Boulder Brook Blog

Calving Season – Irritable Moms, Relaxed Dads

It’s spring! Everything is blooming, eating, and birthing!

 

Bull Elk are shedding winter coats, eating to recover stamina, muscle, and strength after the challenges of winter and growing new antlers in preparation for the Autumn Rut.  Not yet ready for sparring, the Bulls can often be seen in large foraging or resting groups all around the Park, town and even in our front yard!  They seem at ease as they relax in the shade, eating, napping and chewing, enjoying the fresh air and warm earth, perhaps, as much as the small groups of visitors taking pictures from safe distances enjoy their grace and majesty.

 

Elk Cows, on the other hand, are either heavily pregnant or are recovering from giving birth.  At this tender time, they are hyper-vigilant — irritable, jumpy, and highly protective of their young.

 

For the first several weeks of their lives, the calves remain hidden while the cows browse and recover much-needed nourishment and strength after birthing.  It is very important to observe from a very safe distance. Never get between a cow and her calf, and be respectful of their sensitive condition.

 

Here are some guidelines for safe wildlife viewing:

 

Be aware of your surroundings. Remember, Elk see you long before you see them. Awesome Elk Fact: Elk have evolved the ability to detect even the slightest motions.  They can rotate each eye independently and have extreme wide-angle vision so they are able to see to both sides and straight ahead simultaneously. They will detect your presence long before you detect theirs.

 

Observe trail and detour signs. If a trail or path is closed, choose an alternate.  The bird sanctuary along Lake Estes Trail is a popular “nursery” but Elk can be anywhere.

 

You are way too close if: an animal is carefully watching you, if her ears are up and her head is down, if she paws the ground or reacts in any way when you move or if she appears “jumpy.”  Never make eye contact with a wild animal. It is received as aggressive, dangerous, or threatening and can trigger aggression. For everyone’s safety, look away and back away.

 

Keep dogs leashed and quiet. Do not allow them to bark, lunge at or chase wildlife.  Elk frequently cross the roads in and around Lake Estes. Never allow your dog to bark at wildlife from open windows of your vehicle.

 

Do not block traffic or stop in the middle of the road. “Elk Jams” are dangerous for both  animals and other drivers. Pull safely to the shoulder or park in designated areas.

 

Elk know no boundaries, but people do. Remember to respect private property as well as the herd and one another when viewing wildlife.

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Beautiful Babies Everywhere!

Spring is birthing season and wild babies are everywhere!  From now through mid-summer visitors are likely to see young animals that may appear to be alone in the forest, in backyards, on or near trails (especially close to Lake Estes) or along the sides of roads.  Rest assured, they have not been abandoned. If you see a baby animal, move away quickly. Never get between a mom and her offspring.

 

If you are a parent, you know why – the safety of your offspring is vital to your wellbeing!  An Elk cow is no different.  Elk cows see and smell you long before you see them. The same holds true for Deer and Moose mothers so do not ever approach or attempt to get the baby animal to move.  They are safe and secure right where they are and mom is probably a lot closer than you may realize.  As wonderful as calves and fawns and pups and kits are, Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDW) reminds us not to approach, touch or handle young animals as they are best cared for by their parents.

 

It seems strange to us that animal “infants” are left alone by their mothers but it is to their advantage and for their benefit. Young elk, deer and moose, for example, carry no scent, blend well in to their surroundings, and learn to stay still, silent and safe while their mothers forage and gain the nutrition they need to recover from birthing and produce milk for the young ones to nurse.

 

CDW reminds us also to keep our pets leashed and/or under control.  As much as we love them and as domesticated as they are at home, in the woods, dogs and cats are natural predators. Canines and Felines acting on their natural instincts will find young animals, birds and bird eggs, and can attack, kill, or even frighten a babe to death.

 

Remember – for the benefit and safety of all –  Maintain awareness of your surroundings. Respect new moms by keeping your distance.  If you want great photos, find a nice spot from a safe distance and please use the zoom!

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Just stoppin’ by for a snack…

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Visitors lined the shoulders of Fall River Road to watch this small herd of bull Elk in old coats and new velvet grazing on our front lawn.

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Antlers  can grow an inch a day and weigh up to 20 pounds each.  After a long, cold winter, new grass and forage are needed to build strength, stamina, muscle, and bone!
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This beautiful Bull is one of the two mature males ‘mentoring’ the younger Bulls as they wander back and forth along Fall River Road in search of fresh forage.

 

 

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Bighorn Sheep Are Shy!

Rocky Mountain National Park provides protection for all wildlife.  Bighorn sheep are nervous, shy and very sensitive to human disturbance.  Please help to protect them!  
Spring brings many opportunities for casual wildlife watching.   Here are a few simple rules for viewing:

 

 

SLOW DOWN! Drive slowly and cautiously on Highway 34 including all of Fall River Road and along the north side of Horseshoe Park.

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 DD Sheep May 16 004 KEEP YOUR DISTANCE! Do not enter any “Bighorn Crossing Zone” by vehicle or on foot when sheep are present.  Allow all sheep ample space to cross the road. NEVER drive your car into the herd!! 
PULL OVER! Use road shoulders and stick to roadsides when sheep are present anywhere in the immediate vicinity.  NEVER STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!  Whether Sheep are resting and digesting on a sunny Fall River Road hillside or busily grazing in a front yard or in the meadow of Sheep Lakes, Sheep are shy, nervous, and excitable. DO NOT APPROACH or attempt to touch or feed. Use the Zoom feature or zoom lens on your camera.
 

