It may be odd to think about wildlife living and even thriving in city infrastructure, but Denver is home to many urban wildlife species and has entire functioning ecosystems that support herbivores, omnivores, carnivores and scavengers alongside people and their pets, vehicles and buildings.
Everyone encounters wildlife in everyday city life, from watching a squirrel run along the fence and enjoying the sound of birds chirping, to shooing away raccoons scavenging through the trash. Because wildlife can sometimes seem like a nuisance, it's easy to take for granted the character they add to our backyards and parks. These creatures have adapted to our way of life, taking advantage of urban conveniences and the habitats the city creates. Learn more about successfully coexisting with wildlife by reading below.
As the City of Denver continues to grow impacting wildlife habitat, it often times displaces and affects the natural order of wild animals. Some species continue to live in open-space areas, parks, undeveloped parcels of land, river bottoms, and on or near bodies of water. Others have adapted quite well to urban living; skunks, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, foxes, coyotes and geese, in particular, seem to thrive in and near the city.
A little effort in preventing conflicts with wildlife goes a long way. The key to keeping unwanted wildlife out of homes and yards is to make them feel unwelcome:
Download the full tip sheet for more information on avoiding conflicts with bats, geese, raccoons, snakes, skunks and more.
The goal of beaver management guidelines within Denver park facilities is to support coexistence with beaver living in the city, minimize potential conflicts related to beaver and their activity, and support their role in our urban ecosystem.
These guidelines are based on research and best known management practices and includes a full spectrum of management tools. Basic principles that guide this and all Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) Wildlife Management Plans are premised on the following principles:
Denver Parks & Recreation's beaver management strategy includes:
Update Summary of 2020 Goose Management Efforts
Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) uses a multi-strategy approach for managing the goose population in Denver parks. This includes egg oiling in the spring, hazing in the fall and winter, the use of eco-friendly wildlife repellents, and most recently, culling. Additionally, work is being done to restore natural habitats along lake edges by planting native vegetation and creating visual barriers that discourage geese from nesting, while also improving water quality. It is not the desire or goal to eliminate all geese in an area. DPR’s Canada Goose management program strives to maintain a population or a reduction in goose numbers and related problems to a sustainable level that the park habitat can tolerate.
DPR consulted with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S.D.A.-Wildlife Services (USDA-WS) and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) federal and state agencies and engaged with various groups including the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, neighborhood communities, wildlife advocacy organizations, the First Gentleman of Colorado, media and others to discuss DPR’s Goose Management Program. DPR remains committed to engage the public in various forums through education and outreach on wildlife issues.
The USDA-Wildlife Services final report of Denver Parks & Recreation 2020 goose management efforts will be provided in September. Although we do not have final data from this year’s culling efforts, preliminary numbers are indicating that our population management goals have been met, and culling will not be necessary in 2021. The multi-strategy approach will continue to be a part of DPR’s resident Canada goose management program as it has proven to be an effective strategy for the management of resident Canada goose populations in urban settings.
As part of DPR’s goose management efforts to continue its use of multiple strategies through community engagement, DPR will focus their efforts on the utilization of volunteers that assist with ongoing strategies for managing the resident Canada goose population in Denver Parks:
USDA-WS addressed 4 of the 6 parks scheduled for management. After careful analysis of population data from each park, it was determined that two of the locations had a sustainable resident goose population and therefore, culling would not be necessary. Below are the preliminary 2020 resident goose population reduction efforts:
*A sustainable number of geese were left at each of these parks.
The geese were transported by USDA-WS to a licensed Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) processor inspected by CDA that must follow all state laws and requirements for euthanasia and processing. DPR’s contract agreement with USDA-WS states that the meat be utilized for consumption if it is deemed safe. The meat will be tested by random samples of each batch, separated by each park location. No meat will be donated before test results confirm the safety of the meat. USDA-WS will inform us of their findings. The process follows strict guidelines by CDA and the ethics of the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) for euthanasia of wild animals. Information regarding the process can be requested from USDA-WS.
