Living with "Troublesome" Species

There are many species of small animals that residents may consider troublesome. Below are listed a few that are common in La Plata County.

Some types of wildlife can be live-trapped and killed legally on your own property.

Some exterminators will do this for a price. However, this is not recommended as the first action. Removing a few individuals will not solve the problem if wildlife species are finding what they need to live in your neighborhood. More animals will move into the area and fill the void, especially if there is food, water, cover, and space for them to live.

Tree squirrels, cottontail rabbits, and raccoons can be relocated without a permit provided that:

  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been notified in advance.
  • The relocation site is appropriate habitat for the species.
  • Permission has been obtained from the landowner or managing agency where the animal will be released.
  • The relocation must occur within 10 miles of the capture site.

If you want to relocate any other species, you must first obtain a Relocation Permit from CPW.

For more information on Trapping and Transplanting wildlife click.


Description: Four species of skunks are known in Colorado: striped, eastern and western spotted, and white-backed hog-nosed. Sometimes skunks are considered to be their own family, separate from the closely related weasels; certainly, skunks are unmistakable: all have the familiar warning colors of white on black. 

SkunkThe striped skunk (24 to 32 inches long, weighing up to nine pounds) is the largest and most widespread. The spotted skunks are the smallest (16 to 20 inches long) and the most weasel-like in movements. The hog-nosed skunk is nearly as large as the striped skunk; no specimens have been reported in the past half-century, and the species may not live in Colorado now.

Range: The striped skunk is the most widespread, occurring statewide. Spotted skunks occur in rocky foothills, mesas, canyons, and along major rivers of the High Plains. The Hog-nosed skunk is known only from the rough lands of southeastern Colorado, where they appear to be rare or perhaps only occasional. This is one of those southwestern mammals that may be expected to expand with climatic warming.

Diet: Skunks are omnivorous, eating carrion, mice(especially nestlings), fruit, insects, larvae, birds, and bird eggs. The spotted skunk is the most agile climber, best "mouser" and "birder."Hog-nosed skunks seem to "root" for insect larvae more than the other species, but a shallow, snout-sized "test-hole" is a common sign of skunks in general.

Reproduction: Western spotted skunks delay implantation of an embryo. They mate in autumn and give birth to young in spring. Eastern spotted skunks and striped skunks have a simple nine-week gestation period, breeding in spring. Spotted skunks have four or five young, and striped skunks average seven young.


Description: Raccoons need no introduction. With their ringed, bushy tail, yellowish-brown fur (with a blackish wash), and black face mask, they are unmistakable. Only their slim, grayish-buff cousin, the ringtail, has a similar ringed tail. Adults are two to three feet long (one-third of which is tail) and weigh eight to 22 pounds (heaviest in the autumn). Raccoons walk flat on their feet, as humans do, and their familiar tracks include an elongated hind foot and a hand-like forepaw.

RaccoonRange: Raccoons live statewide at moderate elevations, but once they lived only along riparian corridors on the eastern plains. Raccoons have been greatly helped by permanent human settlement, development of irrigated agriculture, planting of shelter-belts and ornamental shrubs and trees, and casual disposal of garbage.

Diet: Raccoons eat just about anything: fruits, carrion, nestling birds and eggs, rodents, roosting bats, insects, crayfish, and mollusks. They may damage crops, especially corn and melons. They feed near water and rinse their food, perhaps as an aid to smelling and tasting rather than because they are fastidious.

Habitat: Raccoons can be found anywhere from the dense forest to your backyard. These animals will seek out any food they can and stay close by. The raccoon in the image was found with three others in a dumpster and was restored to the wild.
Reproduction: Females produce a single litter of three or four young after a gestation period of about nine weeks. Blind and nearly naked at birth, the cubs have pigmented skin where their face masks and tail rings will be. Growth is rapid, and the young are weaned by four or five weeks of age. Large owls and other predators kill raccoons, but automobiles may be the greatest cause of death today. The maximum life span is over ten years, but two or three years is average. Raccoons in Colorado are managed as furbearers.

If you have raccoons living where you don't want them, the only real solution is to remove anything that might be attracting them. Try to determine why the raccoons are in your yard or attic. Are they finding food, water, and shelter? Again, whatever is attracting them must be removed or cleaned up. 

