Where the Wild Things Are: Denver's Urban Wildlife

November 8 2011, 8:53 AM

Attention Front Rangers: The animals of Colorado would sincerely like to thank you for improving their habitat in Denver and the surrounding suburbs. Your efforts ensure urban wildlife has easy access to food and water in a naturally dry region. It is a veritable all-you-can-eat resort. 

Jack Murphy, a wildlife rehabilitator and humane evictor of wildlife for Urban Wildlife Rescue, says while we originally displaced many animals, the city we created is why they've returned. “People say these animals don’t belong in the city. There are a lot of animals who live in the city who wouldn’t have originally lived here,” Murphy says. “We live in a High Plains desert and right in the middle of it we put in non-native grasses, trees, bushes, and artificial water sources. Basically, we created a big wetland right smack in the middle of a High Plains desert. All the animals are moving here. We have the food and the water."

And Murphy says these animals don't go hungry. “When I have people call me to say they saw a fox and it looks hungry, I tell them that they can’t starve in the city," Murphy explains. "If a fox can’t find a bunny to kill, it will hit a dumpster.”

The food and water sources increase instances like when Zeus the kitty had a behind the glass encounter with a young mountain lion in the Pine Brook Hills area of Boulder recently. Gail Loveman, Zeus' owner, says she does everything to ensure her family and pets aren't seen as a food source, including cleaning the barbecue grill after use, putting the trash out immediately before pickup, and never feeding the wildlife. Murphy says the mountain lion probably saw Zeus as a snack, a common occurance in many wildlife versus family pet situations. “The animals aren’t out to get us. The only animals that will attack are those who perceive you as food,” Murphy says. “If mountain lions liked to eat humans, we would be missing a lot of hikers. They would sit along the biking and hiking trails just waiting for dinner to come by.” If you live in areas like Evergreen, Conifer, Boulder, and beyond, a wild thing may wander by every now and again. Be aware and don’t leave any tasty treats (including your pets) out. It’s like leaving chocolate chip cookies out in an office. Someone is bound to pounce. 

—Photo courtesy of Gail Loveman