Report Human-Wildlife Interactions
Do not use this form to report wildlife emergencies. Call 911 or the Jeffco non-emergency number to report wildlife posing an immediate threat to human health and safety. Call Jeffco Dispatch at 303.980.7300 to contact a Jeffco Park Ranger regarding concerning behavior.
Jeffco Open Space staff track human-wildlife interactions in our parks and surrounding neighborhoods. We strive to balance the protection and preservation of wildlife and their habitat while promoting a safe and positive visitor experience. Visitors that provide information on wildlife interactions play a critical role as stewards and partners in managing wildlife. All reports are anonymous.
Prairie rattlesnake population density
Jefferson County Open Space does not have any empirical data describing the density of prairie rattlesnakes in any part of our park system. However, the published literature does provide us with some insights. In Canada, prairie rattlesnake population ecology is known to be influenced by the availability of prey and access to suitable foraging and overwintering habitat (Taylor et al. 2012). Brown et al. (2009) reported that the density of prairie rattlesnakes tends to be highest in low-elevation grasslands, shrublands, and savannas, with population density decreasing at higher elevations. In forested situations, rattlesnakes tend to be attracted to gaps in the canopy (e.g. Young et al. 2014). As we move up in elevation and the climate becomes cooler and wetter, we would expect habitat suitability to decrease and therefore the number of individual rattlesnakes to be reduced. We would also expect that areas with dense forest canopies and perennially wet areas would also be negatively associated with prairie rattlesnake occupancy. The upper elevational limit for the species seems to be 9,500 feet in Colorado (Hammerson 1999).
Based on our organizational data and the published literature on the species, JCOS' Natural Resources Team suspect they are unlikely to occur at the following parks: Alderfer/Three Sisters Park, Elk Meadow Park, Hiwan Heritage Park, Meyer Ranch Park, Pine Valley Ranch Park, and Reynolds Park. (bottom-right photo by Andrew DuBois)
Rattlesnakes happen, but luckily there are ways to prevent a bite. When hiking in rattlesnake habitat, always leash pets, wear close-toed shoes, keep one earbud out, and be aware of your surroundings. Also, be sure to teach your children about being safe in rattlesnake habitat.
If you do encounter a rattlesnake, practice the 30/30 rule: back away by 30 feet and give the snake 30 seconds to decide to leave. Repeat as necessary. Throwing rocks or otherwise disturbing a snake only serves to make them defensive. In the case of a bite, call 911 immediately and be prepared to provide an exact location. Meanwhile, keep the bitten area at or below the level of the heart and take off jewelry or other constricting items in anticipation of swelling. Do not cut, suck, or ice the bite area. Keep pets safe by keeping them on short leads, and watching where they sniff or investigate. If a pet is bitten, immediately transport them to a vet and be sure to call ahead to make sure they stock anti-venom.