Population reduction of wild animals is always a last resort in wildlife management. The intentional killing of healthy animals is recognized by AVMA, wildlife researchers and managers as an acceptable practice for the protection of public health, wild animal population control, biomedical research, and food production.
Tissue Test Results (PDF)
Coyotes are native to the Midwestern prairies and have always been found in Colorado's Front Range. They are highly intelligent, adaptable animals and are therefore one of the few species of that has been able to expand its range, even as natural areas and other species decline in numbers.
After decades of development, coyotes have become more urban as multiple generations of offspring have been born in cities. People, houses, pets, and cars are a normal part of their lives. An urban coyote has a completely different lifestyle than a coyote living in a rural area and has been raised by its family to survive in cities.
Feeding coyotes, either on purpose or accidentally, is the biggest culprit in creating problems. Coyotes in our urban environment have become used to living in close proximity to humans and associate people with food, reducing their natural wariness in interactions with people and pets. Every time a coyote sees a person and nothing happens, it increases their boldness and comfort in closer interactions.
Coyotes are naturally curious but timid and will normally run away if confronted, making attacks on humans are rare. In most cases, these attacks occur as a result of people feeding coyotes or habituating them in some manner. A coyote that associates humans with food may become demanding and aggressive. By feeding coyotes you put yourself, your neighborhood and the animals at risk. It is unlawful to feed or intentionally attract coyotes in most urban areas.
Make sure you can identify a coyote: they are brownish-gray with light gray to reddish cream-colored belly. Look for long legs, pointed nose and ears, and a bushy tail with black tip.
Discourage a coyote from approaching:
While people are rarely in danger, coyotes can and do target pets as both competition and potential food sources. Human pets are often not adapted to protect themselves from wild animals and can be much easier targets than normal prey. Making educated coyote-management decisions regarding your pets is the best way to protect them.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has the final say on the lethal action regarding coyotes. It's been proven to be a short-term solution with long-term problems. When territory is vacated, coyotes are attracted to it, and coyote litters will increase in size to fill the territory (a single coyote can have up to 12 pups). Removing the pack leaders can lead to multiple packs forming with more females able to breed. There are often increases in the overall size of a local population, leading to increased fighting for territory and greater numbers of young animals causing problems for the community.
Relocating coyotes has been proven to be completely unsuccessful. They are notoriously difficult to trap and will travel huge distances to return to the area. Additionally, it is illegal in the state of Colorado to relocate urban coyotes.
Exclusion techniques --techniques to both remove attractants to coyotes and to discourage coyotes from entering unsuitable locations-- are currently the most successful tool in reducing coyote problems and populations in cities. It must be conducted on a community-wide level to see large improvements but even individual efforts can “teach” local coyotes which yards, parks, and people to avoid. Long term reduction in food sources for coyotes is the most effective means to reduce population size.
Hazing coyotes has proven to be the most effective method for instilling the healthy and natural fear of humans back into the coyotes. Coyotes are quick learners and consistent negative experiences can teach them to avoid people.
The Parks and Recreation Department/Natural Resources, in partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife encourage residents and city staff to use exclusion techniques on coyotes.
Exclusion techniques are not a quick fix. Relate this to never saying no to a child. The first time they hear it they won’t understand or believe it. Use the below techniques consistently over time as the most effective means to establishing appropriate human/coyote interactions:
Prairie dogs are visually motivated and are likely to move into an area that looks like a good foraging site. By obstructing their view of your yard, they are less likely to move in. Prairie dogs are also naturally wary and avoid places where predators and other animals can hide.
Keep prairie dogs out of your yard with strategic landscaping:
Relocation is a last option when damage is occurring to property.
In Colorado, it is lawful to capture, transport, and relocate black-tailed prairie dogs from one site to another ONLY WITH a permit from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). It's important that private property owners take responsibility to make educated decisions on how to manage prairie dogs on their property.
Please be aware of the following when considering relocation:
It is illegal to feed foxes in Denver.
If a fox enters your yard, yell, wave your arms or a broom, or bang on something to make noise to scare it away.
Be consistent, foxes are extremely intelligent and will learn locations where they are not welcome.
