Wildlife gets taste of city life

Castle Rock seeing more bears, coyotes, mountain lions

By Joey Bunch
Denver Post Staff Writer
DenverPost.com

Castle Rock – Some troubling residents have moved to this burgeoning town of 35,000: mountain lions, coyotes and bears.

Last week a 70-pound mountain lion was run over on Interstate 25, at the gateway to downtown.

Over the past year, two bears have been spotted downtown dining from garbage bins, and city employees have grown accustomed to coyotes prowling near city hall in the early morning.

“It’s a jungle out there,” joked Theresa Miller, who lives in The Meadows subdivision on the edge of Castle Rock.

As fall approaches, wildlife is likely to come to town in search of an easy meal, wildlife officials said. Humans can do nature a favor by putting away garbage and food and preventing deer and elk from grazing in yards and fields.

So far, carnivores in Castle Rock have been little more than pests, said animal protection officer Steve Schaffner.

Last year, a man just outside town thought two cinnamon-color bear cubs on his property were dogs, until their mother charged at him from the brush, sending him fleeing to the top of his shed.

Many of Colorado’s mountain and suburban communities are seeing more such predators in the heart of civilization, said Wendy Keefover-Ring, director of carnivore protection for Sinapu, a Boulder- based wildlife advocacy group.

The weeks ahead are prime time for bears to roam, as they fatten up for winter hibernation. Garbage cans, bird feeders, dog food and grease in backyard grills are tempting lures.

She said bears driven from the backcountry by years of drought are lingering around communities, even as berries and nuts have rebounded this summer.

“They say, ‘A fed bear is a dead bear,’ and the most important thing is for people to keep that from happening,” Keefover-Ring said.

Colorado has a “two strikes” law for nuisance bears.

Tom Beck, a retired bear expert for the state Division of Wildlife, said communities on the wildland border improve the buffet for wildlife. Deer love the sweetly fertilized, abundant grass in subdivisions and golf courses, areas off-limits to hunters.

And where deer go, predators will follow.

People have to be conscious of the presence of wildlife on the urban frontier and adjust their habits, Beck said.

“You can’t take the behavior from an urban area and move it to the country and not expect to have problems.”

Staff writer Joey Bunch can be reached at 303-820-1174 or jbunch@denverpost.com.

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