A beautiful Ram resting on the hillside across from our office.

A beautiful Ram surveys his herd and eyes human spectators from the hillside across the street from our office.

BE QUIET! Do not approach sheep or make loud noises in their presence. Keep dogs quiet, leashed and under control. Do not allow them to bark at or chase wildlife!
 

Drive, View and Hike in Safety. Like Elk and Deer and all our beloved wildlife, Sheep have no boundaries.  OBEY all signs, detours, and closures. Sheep health, longevity, and survival depend upon our caring and responsible stewardship.  For more information about Big Horn Sheep and all the wonderful wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding areas please visit www.nps.gov/romo

 

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Spring Sheep and Snow!

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The Big Horn Sheep came by for breakfast. It was fun to sit beside the herd zoomed in for close ups of their beautiful faces.

There were about a dozen lambs!

There were about a dozen lambs!

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Today the herd was digging through several inches of snow that seems to be sticking to everything but the sidewalks and roads.  It’s perfect weather for wildlife watching, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.  Come on up! Spring time in the mountains is grand and we’re almost ready to bloom!  BBSheep2016 - April Snow 030
 

 

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Keeping Bears Wild

The beautiful Colorado Black Bear population is almost fully awake with sixty percent of the collared Bears out’n’about foraging for food.  Bears are omnivores with a primarily vegetarian/vegan diet of grasses, forbs, berries, acorns and seeds. Bears also eat insects and fish, scavenge the occasional carcass, and prey on fawn, beaver, marmot, deer, elk and even domestic livestock or agricultural products.

 

Keeping Bears Wild is as vital for Bears as it is for people.   Bears that seek out human food resources are at a higher risk of mortality due to lethal removals by landowners or wildlife managers, vehicle collisions, electrocutions, and other factors. It is best for Bears to forage and to eat naturally occurring Bear food, not people food or waste which can also have long term negative effects on overall Bear health.

 

Tips for enjoying the outdoors while being Bear Aware:

 

Whenever possible, walk and hike  in groups.   Use your senses!

 

Watch for Bear Sign (Scat), Paw prints or tracks, and claw or bite marks on trees and steer clear!

 

Make noise while walking or hiking – sing, clap, or speak up.  Bears will run from loud noises and hikers will avoid stumbling upon or startling them.   Check the Bear Aware Fact Sheet and learn to live peacefully and joyfully with wildlife at http://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/Education/LivingWithWildlife/BeBearAwareBooklet.pdf

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Awake and Hungry!

Your actions can save the life on an Estes Valley Bear.  Each Spring, hungry Black Bears wake from winter hibernation in need if quality food in quantity and their quest for calories is limitless!  It’s up to us to help Bears focus their efforts on finding good, naturally available Bear food, instead of allowing them to eat leftover human food and waste products.

 

Here’s what you need to know:

 

Black bears have big appetites!  They are mostly vegetarian but they aren’t picky. Hungry Bears will eat just about anything.  Sadly – Our trash is their food so Pack it in! Lock It Down! and Pack it out! and  Leave no trace!  Make it your rule to protect and save wildlife. Use only Bear and Wildlife-Safe trash containers.

 

Black bears are nosey! They are curious and have an amazing sense of smell.  A Black Bear can smell food from five miles away!

 

Black bears are busybodies!  They can be active anytime, anywhere, day or night.

 

Black bears are really smart! They quickly learn to identify food, packaging, and containers. (When there’s food in your car, it becomes a container!) Once bears find an easy meal, you can be assured they’ll be back for more.

 

Black bears are naturally shy. They usually avoid people but once conditioned to human food, they can and may become aggressive.

 

Human actions can and often do alter “good bear” behavior. Bears conditioned to human food and trash are drawn closer to homes and businesses than is good for them or us.

 

Do Your Part to Keep Bears Wild: Store any and all trash in a secure place or use a bear-resistant container. NEVER leave food, food wrappers, packed coolers, pet food or pet food packaging, dirty diapers, or anything left-over from any kind of food or human waste in your car or in an unsecured area or container. Burn off grills, remove soiled foil, and be sure to safely dispose of waste.

 

Stop a bear from getting a food/trash reward: Set off your car alarm, let loose with an air horn, make big noise with a wooden spoon and a metal cooking pot, or just get really big and really loud. A bear will run from the noise and hopefully remember the negative consequence of “bad bear” behavior.

 

REMEMBER: Because of us humans, Bears that have developed “nuisance” behaviors or that are repeat offenders cannot be relocated and are killed. We are the keepers and it is up to us to honor, respect, protect and preserve our wonderful park and all of its inhabitants.  Be aware: Save a Bear!  Mother Nature and all of the local residents thank you.

 

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Come Visit Boulder Brook

Nestled next to the rambling waters of Fall River, Boulder Brook is ideally located to take advantage of the unique shopping of downtown Estes Park or the rugged splendor of the Rocky Mountain National more