State wildlife officers are again pleading with the public to let wild animals be after a rash of troubling behavior by mountain goats and bighorn sheep on Mount Evans Highway.
Among the behavior observed were mountain goats and bighorns licking vehicles for the salt on them, putting heads inside open car windows, running toward the sound of crinkling food wrappers, running towards people holding food, entering restrooms, and tolerating large groups of people surrounding them to take photographs and videos from unsafe distances, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.
“People have gone as far as attempting to pick up mountain goat kids and we have seen groups of mountain goats surrounding and following people, which is far beyond the natural behavior of these animals,” said wildlife officer Joe Nicholson.
Much of the behavior was observed last year, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife is hoping to increase awareness as this current season gets underway. Just last week, a mountain goat was seen hanging out on the hood of an SUV.
There are also concerns about the trash and other waste humans leave behind.
“We have growing concerns over the health and wellbeing of mountain goats and bighorns that come into contact with human and domestic waste both at restrooms and along heavily used trails,” said Lance Carpenter, wildlife biologist with CPW. “Data from our 2015-17 study showed that the collared mountain goats are selecting for higher elevations. It is at these high elevations that are also heavily used by people up there where potential problems exist.”
These episodes can be deadly for animals, CPW said that in 2013, there was an unknown disease outbreak among goat kids and yearlings, resulting in the loss of almost an entire age class. Lab results later found that the animals had high loads of e. Coli. Last year and this, CPW has documented a couple of new cases among the young goats.
Wildlife officers hope increased awareness and new wildlife avoidance tactics will help curb the problem.
"CPW will also have volunteer crews up at the summit this summer to educate people about the animals they may encounter and help disrupt any improper behavior, like the feeding of wildlife or taking selfies with them," the statement said
"The goal through these multiple efforts and collaboration between agencies is to see a reduction between wildlife and human interactions, which will help keep the wildlife wild and safe on Mount Evans."