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How off-trail hiking can disturb wildlife

Hiking the Crags
Posted at 6:18 AM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 08:49:33-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Fall hiking is upon us and one of the biggest attractions of spending time in nature is seeing animals and birds. However, the Colorado Springs Parks, Rec, and Cultural Services is encouraging hikers to stay on the trail because humans have an impact on wildlife just by being nearby.

There’s a radius around you that wildlife can sense your presence, and generally, that’s around 150 feet for solo hikers. That impact magnifies when we do things like hiking off-trail and can disturb natural wildlife. The Colorado Springs Parks, Rec, and Cultural Services explain that it designs its trails in a way that tries to avoid those sensitive wildlife areas. But, it is still trying to tackle the issue of people taking off-trail routes. To help curb this, the agency is calling on veteran hikers.

“These ultra-users turn into Ultra-Stewarts. They’re setting excellent examples for people who are new to town," Park Ranger Supervisor for the Trails, Open Space & Parks Stewardship Program, Gillian Rossi, said. "People are going to look up to them as role models. So, we’re asking our ultra users to be those role models for people who are coming from out-of-town, out-of-state and out-of-country to enjoy these amazing natural resources the Springs has to offer.”

The impact of hiking off-trail has become so severe that some birds in our area have chosen to not return to their nests which has raised concerns.

“And what’s kind of tragic, is some birds will actually leave and abandon their nests that they have established," Rossi said. "If people get too close, or if they sense a danger of off-leash dogs on the trail. So, just staying on trail is the most important thing we can do to minimize that."

If you stay on the trails, you’re much less likely to have an impact on nesting wildlife or wildlife that are feeding and they’re raising their young. Those who have their dogs off-trail are more likely to have an impact on wildlife, especially dogs who are off-leash. It’s important to be respectful of wildlife because Colorado is known for its natural beauty and we want to preserve and protect that beauty which attracts tourists and is a huge part of this state’s identity.