Routt County is home to a large variety of animals big and small. Our mountains, forests, valleys, and rivers provide lush habitats for deer, moose, elk, mountain lions, marmots, pikas, bears, skunks, ermines, raccoons, coyotes, porcupines, beavers, foxes, rabbits, and many varieties of birds and fish. No matter what time of year you visit this area, your chances of seeing wildlife are high. These encounters can be awe-inspiring experiences that create lasting memories. However, it is important to know ahead of time how to act appropriately around wild animals in the interest of both their safety and your own. Here are some tips for viewing wildlife safely and responsibly during your visit to Steamboat Springs.
Truthfully, you’re just as likely to see a moose hanging out downtown as you are on the side of any hiking trail in Steamboat Springs, but here are a few places to plan adventures in and around Steamboat specifically for trying to spy wildlife. Check out the Colorado Parks & Wildlife headquarters for more detailed maps and safety information.
Some of the town’s most popular recreational trails are frequently the sites of wildlife sightings. It is possible to see moose, elk, and deer munching on plants alongside either of these trials. Should you encounter a moose, elk, or deer remember to observe the animal calmly and quietly from a safe distance. These animals should be viewed from at least 75+ feet, and know that moose are known to be aggressive creatures.
Under no circumstances should you ever approach or try to touch a wild animal – or even try to get closer to one. Animals can behave aggressively and unpredictably when they feel threatened and are unlikely to view your photo op as a friendly gesture. Large animals especially such as moose, bears, and cats can easily do tremendous harm to humans they view as threats. Should you come across an animal you feel is in distress and you would like to help it, the best course of action is to keep a distance and call animal control. Well-meaning humans often do far more harm than good when they try to intervene on their own. This also means driving slowly in and around Steamboat and being aware that wildlife could very be well hiding in the bushes near the road.
Bears are notorious dumpster divers and backpack thieves. Unattended food and, indeed, anything that carries the smell of food like empty wrappers and even toothpaste is bound to be a magnet for bears and other wildlife. The immediate problem, of course, is the loss of your food, destruction of your property, and most likely a big mess. The problem in the long term is that animals who become dependent on human food are nuisances that end up getting either removed to another location or put down. To feed animals, even inadvertently, is to put their lives at risk. Do not leave any trash outside your rental property, always close garage doors, and lock your vehicle. Bears are very smart and can easily open an unlocked vehicle to raid groceries and leftover fast food bags/beverages.
Keep your environmental impact and chances of dangerous animal encounters to a minimum by staying on designated trails and obeying all signs and closures. Be aware that wildlife activity changes with the seasons and may impact access to certain areas. For instance, there are closures in the winter and spring for sensitive wildlife habitat areas like deer and elk winter range and elk calving. Click here for more information on seasonal closure in the Routt National Forest.