Survival Skills For Winter Wildlife

The University of Colorado Museum of Natural History is located on CU’s campus in the Henderson building. The Museum provides visitors with explorational, interactive and educational exhibits.  It also contains one of the largest collections of natural history in the state of Colorado. IMG_1667
To welcome the winter season, CU’s Museum hosted an In-Service Day Workshop for K-5th Grade Students. The workshop consisted of lessons about nature and the necessary survival skills required for wildlife (especially in Colorado) during the harsh winters. Students created art, embarked on a scavenger hunt, and let their imaginations run wild.
The grim reality is Colorado’s wildlife face a myriad of obstacles to survive our state’s unique high-altitude, alpine environment. Coupled with habitat destruction and encroachment, it is evident why Boulder has seen its highest incidence of bear sightings in 2015. While human impact certainly infringes on their habitat, their biggest adversary are our seasonal weather conditions. Hunting plays a major role in the control of wildlife populations in Colorado. Hunters study migratory patterns and behaviors to determine their seasonal location. 
While driving through country roads it is not uncommon to spot deer or elk. They are easy to spot from a distance, typically by the slow traffic caused by people stopping to take pictures on the side of the road. While it is a unique and picturesque vision, it is not too coincidental that the animals are there during tourist season, because animals, like elk and moose, typically spend their time at lower-elevation in the warmer months. 


Moose grazing in Grand Lake, Colorado (Photo courtesy of Margaux Steiner)


INFOGraphic-V7-02Elks’ migrations are fueled by weather, especially winter. Due to Colorado’s widely varied and extreme weather patterns, animal migrations are often inconsistent. Elk are herbivores and their diet consists of grass and assorted shrubs. During the summer, elk tend to habitat in alpine rich land, typically above tree-line.  Mule deer refer to both mule deer and black-tailed deer. Their existence relies heavily on the conditions of their habitat. With the help of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the moose population has substantially grown over the past 20 years.
Bears begin their hibernation in the late fall and remain in their den until about February. Before they go into hibernation, bears pack on an additional 30 pounds to suffice their metabolic rates and primarily feed on acorns, fruit and insects. They remain inactive during the cold season to preserve their body-energy and avoid food shortages.
Boulder County has seen an increasing amount of bear sightings within the last year, setting a new record. Due to food shortage in the CPW bears resort to trash bins. Wildlife officials blame residents for not properly locking their garbage bins with bear-proof locks, and therefore compromising the town’s safety.
Alex Burness reports, “Once an adult bear has been tagged, CPW is required to kill it if disruptive behavior persists. Many residents know this and refrain from reporting tagged bears for fear of causing a death.”
Bear 317 had reached her strike limit due to reported incidents of the bear having human contact. Colorado Wildlife officers eventually captured the mother bear and her two cubs, and relocated them to a rehabilitation center.
Burness reports, “Once an adult bear has been tagged, CPW is required to kill it if disruptive behavior persists. Many residents know this and refrain from reporting tagged bears for fear of causing a death.”
CPW officers were put in a difficult position when they had no choice left but to kill 317. It is a dirty business but in an effort to protect the community, they had to take action. Unfortunately, The Daily Camera reported, “The fate of the sow, modestly sized at about 150 pounds and apparently at least 10 years old — officials originally had said she was closer to 230 pounds and 4 years old — clearly weighed on wildlife officers tasked with Thursday’s grim assignment.” On October 1, 2015, 317 was tranquilized and then euthanized. 
Bear No. 317, a tagged black bear who has been active in Boulder neighborhoods this season with her two cubs, sits in a tree near 14th Street and Dellwood Avenue on Tuesday. (Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer)



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