Common, potentially dangerous mistakes made when seeing wildlife

Lions, bears, and moose ... oh my!
FILE - In this May 31, 2018, file photo, a pair of bull moose pause while feeding at the...
FILE - In this May 31, 2018, file photo, a pair of bull moose pause while feeding at the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in Wentworth's Location, N.H. Some wildlife biologists in northern New England are hoping that increasing the number of moose taken by hunters this fall will help protect the herd from ticks. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)(Robert F. Bukaty | AP)
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 8:15 AM MDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2021 at 8:48 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Wildlife officers say animal attacks are rare in Colorado, but they do happen.

Black bears, mountain lions, moose, deer and rattlesnakes call Colorado’s wilderness home, and there are surprising facts hikers should know.

While deer are the most common wildlife people encounter, they can be dangerous.

“Any time a doe has a fawn, there’s always that level of respect that needs to be given to her, because she’s going to want to protect that baby,” said officer Sarah Watson. “In the fall, bucks are very aggressive -- they will go after you. We get a few people that get impaled every year,” by a buck’s antlers, that is.

Watson added, “Everyone who goes out on the trail needs to be aware of what to do, whether that’s researching it online, reading books ... you can always come into our offices and ask questions.”

Never turn your back and run away from an animal.

“That’s going to initiate that prey response with them,” said Watson. “With bears and lions, you’re going to want to make yourself big and make lots of noise,” which may seem unnatural, but Watson says that actually will scare those animals away.

Moose are an exception to that rule though.

“Moose don’t really have a natural predator that they’re afraid of. The ‘big and scary’ doesn’t really work with them. They will just look at you, and they are pretty likely to charge.”

If encountering moose, just back away slowly, she added.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is drawing attention to wildlife sightings, officers say. That can lead to crowding, and often times officers need to come dissipate the situation. That can result in officers needing to handle the animal. The more times a wild animal interacts with humans, the more likely it is the animal will be euthanized. To avoid this, officers ask people not make a spectacle of wildlife sightings.

Another mistake is getting too close, perhaps for the sake of taking a photo for social media.

“Anytime you get close there’s a risk, and the longer you’re there, the more risk there is,” said Watson.

The “thumb rule” is something officers suggest. When extending your arm in front of you, and making a thumbs up gesture, place your thumb over the animal in your point of view. If you can still view parts of the animal around your thumb, you’re too close. Officers say if it appears your thumb is covering the entire animal from that vantage point while doing this, then you are at a safe distance.

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