Birds of prey and hoofed animals among most impacted by human activity in western Colorado – The Durango Herald

Don’t be fooled by Durango’s fauna: Most deer don’t like people

Mule deer forage near 32nd and E. 4th Avenues in August. During the 1960s and his 1970s, mule he Zika populations in western Colorado increased, but then declined significantly. His Uncompahgre deer population near Montrose has dwindled from 60,000 in the 1980s to about 10,000 today. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Living among wildlife and sighting animals in their natural habitats is part of what draws residents and visitors to Southwest Colorado. But it tends to be a one-way attraction. Raptors and ungulates are almost always driven off by human presence.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the mule deer population in western Colorado increased. But as populations have grown and outdoor recreation has increased, mule deer populations are steadily declining, says Jamming Grig, a senior wildlife biologist at his Parks and Wildlife in Colorado in southwestern Colorado. says Mr. He said the population had dwindled from about 60,000 in his 1980s to about 10,000 in the Montrose neighborhood today.

It may come as a surprise to some Durango area residents to see so many ungulates while walking, driving or biking around town. They graze on the side of the road, roam their neighborhoods, and step into traffic.

Deer in these towns may give the impression of being accustomed to human presence, but they are not representative of the larger mule deer of southwestern Colorado, which generally avoid people, pets, automobiles and machinery. .

“Overall population growth, which we have probably seen over the last 30 to 40 years, is an important factor in human development and overall loss of habitat, whether direct or indirect. Most of the deer populations have declined over time because of human disturbance,” he said.

Mule deer herds around Durango have not suffered as much as other areas in western Colorado, he said.

Habitat disturbance forces wildlife to consume more energy, he said. Animals that share space with humans become more alert and alert to human activity.

In August, deer forage near 32nd Street and East 4th Avenue. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Mule deer forage near 32nd Street and East 4th Avenue in August. Durango’s endemic deer seem relatively casual around human activity, but they’re the exception rather than the rule, according to Jamin Grigg, senior wildlife biologist at Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Of the thousands of deer that live in the Durango area, about a few hundred are adapted and used to human presence. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Human activity pushes wildlife far and away from its most suitable habitat, Grigg said. Animals tend to create a “buffer zone” between humans and their living spaces.

“We just end up with no wildlife because we create a lot of habitat that would otherwise be available to wildlife and they stop using those areas,” he said.

A common result of pushing wildlife out of their preferred habitats is that they end up in less suitable environments. Animals that escape humans may end up in areas where food is scarce or predatory.

“Or just areas with lower quality habitats that don’t get the same levels of nutrition that they get in more favorable habitats,” he said.

Moose, bighorn sheep, raptors and other bird species have been greatly impacted by human activity in western Colorado.

“There’s been a fair amount of research done on raptors and other birds that show that noise pollution and human activity alone are having a negative impact,” he said. .

The consequences of wildlife abandoning habitat can be wide-ranging, including plant species being forced out of grazing and predator species exhausting their prey. He said even those who enjoy watching wildlife or hunting can feel the effects.

Recreation and Wildlife

Deer with apples near 32nd Street and East 4th Avenue in August. When humans disturb their natural habitat, wildlife expends more energy in search of danger. This means less time spent looking for food. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Studies have shown that wildlife tends to respond more to motor activity than non-motor activity, says Grigg. Whether it’s noise pollution from cars on busy roads or dogs running off leash, human activity has an impact.

“But wildlife populations that use the same landscape come at a price,” he said. “Recreation has a big impact.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says on its website that motorized vehicles cause soil erosion, spreading noxious weeds throughout the landscape and disturbing wildlife.

In the City of Durango’s quest to amend certain protective easements to allow e-bikes on certain trails in Horse Gulch, potential wildlife disruption is one of the factors scrutinized by the La Plata Open Space Conservancy. One.

Amy Swalsbach, natural resource manager at Durango, said research into the impacts of human recreation could be timely and costly.

Grigg was conducted in Oregon in 2003-2004, Forest ecology and managementJournal of Forest Sustainability.

The study consisted of different recreational methods, such as ATV, horseback riding, and mountain biking, and was applied to sections of forest trails to measure how the surrounding moose population responded.

In this study, moose were found to avoid trails in real-time in the described form of recreation, ranging from 558 meters to 879 meters from trail sections in use.

“The distances between elk and recreational enthusiasts were highest when riding ATVs, about the same when hiking and horseback riding, and somewhere in between when mountain biking,” said the study.

Reports from around the country and around the world show that wildlife has rapidly moved into areas that were displaced by humans during the pandemic. Now that the pandemic has run out of steam and human activity is getting closer to the Before Times than it was a year ago, wildlife is retreating into the backcountry once again.

“Most wildlife is highly adaptable and flexible,” says Grigg. “When human disturbance or human presence leaves an area, wildlife responds and quickly returns to the area. , wildlife responds by moving again.”

In addition to deer, elk, bighorn sheep, raptors and other bird species have been greatly impacted by human activity in southwest Colorado. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Grigg said Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants people to get out and regenerate and enjoy public lands and natural resources. But at the same time, it encourages us to be aware of our impact on the landscape.

“We recommend staying on trails whenever possible and avoiding creating illegal or user-created trails across landscapes that further fragment habitats,” he said. “For the most part, be mindful of your disturbance level when you’re out and about. Don’t create a lot of unnecessary noise. Keep your dog on a leash when you’re outside.”

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