Living in Harmony with Village Wildlife
Protect Your Pets
Coyotes, bobcats, mountain lion, bears, and birds of prey are all hunters of available food sources. For this reason, please do not allow your cat and/or dog to roam, especially at night. Electrified, invisible fences may keep pets inside a yard, but they will not deter coyotes from entering a yard. Coyotes are opportunistic and if they can see into a yard and have an easy prey source, they take the opportunity. Coyote attacks on people are extremely rare. In almost all known cases the coyote lost its fear of humans because the coyote had been fed by humans.
Avoid attracting these animals by not feeding wildlife, nor feeding pets outside. Keep pets secure and under control at all times, and keep garbage in cans, inside a secure building. With the exception of feeding birds (seeds, suet, and hummingbird nectar), feeding wildlife on Castle Pines Homes Association properties is prohibited. Feeding attracts prey species and predators, generating a safety risk to family and pets. Feeding hurts wildlife by creating an unnatural behavior and a disruption to nature’s balance. Ultimately, it is the wildlife animals that suffer.
Bird feeding may be done year round in the Village. A wide variety of feeders are available including suet feeders, which are simple wire or mesh baskets used to hold prepared suet cakes. The Village at Castle Pines is home to squirrels and larger more aggressive birds, so finding a feeder such as one with multiple small perches or one that can be covered with a large plastic dome, will help keep undesired visitors away. Remember, birds enjoy the cover of a nearby bush or tree.
Black Oil Sunflower seed is the overall favorite of birds. Wild bird centers offer the shelled seed variety, which creates less mess on the ground below and therefore fewer unwanted guests in your garden. Wild bird centers also offer quality feeders, birdbaths, bird books and lots of helpful advice.
Our birds require water year round. A wide variety of birdbaths, including heated ones for the winter months, are available at many wild bird and garden centers. Keep your feeders and water dishes full especially during storms and in dry times. If you do not have a heater for your birdbath, you will need to remove ice and snow that has accumulated before refilling. Bird baths require cleaning with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water solution, a stiff brush, and a thorough rinsing, for best results. If you see sick birds, then it is important to remove your feeders, empty your birdbaths and call the wildlife hotline (303) 952-0932, for further information.
With a consistent source of food and water, expect to be surprised at the variety of birds seen in your yard throughout the year, including sparrows, chickadees, nuthatches, finches, woodpeckers, goldfinches, pine siskins, juncos, flickers, crows, jays, hawks, kestrels, owls and magpies.
Bats are among the most ecologically beneficial, yet unjustly maligned wildlife. There are a few species of bats that inhabit the Village during the summer eating thousands of insects, such as mosquitoes, each night. Conflicts will be confined to summer and will generally involve individual or small numbers of bats roosting in sheltered areas of buildings or homes where they or their droppings may be unwelcome. These areas can be secured with wire mesh or netting at night after the bats leave to forage. Bat boxes may also be installed to encourage roosting during the day.
The Village at Castle Pines is surrounded by bear habitat. Bears may be active at any time, but most active April through November, during morning and evening twilight. When not sleeping they are looking for food. The females emerge from their winter dens in late March to early May. Finding food becomes their primary goal. Bears must forage for significant amounts of food in late summer/early fall in order to survive during their winter hibernation period.
Black Bears are shy and usually avoid human contact. Most Village residents will never see a bear. Keep your property safe by keeping garbage enclosed and locked, and out of the reach and smell of bears. To eliminate odors, doorways may be cleaned with ammonia. Clean or burn off grease from barbecue grills, and store grill and brushes inside. Hang bird feeders well away from the house, and bring them in at night. Do not put garbage scraps into a composite pile. Please do your part to help keep bears wild by not attracting them to food sources from your home.
This wild member of the canine family acclimates easily to its environmental surroundings. This adaptability allows it to live in all habitats, ranging from grasslands, deserts, mountains and urban areas. Where there is little food supply, the coyote produces fewer pups, where the food supply is great, the packs increase rapidly. Where the coyote is threatened either by humans or prey, the coyote maintains cautious behavior and nighttime hunting methods. In urban areas, where humans provide an easy food supply such as domestic pets, garbage, pet food and water the coyote population quickly increases, loses its fear of humans, increases its aggressiveness and audacity toward humans and will hunt during daylight hours. They can mate with dogs. Coyotes exhibit very clever hunting methods when hunting alone or as a team. The larger the available prey, the more cunning the tactics they use as a pack to take their prey. The coyote then teaches its young this behavior.
Do not provide an accessible food supply, keep pets on leashes and/or monitored when outdoors (even when, within invisible fences,) use loud voices and hostile noises to create discomfort for the coyote. RO-PEL ® an animal, rodent, and bird repellent, may help discourage coyotes from entering your property. Eventually, the coyote will adapt to our efforts to make them less welcome and revert to their more cautious attitude towards humans.
