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'Tis the season to protect antlered wildlife from getting tangled

Mule Deer tangled near Durango
Posted at 7:35 AM, Oct 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-18 09:37:02-04

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is asking Coloradans to remove any outdoor decorations that could turn into a potential tangle hazard for deer, elk or moose.

Several types of wildlife with antlers are currently migrating from their summer habitat to their winter homes while they seek mating opportunities.

Every year, CPW officers have to respond to incidents where antlered animals have gotten dangerously tangled.

Common tangle hazards include:

  • hammocks
  • holiday decorations
  • garden items
  • netting for volleyball or tennis

CPW said put away any recreational or landscaping equipment that isn't actively in use. And make sure that any outdoor lights and decorations are tightly secured wherever they are hung.
Bucks are especially likely to get tangled sometime this season. During their breeding season, bucks will rub their antlers on things to mark their territory and signal their presence to other bucks.

The breeding season for deer has already started and will hit its peak in mid-November to December.

When deer and elk get their antlers tangled, the stress and exhaustion they experience trying to free themselves can lead to death.

CPW officers can often get the deer untangled if they are nearby and notified in a timely manner. In certain cases, they can carefully remove the object and free the animal. In others, they have to cut the animal's antlers off.

If the entanglement doesn't keep the animal from being able to eat or drink, CPW often doesn't intervene.

If the entanglement is at a low risk of getting caught in other items that could prevent the animal from moving, CPW also may not get involved. These types of entanglements will resolve when the animal sheds its antlers, accoding to CPW.

“We need to know about these situations quickly. It’s best if we can get to these animals before they’ve undergone too much stress and have exhausted themselves," CPW Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Steve McClung said.

If you're going to put up outdoor decorations, CPW recommends that you place them higher than six feet. They don't pose a risk to wildlife if attached tightly to trees or buildings.

If you come across a tangled animal, report it directly to Colorado Parks and Wildlife by calling your local office or by calling Colorado State Patrol (CSP) if outside of business hours. CSP will pass along the information to the on-call wildlife officer in your area.

When reporting a tangled animal, be sure you know:

  • the animal's location
  • the time you saw them
  • what its behavior was like
  • whether it's able to move or not
  • whether the hazard is keeping the animal from eating, drinking or breathing

Do not try to free the animal yourself. A stressed animal may act more aggressively and cause injury with their hooves or antlers.
During the fall breeding season, it is very important to give antlered wildlife their space and be extra careful if you're nearby. During this time, these animals are fiercely looking for a mate and can easily become agitated toward anyone or anything they consider to be challenging them.

Dogs are often considered targets and can be badly injured by a buck's antlers.

Deer can also become aggressive towards humans. Attacks are reported around the state each fall, and a person has already been attacked in Aspen this year.

Deer that are regularly seen in neighborhoods may also behave aggressively during this time of the year.

To learn more tips on how to live with wildlife, go to the CPW website.