(COLORADO) — Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) has begun to see how wildlife is impacted as winter storms continue across Colorado’s high country.

According to CPW, wildlife will move to lower elevations where living conditions are more favorable for survival during the winter months. These areas, referred to as winter range, have less snow coverage making it easier for wildlife to get to vegetation.

CPW says deep snow has made it difficult for animals to access vegetation, leading to starvation and in some cases death. 

“Seeing animals in poor body condition or starving is hard,” said Wildlife Officer Kyle Bond. “We know people mean well when they try to help. Unfortunately, that desire to help can be more harmful. It is hard to sit back and watch, but the reality is this is nature. Sometimes we have to let nature take its course.”

  • How winter storms change wildlife behavior across Colorado
  • How winter storms change wildlife behavior across Colorado

Although food may be scarce, it’s crucial to remember “under no circumstance,” should you ever feed wildlife, per CPW. Feeding wildlife is both illegal and harmful to their health. CPW explains that wildlife have complex digestive systems that are not adapted to handle human food, hay, alfalfa, or straw. It can also attract predators and increase the spread of diseases.

“When people intentionally place or distribute food, salt blocks and other attractants for wildlife, it can lead to illness, poor body condition or death,” states CPW.

Wildlife Officer Bond says there are other ways to help wildlife survive during this critical time. Winter range is located all over Colorado and are often located near populated recreational trails or open space. As such, human and wildlife interactions can impact the survival of wildlife.

It is important to prevent wildlife from feeling threatened as they will often run to escape perceived danger. By doing so, they burn calories needed to survived until spring. Keeping dogs on leashes, not overcrowding and respecting area closures are simple guidelines that will have big impacts on wildlife survival, according to CPW.

CPW also advises the public to pay close attention while driving, especially during dawn and dusk. Wildlife along the road may be a more common sighting as they move from one location to another in search of food. CPW has also noticed an increase of wildlife in residential neighborhoods and towns.

The community is encouraged to embrace the opportunity to see wildlife, but should make sure to give animals space.

“During this critical time, it is important for everyone to do their part to be a good neighbor to wildlife and minimize the impact their actions have on these animals that are working hard to survive until spring,” says CPW.