Deer and Elk
The Village area has a resident elk herd of more than 400 strong. The Village at Castle Pines is considered winter range for deer and elk. Winter range is defined as the area occupied approximately, December 15 through March 15.
Large mammal winter ranges are important and limited. Deer and elk put on fat reserves for winter. They have higher energy costs for staying warm, avoiding predators, mating, and supporting a developing fetus. Winter forage is limited and of poorer quality than in the summer. Increased energy demands during winter make a difference between survival until spring and the survival of calves and fawns.
During the development of the Village at Castle Pines, native vegetation and large trees were preserved where possible. Movement corridors were also preserved throughout the development and the golf courses allowing wildlife movement through these corridors.
Avoiding Wildlife on Roadways and Highways
One large obstacle that both elk and deer face when moving between the Village and the open space properties to the west of Castle Pines is Daniel’s Park Road. Deer and elk move through this area year round. If you see a deer that has just run across the road, slow down and look around. There may be more animals that follow the leader. Elk are generally easier to spot because they are larger and may travel in larger groups. If you see such a group by the side of the road that seems to want to cross (for example, they are staring across the road), give them a break. Pull to the side of the road as far away from them as possible and wait for them to cross. Older cows are generally the leaders in an elk herd and the first elk you will usually see. Be patient; you may get to see a big bull at the end of the group.
Avoiding deer and elk on roads is a matter of being aware when the animals are more likely to be crossing roads. Deer and elk will cross roads in Douglas County year-round, but they are present in larger numbers at lower elevations and cross roads more frequently during spring and fall migration and winter range occupancy. Drivers should be particularly careful on local roads and highways from mid-November to mid-May. Large mammals and predators are most likely to cross roads from around dusk until dawn. This is also the time of day when visibility is the poorest. One mile north of Highway 85 on Daniel’s Park Road is a heavily used wildlife crossing, so be particularly careful in that area.
Drive defensively with deer in mind, obey posted speed limits, and recognize that those deer crossing signs were put up for a reason. Be aware that headlights temporarily blind and confuse animals, causing them to move erratically and unpredictably. If you see wildlife on or near the road at night, slow down and look around. There are probably more animals. The deer you may be watching intently trot off the left side of the road may be followed by a deer approaching the road’s right shoulder.
The bobcat (named for its short or bobbed tail) is the most abundant and widely-distributed of Colorado’s three cat species and is present year-round in the Village. They are about twice the size of a domestic cat, generally 32-37 inches long with a tail about 6 inches in length. They may weigh up to 25-57 pounds and have a life span of 10-14 years. They prefer rocky and wooden areas. Preferred prey of bobcats is rabbits, but they will also eat mice, birds, voles, and squirrels. Sometimes they kill fawns. Bobcat activity can be throughout the day but is usually at dusk to dawn.
Bobcats breed in late winter and spring and produce a single litter each year of one to seven young after a gestation period of about 10 weeks. The nursery is a simple, sheltered area under a rock or log. The young are weaned at about eight weeks of age. Natural predators to the bobcat are great horned owls and sometimes mountain lions and domestic dogs. Bobcats avoid human contact as much as possible.
Mountain lions are present year-round in the Village, but more commonly during the spring because of fawning and calving. Where ever large concentrations of prey are present, encounters with humans have increased. Like any wildlife, mountain lions can be dangerous but with better understanding of their life history and role in the ecosystem, humans can co-exist with these magnificent predators.
Mountain lions vary in size and weight, with males being larger than females. Lions are generally solitary animals with the exception of females and kittens. They are most active at night but can be active any time of the day. The favorite prey of mountain lions is mule deer, although they will kill elk, porcupines, coyotes, mice and domestic animals. Like most cats they ambush their prey from close range, rather than a long pursuit.
Mountain lions breed throughout the year, but most females give birth to two or three kittens between April and July. Kittens remain with their mothers for approximately eighteen months, improving their hunting skills. Hunting for young mountain lions can be difficult. They often take less formidable prey and can be aggressive toward humans. Protect your pets. Free-roaming pets are prohibited on Village properties. They are also easy prey for mountain lions and other predators. Don’t feed pets outside.
Porcupines enjoy eating the bark from trees, which may result in the loss of the tree. Porcupines are common in oak brush habitat.
Raccoons will readily habituate to residential subdivisions and can be entertaining to watch. However, with the exception of odor, they pose all the same problems as skunks, as well as possibly attracting large predators to your home. Taking the same precautions as those recommended for dealing with skunks will avoid virtually all problems with raccoons. The most important of these is not to feed pets outside and bring in bird feeders at night to avoid attracting raccoons.
