It’s one thing to be a kind soul. It’s another to put an injured bobcat in the back seat of your car with your three-year-old kid. That’s, well, to put it kindly, inadvisable (you know, inadvisable like testing the Scoville heat of a pepper by rubbing it in your eyes…or in this case, your kid's eyes). But letting a hurt and wild bobcat share the back seat of an SUV is exactly what a Colorado Springs mom chose to do last week. The bobcat, who’d been wounded in an encounter with a vehicle, was later euthanized humanely by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which then used the story as a Twitter reminder of how not to let your best intentions get in the way of your common sense.
Not that this mom is alone in her poor judgment around wildlife. Given Colorado’s vast expanse of wilderness, there’s unending opportunity to make bad choices. Here are five other incredibly stupid incidents that teach the same lesson: When it comes to Colorado wildlife, don’t be a dumbass.
Bison Selfies: Come for the Photos, Stay for the Goring!
No, not bison taking selfies. Bison are too cool for that (and also have long since abandoned Facebook, partially because it’s such a time-sink, but also because of the whole Russian-troll-bot thing). This is people taking selfies of themselves being way too close to bison. It’s sort of the point, like taking a shot of yourself sitting precariously on the edge of a long drop at the Grand Canyon, or standing on the fragile crust of a geyser, risking its collapse and an excruciating death by scalding. All of these things happen, and all of them are seriously stupid. This summer, a teen from Colorado was gored by a bison while visiting North Dakota. (There are two lessons here: Don’t mess with bison, and don’t go to North Dakota.) Colorado has a growing herd of majestic bison in northern Colorado, and by all means, go see them...you know, from afar.
Bears Don’t Need a Slim Jim (or Even an Excuse) to Get Into Your Car
In April 2019, a bear broke into a Subaru in Breckenridge trying to get to an unopened bag of gummy bears. Just a month later, a bear tore up a car in Estes Park when the car was left unlocked — and while no evidence of food or anything with a scent that might attract a bear was found in the car, experts were quick to point out that the bear could have consumed whatever drew it there before the damage was discovered. The point is that not all bears are after picnic baskets; if you’re in bear country, go the extra mile to remove anything from your car that might make them consider your car a small detail in their quest for snacks.
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Please Don’t Feed the Bears…Especially Three Times
In the summer of 2018, a Durango man was fined $1,000 for being cited — for the third time! — for feeding bears on his property. Including surcharges, his habit of leaving containers of food out for the bears will cost him upwards of $1,400, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife advised him that he’d be fined the same amount for any further infractions. (He’d previously been ticketed for the same behavior in 2010 and 2012. Clearly, the bears are more easily trained than this guy.) The reasons for the Colorado law that makes it illegal to knowingly feed bears is not just for the sake of the bears, who suffer from the habituation of easily accessible food that lessens both their ability to survive in the wild and their natural aversion to human contact. A healthy aversion to human contact is something we want to support in bears. Otherwise, it’s too easy for people to suffer the fate of the 74-year-old Ouray woman who in the mid-2000s was killed by the bears she’d been feeding for so long. Another warning about bears: They’re huge fans of irony.
It's a Wild Moose; It’s Not Bullwinkle
In 2019, a Nederland man was taken to the hospital with several broken ribs and a punctured lung after being attacked by a moose. Colorado Parks and Wildlife mentions that the man’s dog was with him when he encountered the moose while walking through “thick willows,” and conjectured that the dog may have been one of the reasons for the attack. Moose may see dogs as a predator (much like wolves) and attack out of proactive defense. The lesson here? Respect the moose. Maybe stay out of the “thick willows” and on established trails. Don't leave out salt licks to entice them to gather near homes — not only does it potentially risk both you and the moose, it's also (small detail) against Colorado law. And while you’re at it, respect the elk too: Elk are known to attack (two women were hospitalized in Estes Park in 2017), especially during the mating season, when there’s a bunch of bugling and all that. And, really, who can blame them? If a bunch of people came around making a whole weekend of taking pictures of you out there trying to find a date, you’d consider opening up an elkish can of whoop-ass, too.
Rescuing Abandoned Animals Is Not Rescue, and They’re Probably Not Abandoned
Not every dumb move with wildlife is directly dangerous to the human beings in the equation; sometimes, you’re dooming the animal that you’re ostensibly trying to save. In the summer of 2016, an unidentified person delivered what they thought was an abandoned fawn to the humane society…where the baby deer had to be humanely destroyed. Officials surmised that the fawn hadn’t been abandoned — just “dropped,” referring to a mother deer hiding its young while foraging. “Fawns can’t be rehabilitated,” said Joe Lewandowski from Colorado Parks and Wildlife in an interview with the Durango Herald. “If anyone picks up a fawn, it’s pretty much a death sentence for that animal.” Something to consider the next time you think you’re rescuing Bambi. This isn’t Disney; it’s Colorado.