There have been an increase in black bear and mountain lion sightings in Garfield County, Colorado, so the parks and wildlife department is encouraging locals to watch from a distance and lease their pets in order to protect both people and animals. The increase in wildlife activity is likely the result of people staying indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and animals feel safer to wander out past their natural habitat without the fear of human interaction.
“What they’re seeing is more of what goes on in their neighborhood when they would typically be at work or school,” department spokesperson Randy Hampton explained. Most people who live in Colorado already have a love of wildlife and nature and enjoy the proximity they share with it, but there are still rules to be followed.
One key rule is always keeping your dog on a leash when outside. It could be the difference between a wild animal sighting and a wild animal attack.
"Many of those problematic encounters start with people saying one thing, ‘I was walking my dog,’” Hampton said. “Dogs have a natural instinct to run off and chase stuff, which can create a conflict with wild animals.” Still, many people try to justify letting their dog off the leash by explaining how well-trained it is.
“Even if your dog was doing the right thing, a wild animal may react to its presence, and it could charge,” he explained. “So, it’s really important to keep your dog leashed.”