Rodents: Prairie Dogs, Squirrels and Voles
In the ecologically important relationship between predator and prey, our black-tailed prairie dogs play an important role. They are prey to coyotes, hawks, eagles, falcons, badgers, bobcats and fox, all also residents in the Village. Of similar significance is our prairie dogs’ role in supporting over 140 species through the sharing of their burrows, increasing nutrient value and vegetative diversity through their constant nibbling of plant material and attracting a wide variety of species as a result. The highly endangered black footed ferret and the rare burrowing owl depend entirely on prairie dog burrows for shelter. Other species finding shelter in prairie dog towns are rabbits, fox, salamanders, snakes, toads, grasshoppers – the list is long.
Controlling Vole Landscape Damage
Are there runways in your lawn? Each spring when the snow cover has finally melted from your yard, have you noticed anything new? If you think your yard is looking spongy, or seems to have little mazes of shallow tunnels running through it dotted by small holes, you are not imagining it -you have prairie voles.
Voles are small rodents, often called field or meadow mice, measuring four to eight inches long. They are pudgy critters with small ears and short tails and vary in color from gray to dark brown. Their destructive potential is increased by their behavior. Voles do not hibernate; they are active day and night; and they like to construct one to two inch wide surface runways and underground tunnels with numerous burrow entrances.
Natural Predators: Vole predators include coyotes, foxes, owls, crows, and some snakes. A predator population helps control the numbers of voles but will not eliminate them completely. Habitat management is the most successful and longest lasting method of reducing vole damage to your landscape. To repair existing runway damage to your lawn rake, fertilize, reseed and water the affected area. As much as possible, eliminate ground cover or weeds and tall grasses by frequent and close mowing from spring through fall and applying herbicides where appropriate. One of the most effective ways to discourage burrowing voles, in limited areas, is to repeatedly break down burrows using a shovel or a hoe. Eventually, the voles get tired of rebuilding and will move to an area where they are undisturbed.
The squirrels living in the Village are Fox Squirrels. Fox squirrels favor cottonwood trees, wetlands and mature forests. They forage on the ground burying their main food of nuts. They eat pine seeds, fungi, buds, berries, insects, and an occasional bird or bird eggs. They also frequent bird feeders and can jump from trees to reach the seed. Wild bird retail store can provide various types of baffles to discourage squirrels from reaching bird feeders.
Fox squirrels build nests out of sticks and leafy material, and may maintain several nests.
Squirrels can become a nuisance when nesting inside attics. Trapping wildlife inside the Village is strictly prohibited. Trapping of squirrels, however, is permitted if it is on the homeowners’ property footprint. Trapping and relocating squirrels can be accomplished by a licensed exterminator. Please Note: Removing squirrels from your property does not eliminate squirrels permanently. Squirrels in the neighborhood continue reproducing and soon their population returns balancing food resources available.
The Village is home to a variety of harmless snakes and the occasional rattlesnake (the only venomous snake in the Village). Most commonly, you will encounter a variety of garter snakes and the gopher or bull snake ranging in length from two to over four feet. The bull snake is easily mistaken for a rattlesnake because of its markings and coiling behavior exhibited when harassed. Remember, all snakes choose flight over fight when approached non-aggressively.
Snakes’ body temperature varies with the environment. Consequently, we find them in cool shaded areas during the heat of the day and on warm rocks when the temperature drops. Their diet consists predominantly of rodents, insects and worms. They in turn are prey to eagles, hawks, owls and humans. Next time you encounter a snake in your garden, back away and let them carry on their ecologically important job of keeping our rodent population under control.
Common Amphibians and Reptiles in Castle Pines Village
- Tiger Salamander
- Garter Snake
- Bull Snake
- Prairie Rattlesnake
Skunks are one of the wildlife species inhabiting the Village that most residents never see. Skunks dig holes in lawns, eat garden produce, scatter improperly contained garbage, den under buildings, spray free-roaming pets, and leave an offensive, characteristic odor when they have been around. Like most potential wildlife conflicts, being aware of skunks and taking some proactive steps, you will likely help you to avoid an encounter.
Few people would consciously attract skunks to their home, but some homeowners’ habits may do just that. Make sure there are no spaces under the house, outbuildings, or woodpiles where skunks could den or seek shelter. Fence gardens to exclude skunks and don’t put any potential foods in a compost pile, even if securely fenced. Don’t feed pets or leave pet food bowls outside, even in a fenced yard. Skunks can dig. Fences should extend one to two feet below ground level. Keep garbage in cans in a garage or shed and don’t put trash out overnight for collection the next day. If you use bear-proof trash cans, garbage will be secure from skunks.