DURANGO, Colo. – Carved jack-o’-lanterns delight Halloween trick-or-treaters each year, but leaving pumpkins out in yards or on porches where wildlife can access them can bring a different kind of fright to Colorado neighborhoods.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife encourages the public to properly dispose of pumpkins after Halloween night so that wildlife are not attracted to this non-natural food source. CPW also reminds the public that intentionally feeding wildlife is illegal in Colorado.
“We want our wildlife to be sustained by the resources that naturally occur in their habitat,” said CPW Wildlife Pathologist Karen Fox. “Our policy is definitely to not provide supplemental food to big game in any form.”
Leaving pumpkins out for wildlife may seem harmless but can lead to unintended consequences. Bears are attracted to the pumpkins as they look to pile on calories during the last days before denning season. That can lead to unnecessary human-bear conflicts.
Deer feeding on pumpkins can attract predators such as mountain lions to residential areas. Other animals that may carry diseases such as raccoons can also be intrigued by rotting pumpkins, and animals congregating where they find this food source can lead to the spread of disease.
“Bears are still around and haven’t gone to bed yet,” said CPW Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Steve McClung of Durango. “Other animals such as raccoons that may carry distemper or other diseases could also get into those pumpkins, and you don’t want potentially sick animals hanging around your home, especially if you have pets. Please find appropriate ways to discard your pumpkins after Halloween.”
Many communities and food banks across Colorado offer pumpkin drop-off events for those who are looking for an alternative to throwing away or composting pumpkins themselves.
In the city of Durango, pumpkins and gourds are accepted and donated for animal feed at local ranches. Since 2019, 18,752 pounds of pumpkins have been collected in Durango alone.
Several ranches across Colorado also accept direct pumpkin donations to go toward livestock feed, and zoos may even accept donated pumpkins.
However, pumpkins that have been painted or contain melted wax are not able to be accepted because they are not safe for animal consumption.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended that the public not paint pumpkins because the paint can be potentially toxic to wildlife that consume pumpkins that are left out.
For more information about living with wildlife, go to the CPW website.