Aaron Berscheid is a district wildlife officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Aaron covers the “wild” side of Northeast El Paso County, including Black Forest, Falcon, Peyton and Calhan. He also covers some of Elbert County, north of U.S. Highway 24 and south of State Highway 86, including the towns of Elbert, Kiowa, Ramah, Simla, Matheson and a small portion of the Limon area.
Back in July, I wrote about small animals that can become a nuisance and cause issues on your property and how to deal with these pesky little critters. Today, I want to give you some do’s and don’ts when it comes to handling large, big-game animals like deer, bears, mountain lions and moose.
Specifically, I want to teach and encourage you to haze large wildlife, and how to prevent crossing the line to illegal harassment of wildlife.
As you can imagine, large animals pose much different problems than the “nuisance species” I mentioned in July: black-billed magpies, common crows, starlings, English or house sparrows, common pigeons, coyotes, bobcats, red foxes, raccoons, jackrabbits, badgers, marmots, prairie dogs, pocket gophers, Richardson’s ground squirrels, rock squirrels, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, porcupines, crayfish, tiger salamanders, muskrats, beavers, exotic wildlife, common snapping turtles, tree squirrels, cottontail rabbits, porcupines, bats, mice (except Preble's meadow jumping mouse), opossums, voles, rats and ground squirrels.
Deer, bears and the others can do much greater damage to property and even threaten the health and safety of people.
First, an important caution. General harassment of wildlife is illegal. This means you can’t just walk up to a deer that isn’t causing any problems or isn’t on your property and chase it off.
However, there are times when you can “haze” wildlife that is actually both beneficial to you and the wildlife.
How can hazing wildlife be beneficial for the wildlife, you ask? Well, deer or bear that are causing issues are probably too comfortable around humans. They need to learn that close interaction with humans is not safe. This not only alleviates the current situation, but can benefit your neighbors as well.
Just like we need to keep our distance from wildlife in their backyard, they need to keep their distance in our backyards. This is a mutual concept that will keep wildlife wild.
OK, then what would be an acceptable action to take to “haze” wildlife in our backyard that are causing a problem? Any non-lethal method is the answer.
Rattle cans: An aluminum can that is one-fourth filled with gravel. These work great for bears. When you see a bear, shake the can and yell at it. If necessary, you can throw the can toward the bear. This method can also be done from inside your house. If a bear is in your yard, all you have to do is open a window or a door a tiny bit and shake the can. Try it with deer, mountain lions and coyotes, too.
Pots and pans: It’s time to be a little kid again and make as much noise as possible. Banging pots and pans can be a great way to tell wildlife they are not welcome in your yard. It can even work for birds, such as herons snacking on your pond fish or woodpeckers drumming on your house. It doesn’t have to be pots and pans, just use anything that makes a lot of noise.
Yelling/make yourself look big: Yelling and making yourself look big can show wildlife that people are frightening and shouldn’t be approached.
Air horns/car alarms: Any sudden, very loud noise can get wildlife away from your yard. A deer walks into your yard to eat your favorite flowers — blast an air horn. Car alarms can work for less habituated animals. In the city, they may be used to car alarms going off at all hours. It is worth a try, especially if the situation allows for the element of surprise.
Unwelcome mats: Unwelcome mats are simply a piece of plywood with nails sticking up three-quarters of an inch. They might sound harsh, but bears have very thick pads on their feet so it will only cause short temporary pain, but not injure them. I often compare it to humans stepping on a plastic Lego block. You can place unwelcome mats in front of a door or a window that a bear has been approaching. When the bear steps on the mat, it will learn to associate pain with doors and windows and stay away from them.
Electric fencing: Wildlife do not like electricity. If you have apiaries, livestock or an area where you don’t want wildlife, electric fencing is the best hazing method. You don’t even have to be around for it to work. Many local hardware stores have electric fencing materials, and we have a video on how to set up electric fencing for apiaries on our website at https://cpw.state.co.us.
Paintball guns: Paintball guns can work great for hazing wildlife. However, you need to follow any local laws or regulations on using one in the city limits. If you live in an area where paintball guns are allowed, please work with your local wildlife officer to see if it is a good option and so they know the situation if any animals start showing up with paint marks.
Bleach/ammonia-soaked rags: If you have small animals such as foxes, skunks or raccoons getting into sheds or under porches, you can soak a washcloth or rags in unscented bleach or ammonia, put them in a plastic sandwich bag with several holes poked in it. Place the bag at the entrance to the area. They hate the smell and will avoid the area.
Bird-nesting boxes: If you have a bird trying to nest in an inconvenient place, try putting up a nest box nearby. This will provide them with a location other than in your house to build a nest. There are plenty of different dimensions of nest boxes that will work for various species.
Streamers, owl statues, kites: Putting aluminum colored streamers, owl statues or flying a hawk-shaped kite can deter birds from coming into your yard.
An important word of warning: Never haze animals with firearms, BB guns, pellet guns, dart guns or bows and arrows (even if it is a toy bow).
Too often I get calls about deer or bears that are paralyzed or dead due to injuries from BB/pellet guns. Or I have to investigate an animal accidentally shot or injured when someone fires a gun to “scare the animal off” but hits it. All of the items listed above can be lethal and should never be used to haze wildlife.
Finally, as I always talk about, to avoid conflicts with wildlife before they happen: Do not feed wildlife, and remove all attractants on your property that wildlife could find welcoming.
If you are ever in doubt about a situation caused by wildlife on your property, you can always call the CPW office at 719-227-5200 during normal business hours, or State Patrol Dispatch at 719-544-2424, if it is after hours or an emergency.
In the coming months, I’ll share more of those stories as I write about wildlife issues in our community. Got a question, problem or column idea, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 719-227-5231.
I might even answer your question in a future installment of “Wildlife Matters.”