Tangled wildlife, jack-o’-lantern bait: Parks and Wildlife asks public to be mindful of decorations as Halloween comes to an end

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are asking the public to properly dispose of their pumpkins after making Halloween and fall-related festivities to avoid negative impacts to wildlife and the environment.
Shane Morris/Town of Silverthorne

As Halloween comes to an end, wildlife managers are asking the public to be mindful of taking down decorations and putting away jack-o’-lanterns to help keep wildlife safe. 

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, animals like bears and deer are drawn to carved pumpkins left on porches or on doorsteps. 

“We do see pumpkins tossed out in the forest. Please don’t do that,” assistant area wildlife manager Steve McClung said. “It can be viewed as baiting.”

For community members that live in busier areas of town, bears are still around and haven’t begun hibernation. During this time of the year, bears are still looking to pack on more weight during hyperphagia. Other animals such as raccoons that may carry diseases could also get into jack-o’-lanterns, and animals that could be sick could interact with pets. 

One option for pumpkin disposal is High Country Conservation Center’s free pumpkin composting. Until Nov. 13, community members can drop off their old pumpkins at one of several sites across the county. There will be bins specifically labeled for pumpkins at the drop off locations, including at the Breckenridge Recycling Center, the Frisco Recycling Center and the Silverthorne Recycling Center. Users are advised to remove candles, artificial lighting, paint, glitter and any other decorations before putting them in the designated bins. The pumpkins will be taken to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park where they will be mixed with food waste and other materials for composting.

“We want our wildlife to be sustained by the resources that naturally occur in their habitat,” wildlife pathologist Karen Fox said.

This year, Summit County has seen an uptick of human-bear interactions due to improperly disposed garbage or birdseed. The county has had 65 human-bear conflict reports between April 1 and Sept. 30, which is up from 44 reports in the same time period last year, a 47% increase. Across the state, Parks and Wildlife received 3,614 conflict reports from April 1 through Oct. 1, an increase from the 3,155 reports over the same timeframe the last year, which is an increase by about 15%.

In addition to pumpkins, wildlife officials are also encouraging the public to be extra mindful of outdoor decorations over the next few weeks, especially Halloween web decorations and any holiday lights. The rut — or breeding season — for deer enters its peak in late-November and will last through mid-December. 

If an animal, such as deer or moose, is seen entangled in something, wildlife officials ask the public to report that directly to Parks and Wildlife by calling an office local to you or through Colorado State Patrol if it is outside of normal business hours. When calling state patrol, they will relay your information to the on-call wildlife officer in your area. Wildlife managers recommend lights and other decorations be placed at least 6 feet above the ground or attached tightly to trees or buildings. 

“We need to know about these situations quickly,” McClung said. “It’s best if we can get to these animals before they’ve undergone too much stress and have exhausted themselves. Darting them also creates stress and can lead to mortality if the animal has already been stressed too much. If the animal is not tethered to what it is tangled in, it can also be difficult to chase them through a neighborhood and get into a position to dart them, or sometimes they disappear and we never catch up to help them. The sooner we get information, the more likely we will be able to assist that animal.”

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