I love seeing wildlife, at least when I’m doing it on purpose. Last Thursday I went on a bird watching expedition at the lower Maroon Creek wetlands organized by Roaring Fork Conservancy (they have lots of great programs — http://www.roaringfork.org ) with help from Roaring Fork Audubon and Aspen Open Space and Trails.
It was very interesting learning about the human-engineered wetlands — designed to filter water coming off the golf course and the highway — and the animals that live there. I was very impressed with the knowledge of each of the groups’ representatives. We saw several yellow warblers, song sparrows, robins and ducks, which was great because we were looking for them. But sometimes up here you run into animals when you’re not expecting to, like the giant mountain lion that ran through my backyard a few years ago when I lived downvalley.
The combination of this year’s ridiculously early spring and lack of precipitation has created a perfect storm for hunger in the local wildlife population, and they’re already coming into town looking for food. I live within a few steps of the Roaring Fork River, and after being bombarded with bears right outside my door last summer and fall, I now carry bear spray and a huge Maglite when I go out after dark. Wild animals are very stealthy and you can happen upon one with little or no warning, which is very unsettling if not downright dangerous.
Large portions of town are dark at night and the flashlight allows me to see the varmints before I get too close and, you know, scream like a little girl and run the other way. I chose the huge Maglite because I figure I can use it as a weapon in a pinch. A friend asked me how I proposed to defend myself against a bear with a flashlight, to which I replied, “Shut up.”
This spring’s first bear visit outside my window was two weeks ago, much earlier than normal. Bears have visited that particular window more than 30 times since I moved here, but I never hear them coming. I don’t know they’ve arrived until I hear the familiar “chink chink chink” noise they make when trying to get into the metal bear-proof trash can.
Last week, armed with my bear spray and Maglite, I headed out to meet some friends after dark. As soon as I stepped out the door I was face-to-face with a coyote, which I’ve never seen on my street before.
There are at least 10 small dogs that live within a stone’s throw, including mine, so it was disconcerting. I shined the light on the coyote, but it didn’t immediately turn and run. I finally screamed to run him off, and I called neighbors to warn them not to let their dogs out.
As I returned home two hours later, I was nearly to my door when another coyote (or maybe the same one?) came out from behind a parked car 10 feet ahead of me. The first time I was scared, this time I was just pissed.
Instead of fleeing, I chased the stupid thing screaming like a maniac: “Get the f*$# out of here you dog killer!” I almost threw my flashlight at it, but decided I needed the light more than I needed to hit the coyote with it. He took off and I haven’t seen him since, although that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been back.
Then on Thursday I was in front of Domino’s at 8:30 p.m., still light outside, when a huge red fox appeared in the middle of the intersection. It was the size of a 40-pound dog. Cars, pedestrians and bicycles were everywhere, yet this fox didn’t care.
He circled in the middle of the intersection to avoid a few cars, headed east down Cooper, made a U-turn back to the intersection, ran over to the City Market garage door (which was open about 3 feet) and considered going inside before being confronted by three people taking pictures with their phones. He finally headed south on Original and disappeared.
There’s going to be a lot of human-animal interaction in Aspen this summer. Please, please, please: keep your animal-proof trash can locked at all times, and talk to your neighbors if you notice theirs is not secured. And don’t forget your flashlight when you go out after dark because you never know when you’ll need a weapon.
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Speaking of wild animals, some friends dragged me to an amazing show Sunday night at Belly Up. Everyone knows it’s the best live music venue in town, but I had no idea they were hiding so much talent among the staff. When I was told the employees were doing a showcase my expectations were decidedly low, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. The energy in the room was intense.
Jai Vatuk led a tight band backing four up-and-coming singers who each took the stage like a seasoned pro. Sarah Fadness, Cassie LeBeau, Garland Burton and Josefina Mendez each performed a handful of songs, some covers and some original tunes written by the artists themselves.
Fadness stole the show with her take on Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” which brought the crowd to its feet and left us all wanting more of her Pat Benetar-esque style of rock and roll. LeBeau’s rendition of “Natural Woman” was remarkable as well.
Cheers to the Belly Up crew for giving talented locals a venue to gain some exposure. My spies tell me the show was put together as a one-off, but I’m hoping management will consider making it a regular event. I suspect they will, because they’re too smart to let all that talent go to waste.
Doug Allen loves a good show and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.