Colorado Parks and Wildlife issues warning after unusual behavior of mountain goats at Mount Evans

DENVER– On Tuesday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife sent out a reminder to people who ascend up the Mount Evans Scenic Byway (Colorado Highway 5) to its peak elevation of 14,264 feet,  to do their part in helping keep wildlife wild by not feeding any animals they encounter and keeping a safe distance from them.

CPW shared a video on Twitter Tuesday morning saying, “This is unnatural behavior of mountain goats, going up to vehicles to lick the salt off the tires of cars. It is one aspect of a growing problem with humans and wildlife on the highest paved road in the United States.”

Staff with CPW, United States Forest Service and Denver Mountain Parks have observed an increasing trend in habituated mountain goat and bighorn sheep behavior. It is likely a result of people feeding wildlife or getting to close to them while taking pictures, according to a release sent out Tuesday morning.

“We have been taking a collaborative approach with the Forest Service and Denver Mountain Parks to help combat an increase in human-wildlife conflicts we are seeing at Mount Evans,” Wildlife Officer Joe Nicholson said. “The agencies will be up there all summer monitoring activity and actively enforcing or using aversive conditioning techniques with the hope that we can curb small problems from growing into worse or even dangerous encounters.”

The most commonly observed unnatural behaviors seen during the 2018 season 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, all according to the release.

“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,” Nicholson said.

Just last week video surfaced of a mountain goat climbing on top of a SUV, hanging out on its hood for a couple of moments before moving on.

With the escalating problems of wildlife-human interactions on Mount Evans, CPW has started implementing tactics to help prevent dangerous encounters by discouraging animals from coming up to vehicles or people. Wildlife officers have focused on reinstating the natural fear of humans by using hazing tactics on the wildlife. The hazing tactics used include sound and direct contact from tasers, cattle prods, paintball guns and employing the use of K9 Samson to haze offending animals away from people and cars, all according to the release.

CPW also shared this Tweet on Tuesday morning saying, “Bighorn sheep or mountain goats coming right up to people on Mount Evans is likely a result of being fed or becoming accustomed to having people close by when they try to take photos with wildlife. This can lead to dangerous encounters.”

CPW has recommended the United States Forest Service and Denver Mountain Parks construct physical barriers around the restrooms to prevent access to the area by mountain goats and bighorns. CPW has also recommended salt not be placed around bathrooms, parking lots and pathways on Mount Evans.

“Salt is a strong attractant for mountain goats and bighorn sheep, so we are recommending using alternative substances that will address visitor safety when ice is present, but not attract wildlife to these high visitor use areas,” Nicholson said.

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 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

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