliminate mowing
    • Reduce fertilizer use; geese prefer fertilized grass to unfertilized grass.
  2. Eliminate or reduce ability of geese to walk from feeding areas directly in to the water with barriers.
  3. Do Not feed geese:  human food is both an attractant and a health hazard for the geese. It is also illegal to feed wildlife in any Denver Park.  Malnourished geese may not physically be healthy enough to migrate or leave an area.
  4. Plant vegetative barriers, reducing line of sight, access to water and access to foraging areas such as lawns.
    • Plantings should be higher than 30 inches
    • Plantings are most effective at widths of greater than 20 feet
    • Plantings may need to be fenced while they are being established
    • Rock barriers can be used in conjunction with vegetative barriers, large boulders or several mid-sized rocks to reduce visibility and be less attractive to walk on
  5. Keep fencing at least 3o inches high with only small openings
    • fencing is most effective when used with vegetative barriers
  6. Hazing
    • Use devices that move erratically (pinwheels, metallic balloons or streamers) or noisemakers to startle geese away. These must be changed or relocated occasionally so the geese don’t get used to them.
    • Projectiles are illegal in the City and County of Denver (slingshots, paint guns, BB guns, etc.)
  7. Repellants can be applied to the grass to make it taste bad to the geese. Methylanthranilate is safe to eat and can be applied to both grass and crops and geese don’t like it.
    • Must be reapplied and can get expensive so use as a short term solution in conjunction with other long term options

Lethal removal or relocation is not an option:

Why don’t we “thin” out the numbers of geese

  1. Population sizes are resource dependent. If the amount of resources (food, water, shelter) remains the same, animals will quickly repopulate an area. Most geese complaints occur during winter migration, so new flocks are constantly moving in and out.
    • Lethal removal is a short term solution.
    • Relocation is also inefficient as geese can easily return to familiar areas; additionally it adds tremendous stress on the individual geese and can be in noncompliance with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which protects migratory birds such as Canada Geese
    • There is no permit at this time tjat allows cities/counties/municipalities to lethally control Canada geese (other than legally controlled hunting).

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Teach coyotes to live with human neighbors

Coyotes are native to the Midwestern prairies and have always been found in the Front Range area of Colorado.   Due to their intelligence and adaptability they are one of the few species of animal that has been able to successfully expand its range, even as natural areas and other animal species decline in numbers.  While originally a prairie native, they can now be found in every major ecosystem in North America.  Today living with coyotes is a key topic in many North American cities.  With the expansion and development of the past 20-30 years, there have been many shifts in the size and diversity of different animal populations.  Many animals cannot thrive in close proximity to people, and are no longer found in areas that have become urbanized.  Other animals have learned to adapt, and a new urban ecosystem has been developed.  Now these adaptable, urban animals have had multiple generations of offspring that have been born in cities.  People, houses, pets, cars and more are a normal part of their lives.  An urban coyote has a completely different lifestyle than a coyote living far from people, and has been raised by its family to survive in cities.

Coyotes in an urban environment easily become used to (habituated) living in close proximity to people, which changes their behavior.  Urban coyotes associate people with food, which reduces their natural wariness in their interactions with people and pets.  Every time a coyote sees a person and nothing happens, it increases their boldness and comfort in increasingly close interactions.  

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While considered an important part of the prairie ecosystems, prairie dogs often are a source of conflict in a city.  In a natural habitat, they would have plenty of room to expand and move around.  They would graze in different areas to allow vegetation to regrow.  But in a city, they are confined to small and fragmented open spaces, putting more pressure on the vegetation and with limited places for young males to disperse in these areas.  Most open land in a city is scheduled for eventual development.  Therefore, prairie dogs are forced into groomed parks and into people’s yards looking for food and space.  Due to their habitat of trimming down and eating plants, they can be destructive to the landscape.  When prairie dogs are removed from an area, unless the land is completely changed (i.e., turned into an asphalt parking lot), the animals are more likely to return, due to the lack of appropriate habitat nearby. In areas of high human activity, there are concerns about diseases and people tripping on burrow mounds. 

City prairie dogs require intensive and long term management to successfully survive and coexist in neighborhoods and open spaces.   People living along open spaces need to actively design their yards and fences to deter prairie dogs.  Urban prairie dogs are a major food source for other urban wildlife including raptors, coyote and fox.  When this natural food source disappears, predators may turn to less appropriate food sources such as domestic pets.