Wildlife Encounters in Summit County: Dos and Don’ts

Posted by: admin August 12th, 2016

With the remaining warm weather paired with the yellowing aspens, now is the time to make your way up to the high country and check a few things off your Rocky Mountain bucket list. But, it’s impertinent to remember that we share this land of ours with various species of the furry variety – some with sharper teeth than others!

If you’re familiar with Summit County, you know that wildlife encounters are no rare occurrence – especially during the warmer months. Among the area’s most sighted animals are bears, moose and mountain goats. Though there haven’t been any mountain lion sightings in Summit County for quite some time, they’ve been spotted around neighboring Eagle County in recent months.

So, what’s the protocol if you run into wildlife on your next hike, outing or excursion in the Colorado High Country? We’re happy to provide you with expert dos and don’ts.

summit county bearBear: While the bear species in Summit County don’t tend to be of the ferocious variety, any unlucky encounter with a bear can turn out to be somewhat messy, to say the least.

Do: Use common sense. Keep your wits about you when hiking and if you see signs of a bear, stop to assess your surroundings. Hang your food from branches in food bags at night while camping, and if you encounter a bear on a trail, make yourself look large and slowly back away.

Don’t: Leaving food-waste outside in trash bags overnight is a no-no, as is keeping food in a tent with you at night. Never get between a bear and its cubs, and if you do see a bear, don’t freak out! Use common sense, and remember that you’re in their territory!   

summit county mooseMoose: You’re apt to spot some moose here in Summit County. Don’t take these gentle giants for granted. Female moose (cows) have been known to demonstrate some of the most aggressive behavior in the animal kingdom, especially when they are traveling with their young (which they often are) and feel threatened. 

Do: Relish the moment! Err on the side of caution and keep several arm’s length, but don’t feel the need to run. As long as you don’t pose a threat, you’re safe to admire our local moose and take as many photos as you please (plus, the moose in Summit County are typically used to people). 

Don’t: As with any wild animal, don’t come between a cow and her calf. Never walk directly towards a moose (unless you want it to charge) and don’t attempt to pet or feed local moose.

colorado mountain goatsMountain Goat: Don’t be fooled by their funny, fluffy coats! Wild Colorado mountain goats are extremely territorial and won’t hesitate to use their dagger-sharp horns – especially if they sense a threat to their young.

Do: Admire from a safe distance. Mountain goats are herbivores and therefor won’t attack humans unless they sense a threat. Take a few photos to show your friends and then be on your merry way.

Don’t: Avoid circumventing a heard of mountain goats in a way that makes you appear as a predator circling its prey. Don’t get too close, and certainly don’t attempt to pet or feed! 

colorado mountain lionsMountain Lion: It’s unlikely you’ll cross paths with a mountain lion in the Colorado High Country, yet there is a real possibility that you will. After all, more than half of Colorado geography is suitable mountain lion territory. (If you’re in an area heavily populated with deer, you’re more apt to stumble across a large cat.)

Do: Stay calm. Mountain lions are carnivores, but they don’t exactly have an appetite for people. If you spot one of these cats and they seem to take an interest in you, make yourself look big (raise your arms above your head), make loud noises and (if it approaches you) throw rocks. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the biology and habits of mountain lions to aid good judgment in the unlikely event of an encounter.

Don’t: Since mountain lions are predators, certain things trigger their “attack instincts.” Avoid eye contact, crouching down low or moving towards it. And never, ever attempt to run away (you can’t outrun a mountain lion) unless you’re absolutely sure you can run faster than your friend (just kidding).

Bottom line: When venturing out in the wild areas of Summit County and beyond, maintain vigilance and common sense. If you happen upon wildlife, admire from a distance. This is their home too!