  • Screen or cap chimneys and repair attic holes to prevent entry. 
  • Raccoons will nest in chimneys. They will leave on their own eventually, but to encourage them to leave, put a radio on a loud talk or rock station at the base of the chimney during the day to disturb their sleep. If they can't sleep during the day, they will move and take their family with them. 
  • Lock dog and cat doors at night, or seal them permanently. Pets allowed to roam outside alone are at risk for predator encounters. 
  • Remove overhanging branches to cut off easy access. You can also place an 18-inch cylinder of sheet metal around the trunks at least 3 feet above the ground. 
  • Make sure garbage and trash containers have tight-fitting lids and are clasped or tied to keep raccoons from tipping them over. 
  • Store garbage or other potential food sources in sheds, garages, or other enclosures, and use air-tight containers when possible. 
  • Remember that koi (Japanese ornamental fish) ponds can attract raccoons and other wildlife. 

Electric fences may help keep raccoons out of gardens. The wires must be narrowly spaced and mounted close to the ground in order to be effective. Do not use electric fences in an area where they pose a danger to small children or pets.


Description: The porcupine is familiar to nearly everyone. Second in size only to the beaver among Colorado rodents, porcupines are 27 to 32 inches long (of which ten inches is tail). Weighing up to 33 pounds, these are large mammals. 

PorcupineTheir long, yellowish guard hairs and dense coat of quills give them a waddling gait and make them look fatter than they really are. Starting at the forehead and growing thicker and longer toward the hump of the back, the quills of a porcupine can reach four inches long. A single animal has between 15,000 and 30,000 quills. Although a threatened porcupine will spin quickly, slapping with its tail, it cannot throw its quills as popular belief suggests. Yet each quill is needle-sharp and barbed with tiny hooks that will work into the flesh of any animal or human unlucky enough to come within striking distance.

Range: Porcupines occur throughout Colorado in wooded and brushy habitats but probably are most common in woodlands of ponderosa or pinyon pine. 
Habitat: The animals may den in unimproved rock shelters but often spend the night propped on their muscular tails in the crotch of a tree.
Diet: Several evenings of eating bark can severely damage a tree. The bulk of their summer diet is herbs.

Reproduction: These are solitary animals, coming together only to breed in November or December. Females usually produce a single young (rarely twins) after a gestation period of about seven months. That is very long for a mammal of this size. The newborn porcupine is well developed with eyes wide open and a full coat of quills, which harden when exposed to air.

Prairie Dogs

Description: Prairie dogs are "barking" squirrels, not dogs, and are among our most "watchable" wildlife. Three species occur in Colorado: the black-tailed prairie dog; the white-tailed prairie dog and Gunnison's prairie dog. Prairie dogs are small game species in Colorado.

Prairie dogsSmaller than a marmot, but obviously larger than any other short-tailed ground squirrel, prairie dogs are distinctive rodents. To identify species, common names "tell the tale:" black-tails have black tails, white-tails white, and Gunnison’s gray. Prairie dogs are 16 to 20inches long and when fattened in fall may weigh two pounds. Prairie dogs are poisoned, shot, and harassed by some landowners, but often the best control strategy is irrigation and improved grazing rotation. Predators include badgers, coyotes, hawks, eagles, and black-footed ferrets. 

Range: The black-tailed prairie dog occurs on the grasslands of the eastern plains; the white-tailed prairie dog in shrub-lands of North Park, the Wyoming Basin, and the lower Colorado and Gunnison valleys; and Gunnison’s prairie dog in the San Luis Valley, South Park, and areas to the south and west.

Habitat: Burrows are up to seven feet deep and 16feet long with one or more volcano-shaped entrances that shed water and catch the wind for ventilation.

The black-tail is the most colonial prairie dog; some towns cover several hundred acres. In addition to noisy territorial barking, they make alarms and "all-clear" calls, and"kissing" seems to help them recognize each other. Vegetation around the burrow is clipped, apparently to allow better visibility of potential predators.

Diet: Prairie dogs eat grasses and other vegetation, selecting succulent, actively growing plants. Between grazing and clipping, they may denude an area of vegetation. Often they are a symptom rather than a cause of rangeland damage, however. Overgrazing by livestock creates ideal conditions for prairie dogs, which evolved alongside migratory herds of bison, not inside barbed wire fences!

Reproduction: White-tailed and Gunnison’s prairie dogs are deep hibernators, but black-tails in Colorado simply go dormant in bitter winter weather, arousing to feed in warm spells. Prairie dogs mate in early spring and have two to ten pups after a gestation period of four to five weeks.