Danger to small pets is possible, although typically rare. Pets under 10 lbs. would be most vulnerable to predation. Foxes typically avoid human contact and are easily scared. If a fox approaches, yelling and waving your arms should frighten it off.
When intentionally or accidentally fed, foxes can become aggressive. Remember that food means survival to wildlife and they will do what’s necessary to survive. It is not uncommon for playful foxes to initiate play with dogs or cats.
Foxes become more nocturnal in areas with a lot of people and are generally crepuscular, out in the early morning and evening, but can be out at any time of the day.
They are territorial, and will maintain several dens throughout their territory with one larger den used for giving birth and raising kits. Dens are used every year and often passed on through generations.
Foxes generally avoid contact with people, but may initiate play with pets. They also have been known to “tease” dogs by barking and racing around outside of their reach. When a fox is fed, they can become too comfortable and bold around people and are more likely to bite or be injured by dogs, cars or people. To keep foxes safe and away from people and pets, it's best to chase them off and yell at them if approached.
The City and County of Denver announced its intention to certify as a Community Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) by the end of 2019. The process of certifying as an NWF Community Wildlife Habitat will result in the creation of habitat gardens throughout the city while elevating citizens’ awareness of their multiple benefits for Denver’s people, wildlife and water. Spearheaded by Denver Parks and Recreation, these efforts are in partnership with NWF, Denver Water, Denver Public Schools, Denver Botanic Gardens and the Colorado Wildlife Federation. This coalition will collectively engage and collaborate with residents, businesses, schools and other stakeholders to beautify and enhance the places where Denverites spend most of their time.
Denver seeks to become the largest Community Wildlife Habitat in the West, hoping to join such large cities as Houston and Baltimore. In total, 116 other communities have been certified across the nation.
NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program has been helping people take personal action on behalf of wildlife for more than 40 years. The program engages homeowners, businesses, schools, churches, parks and other institutions that want to make their communities wildlife-friendly.
The Community Wildlife Habitat project is part of NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program. Since 1973, NWF has provided millions of people with the basic guidelines for making their landscapes more wildlife-friendly. There are more than 200,000 certified habitats nationwide. For more information, please go to: www.nwf.org/garden. Learn more at NWF.org/Community and get more updates from the National Wildlife Federation at NWF.org/News.
May is Garden for Wildlife month! Plant a garden and learn more!
The “in-between” spaces outside of built facilities such as parks, open space and rivers have enormous potential, as they are areas the public interacts with daily and can lead to broad-scale connections with nature, water conservation, pollinator habitats and more. By engaging Denver’s citizens to create green space of varying scales, the city’s sustainability issues can be addressed while simultaneously strengthening community and neighborhoods.
CALLING ALL NATURE LOVERS: As Coloradoans, it’s only natural for us to love spending time outdoors, and April 27-May 3 more than 60 cities including Denver will compete to log the most observations of wildlife species and other natural elements. Denver Parks and Recreation’s 20,000 acres of urban parks and mountain parkland provides valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife and plant species.
During the last weekend of April, thousands of people from cities across the globe will get outside, look for nature, and log their findings in iNaturalist.org. You can help Denver WIN by participating in this challenge with us! Visit a nearby park with family and make this a fun family or group activity, and record your findings.
Results of the challenge will be announced on Friday May 4th by The Nature Conservancy!
About the Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.
Bird walks are hosted in partnership with the Denver Audubon Society throughout the spring in different park locations. Check out the events calendar for full details!
March 23: Barnum Park
April 13: First Creek Park
World Migratory Bird Day is hosted every other May (even years) in partnership with Audubon Society of Greater Denver, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies & U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service!
Each spring, this coalition of bird lovers hosts an event in a local park with educational activities for all ages including crafts, nature walks, games & more!
Learn more: http://www.worldmigratorybirdday.org/en
Please leave injured wildlife alone!
Other problems and questions:
Spring Wildlife Tips
Each spring, calls from concerned Denver citizens come in wanting to help wildlife. As spring approaches, you can expect to see newborn and young wildlife that may appear to be sick, abandoned or injured. There are very few instances where human intervention is necessary. Download our wildlife tips flyer to learn more!