While many folks using the Boulder Creek Path have been dodging or even fleeing aggressive coyotes, someone has possibly been testing their hankering for mild or hot salsa, black or pinto beans.
It's not clear whether the spread came from Illegal Pete's, Chipotle or elsewhere, but a pile of what appeared to be about 10 burritos recently was found in the immediate area where city and state wildlife officials are trying to solve a pattern of bad coyote behavior.
Additional items of restaurant food, such as possible fruit, salad and bread, also were left where many recent coyote sightings have been made. And while city spokeswoman Jody Jacobson said that the "messy" main entrée appeared most likely to be burritos, she conceded that it could have been manicotti or crepes.
It was unclear how much of the food, if any, was enjoyed by the animals before it was discovered and removed.
That incident has prompted the city of Boulder to deploy five new sandwich-board signs along the bike path between 30th and 55th streets making the message clear: "You are in coyote country," the signs read. "It is illegal to feed wildlife."
"In supplying coyotes with a food source or feeding coyotes, you're supplying them with a reason to be more comfortable with humans," said Val Matheson, the city's urban wildlife conservation coordinator.
When feeding of wildlife such as coyotes occurs, Matheson said, "They continue to be more and more comfortable around people, and that seems to lead to their expectation of people as being a supplier of food. And so they will then approach people looking for food, and we have seen in other areas that that's when people get bit."
She was echoed by Jennifer Churchill, spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
"That would be absolutely inappropriate," Churchill said of the burrito feed, which was discovered Jan. 24. "It's setting those coyotes up for failure. People need to understand that you are not helping wildlife. When you're feeding them, you're taking away their healthy and natural fear of people. You're just leaving everybody in jeopardy who uses that area, including the coyotes."
Illegal in Boulder
Feeding wildlife in Boulder is actually a violation of a city ordinance, which states, "No person shall feed any wild animal. For the purposes of this subsection, to feed shall mean all provision of edible or drinkable material, including, without limitation, bones, salt licks and water."
The maximum penalty for a first or second conviction within two years is a $500 fine. Squirrels and birds are exempted. Feeding wild animals, with similar exceptions, is also in violation of state wildlife regulations, Churchill said.
The city on Jan. 18 launched a focused program of hazing coyotes -- combined with stepped-up public education -- in the areas where people have been plagued by a series of confrontations, including one biting, since late December.
Another episode occurred early on the afternoon of Jan. 21 -- the ninth in roughly a one-month period.
In that case, a jogger headed eastbound on the Boulder Creek Path near its junction with the Goose Creek Greenway reported that a coyote ran at her from behind, coming as close as two feet, before a cyclist approaching from the opposite direction apparently caused the animal to break off and head into the brush.
Incidents tailing off
Matheson said that the frequency of incidents involving aggressive coyotes has been tailing off in recent weeks. The reasons for that are not certain.
"We have had a lot of presence on the trail, just about all day, since the hazing started," Matheson said. "There's also the factor that, last year, the pattern of conflicts and people that we saw ended in mid-February. I don't know if we're coming out of the season that triggers this behavior in coyotes, or if it's the presence of the hazers daily."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or email@example.com.