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Wildlife Happenings
Wildlife are primary residents of, and visitors to, the habitat in natural areas. Their presence provides exciting viewing opportunities and creates challenging co-existence situations in our urban environment.
Burrowing Owls Move into Local Natural Areas

A pleasant surprise occurred in the spring, when burrowing owls were discovered at Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area and adjacent to Pelican Marsh Natural Area. These pigeon-sized, short-tailed, long-legged owls like to nest in abandoned prairie dog burrows. Because their habitat had been disturbed by human activity, it had been several years since burrowing owls had been seen on these sites, so it was particularly rewarding to see them returning. It is hoped they will continue nesting on these and other local natural areas.

City of Fort Collins Image
Burrowing owl (photo by Wild Critter Photography)
Mountain Lions Spend the Summer

While it isn’t unusual to occasionally see mountain lions in and around Fort Collins, in 2004, lions stayed longer than usual in Cathy Fromme Prairie and Pineridge natural areas. The Colorado Division of Wildlife, which has jurisdiction over these large mammals, strongly advised that the animals be allowed to leave the area on their own, rather than through human intervention. Advisory signs were posted to facilitate visitor safety. Visitors were advised that, if they saw a lion, they should

  • Stop, avoid running, stay calm, and talk loudly and firmly to the lion in
    a low voice
  • Face the lion (but avoid direct eye contact) and back away
  • Make themselves look large (raise arms or hold a jacket above their heads)
  • Pick up small children
  • If the lion is aggressive, throw stones, branches, or anything handy at the lion
Lion sightings ended late in the summer, and advisory signs were removed. No human injuries were reported.
Abundance of Life
Wildlife are primary residents of, and visitors to, the habitat in natural areas. Their presence provides exciting viewing opportunities and creates challenging co-existence situations in our urban environment.
Prairie Dog Research Continues

The Natural Areas Program staff continued its multi-year prairie dog research project. Comparisons between 2003 and 2004 were as follows:

  • Number of acres within Fort Collins’ natural areas occupied by black-tailed prairie dogs (spread among 10 sites): 2003 – 614; 2004 – 505.
  • Density estimate of prairie dogs on the 10 sites: 2003 - 8,400; 2004 – 6,160.

Future research will help to monitor, and possibly identify reasons for, the changing numbers.

Visitors Advised of Tularemia at Riverbend Ponds Natural Area

In October, a dead beaver was found in Riverbend Ponds Natural Area. Following protocol, the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment was contacted to have the animal tested for disease. The beaver tested positive for tularemia, a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans and can also be fatal to cats and dogs. Notices were posted in the natural area advising that tularemia had been found on the site and that visitors should stay on trails, avoid contact with the water, and avoid approaching or handling living or dead animals.

By the end of the year, there no longer appeared to be any threat of disease, and advisory postings were removed. No incidents of illness in humans or pets were reported.
black tailed prairie dog
black tailed prairie dog and pronghorn
Pronghorn
Mountain lion
Mountain lion