New wildlife ambassadors ready to lend a hand on the Waterton trail

Volunteers answer questions about the canyon, the environment and what to do when you encounter those bighorn sheep on the road.

June 9, 2017 | By: Jay Adams

Heading to Waterton Canyon to admire the spectacular views and famous bighorn sheep? Ready to hike — or bike — the 6.5-mile trail?

This summer, 40 volunteers from Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be out there with you, walking the trail and talking with visitors about the canyon’s animals, environment and its special role in Denver’s water supply.

They are part of the new Watchable Wildlife program, a partnership between CPW and Denver Water that began in April.

“The ambassadors are here to answer any questions people have while they’re visiting the canyon,” said Terri Doolittle, Denver Water’s senior recreation ranger in Waterton Canyon. “There’s so much to see in Waterton — it’s nice to have the volunteers to help us talk to all the visitors.”

Waterton Canyon draws up to 2,000 visitors on a busy weekend day and more than 100,000 annually. Hikers and bikers share the road that winds through the canyon with Denver Water crews (and their families) who use it to access three dams along the South Platte River.

Paul Bleau, Colorado Parks and Wildlife ambassador, answers questions from visitors in Waterton Canyon.
Paul Bleau, Colorado Parks and Wildlife ambassador, answers questions from visitors in Waterton Canyon.

“We really wanted to enhance the visitor experience” said Ben Mezger, Denver Water recreation ranger. One way, he said, is to keep people and animals safe by teaching visitors about wildlife etiquette.

Which brings us back to those bighorn sheep.

“A lot of people come to Waterton to see [them],” said Harry Morgan, one of the ambassadors. “We want to remind our guests that sheep are wild animals, and the canyon is not a petting zoo.”

Morgan says visitors should stay 40 feet away from bighorn sheep and clap their hands to get the animals to move if they’re blocking the road.

“It’s really special to see the smiles on kids’ faces when they first see a bighorn sheep,” said Paul Bleau, another ambassador.

Waterton is also home to other animals, including bears, eagles, hawks, trout and rattlesnakes.

The ambassadors will be in the canyon every day during the summer and fall. As part of the program, visitors can also stop by a new information cabin located at the entrance of the canyon.

The new wildlife cabin is located at the entrance to Waterton Canyon and offers information about trails, animals and Denver Water.
The new wildlife cabin is located at the entrance to Waterton Canyon and offers information about trails, animals and Denver Water.

The cabin is a mini-nature center filled with educational materials, maps and brochures. There are also antlers, skins and footprint molds of animals that call Waterton home.

“We’re hoping families will come and enjoy the canyon and meet our new ambassadors,” Doolittle said. “We want everyone to walk away with a better understanding and appreciation for the environment, wildlife and Denver Water.”

6 thoughts on “New wildlife ambassadors ready to lend a hand on the Waterton trail”

  1. The last time I visited Waterton Canyon people were walking their dogs up the canyon. I told them as they were entering the canyon that dogs were not allowed because of the sheep. There are signs telling people not to bring their dogs into the canyon. They just blew me off. Treis calling a ranger but could not reach them by phone. No enforcement I guess.

    1. Thank you for caring about the rules in Waterton Canyon, and calling this to our attention. Dogs, with the exception of service animals, are not allowed in the canyon to protect the bighorn sheep that call the canyon home.

      We’re sorry you were not able to make contact with a ranger on the phone. Due to the inconsistent cell coverage in the canyon, the posted number is for an office line where you may leave a message. Our rangers are often out patrolling, and therefore not always in the office, but regularly check messages and respond accordingly.

      Denver Water makes every effort to notify people that dogs are not allowed via signage and interaction with recreationists. We have dedicated staff in the canyon who make contact with the public whenever recreation users are not abiding by the rules and regulations, including enforcing the prohibition of dogs in the canyon.

      1. Westword just printed an article specifically saying dogs are now allowed. If this is not true maybe your representatives should contact Westword and have it reprinted.

  2. How does one become an ambassador? Is there a training coming up? I’m already a CPW volunteer and would love to do this also as I’m hiking Waterton a lot. Thanks!

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