Saturday, April 5, 2014

Wildlife at Kelly Place

Red Fox seen at Kelly Place
We are frequently asked about the wild animals that may be encountered around Kelly Place. It is canyon country and there are a number of animals which have not been frightened off by the humans.

The most notable is undoubtedly the mountain lion. In our ten years on the property, we have never seen one here. HOWEVER, we frequently see evidence that they are around, and not on the fringes either. Sometimes their footprints are right outside our home. When I spoke to the Colorado Wildlife official about the danger, he told me that this is a “good mountain lion” because it doesn’t kill our pets and has stayed out of sight of humans. If they were to move our good mountain lion, it would open up the territory to another which may not be so good.

So we live with the mountain lions. We are observant of the correct way to behave if ever we do encounter one. That is to make yourself look large (holding a jacket or shirt over your head) and unusual. I thought I would sing the Star Spangled Banner. But never turn your back and run away. They are cats and if you act like a mouse, they will chase you. That’s why most mountain lion attacks are on runners or bicyclists. There have been no attacks on people in this area.

People frequently ask about snakes. We have no poisonous snakes in our property. There are rattlesnakes in the area, but they don’t seem to make it to us. We do have bull snakes (aka gopher snakes) which can get pretty big. They also can pretend to be rattlesnakes! One morning I found three of our cats surrounding a dry bush and there was a rattling inside the bush. It was a small bull snake rattling the dry leaves to try to scare the cats away. The cats just got bored eventually and left.

We also have small snakes such as garter snakes, but I rarely see snakes in the summer and, of course, never in cold weather.

Other reptiles include the beautiful collared lizard, which is frequently photographed preening for the camera (more likely for a mate). There are plenty of small striped lizards. It turns out that these are all female and reproduce by parthenogenesis!

Returning to the mammalian population-- We have skunks, raccoons, red and gray fox, and ring-tailed cat. Occasionally a coyote visits. I have seen a bobcat in the canyon, but not here. Mule deer are frequent visitors. They love our flowers and young plants. Last year we had a group of yellow-bellied marmots in the rocks easily seen from below. Some guests thought they were mountain lions because they couldn’t judge the size. It was obvious, though, when they stood on their hind legs (the marmots, not the guests).

Ring-tail Cat, enjoying our grapes.


We don’t have prairie dogs this side of the creek, but there are plenty of rock squirrels. It’s amazing to see them scurry straight up a rock wall. They are too smart. Marc saw one trying to open the lever-style doorknob on the office door. They did manage to open a push-button lock on a plastic container filled with bird seed. Now we keep our bird and cat food in a container with a carabiner lock. Squirrels don’t have thumbs.


Cute Kitty Visits!
Of course—the birds! Marc tries to keep the bird feeders filled, but it isn’t easy. We have a list of nearly a hundred species of birds sighted on the property. This list is posted on a bulletin board by the front door. We encourage new additions.

We have seen white-winged doves come in and take over territory from the mourning doves. Sometimes people think they are owls because they don’t recognize the sound of the doves cooing. We have three types of hummingbirds: rufous, black-chinned and broad-tailed. They carom around the courtyard from feeder to feeder. Sometimes one gets confused and tries to feed from a decorative light or guest’s ear! A scrub jay just arrived to munch on some cat food. There are Bullock’s oriole, hummingbird, and Say’s phoebe nests that I have seen in the trees. The white-throated swifts’ mud nests under rock overhangs remind us that they constructed the first cliff dwellings.