Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Don't feed the animals - even after a fire, officials say

by Jesse Paul jesse.paul@gazette.com - Updated: July 17, 2013 at 9:03 am

Wildlife displaced by the Black Forest fire are now facing a bigger threat than the flames that chased them last month: people.

While it might seem like a good idea to feed animals scouring the scorched earth for food, wildlife experts say they don't need your help. Providing food for critters can create dangerous and unhealthy situations for animals and their want-to-be helpers.

"Fire can actually help wildlife in the long term if people don't get too involved," said Randy Hampton, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, adding that when a fire ravages animals' food sources, they simply find other ones.

Black bears, which tend to find themselves trapped in kitchens, trees and trash bins, are one of many concerns for wildlife officials in Black Forest, according to Hampton.

"We know that there has been some displacement of all critters, not just bears," Hampton said. "The best thing you can do is make sure your trash is buttoned up."

In the past, Parks and Wildlife officials have seen concerned residents in burn areas feeding animals, including bears, Hampton said. However, leaving out any kind-hearted snack can lead to situations where law enforcement has to euthanize wildlife.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office says it hasn't fielded any bear-related service calls for Black Forest in the last two weeks, according spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer, but there are protocols in place if such a situation should arise.

"If a bear starts to get a consistent feed source, they will defend it as their own," Hampton said. "We've had people go to take their trash out and get chased by a bear."

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Contact Jesse Paul at 636-0253. Twitter: @JesseAPaul

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