Want to know all about wildlife in Colorado? Colorado is noted for its vivid landscape of mountains, forests, high plains, mesas, canyons, plateaus, rivers, and desert lands.
Colorado is one of the Mountain States and part of the western and southwestern United States.
Colorado is considered a state home to one of the healthiest populations of people, possibly due to all the mountainous/ outdoor activities, health-focused culture available, and nature at the disposal of all. A reason to visit the fresh, aired, serene landscapes of wildlife.
Are you intrigued to learn more about the wildlife in Colorado? Read on or jump to the headline that piques your interest and comment on which animal you would love to see the most!
Click below to jump to any section on wildlife in Colorado:
The official state animal of Colorado, they are pretty elusive and hang out on the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Colorado’s state mammal, the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, can be viewed in its natural habitat in Colorado Springs.
Where to see them in Colorado: These are some of the best local spots
- Garden of the Gods Park.
- Glen Eyrie Castle.
- Pikes Peak.
- Arkansas River.
Bighorn sheep were among the most admired animals of the Apsaalooka (Crow) people, and what is today called the Bighorn Mountain Range was central to the Apsaalooka tribal lands.
The American Bison are large mammals that can reach up to 6.5 feet tall and weigh up to 2,200 pounds. They travel in herds and have an average life span of 20 years.
When needed, a bison can run up to 40 miles an hour. At one point in time, there were 60 million bison that roamed the plains of North America, but due to overhunting, the bison nearly became extinct.
A bison herd in northern Colorado is growing much faster than expected. The herd at a natural area north of Fort Collins began three years ago as ten genetically pure descendants of bison in Yellowstone National Park.
Where to see Bison in Colorado
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
- Buffalo Outlook
- Genesee Park
Probably the most popular wildlife in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Elk is part of the deer family that thrives in Colorado’s forests. According to Colorado Parks & Wildlife, in the early 1900s, there were only 40,000 elk remained in North America. Due to massive hunting efforts, elk were almost wholly lost from Colorado forever. But due to relocation efforts, Colorado is now home to more than 280,000 elk.
Where to see them
1. Rocky Mountain National Park. Elk can be spotted bugling and sparring in Moraine and Horseshoe sections near Estes Park during their fall rutting (mating) season.
The area in and around the park, near Walden, has been named the official moose capital of Colorado. More than 600 moose live there year-round, as well as elk, mule deer, beaver, fox, eagles, and black bears.
Often feared but hardly ever heard of or seen, the elusive mountain lion of Colorado is one wildlife species most visitors don’t seek out. More commonly known in the wildlife of Colorado as a cougar, puma, or panther, the mountain lion is one of the biggest cats in North America.
With camouflage-like coloring, they tend to blend in with the scene around them. Moving stealthy and swiftly, they are surprisingly large, with males reaching eight feet long and weighing an average of 150 pounds.
Mountains lions can be found throughout Colorado, most located in the foothills and hardly ever any in the eastern plains. They love areas dense in pinyon pine, juniper, ponderosa pines, and low-lying oak brush.
The mountain lion’s habitat ranges from the desert, chaparral, and badland breaks to subalpine mountains and tropical rainforests. In Colorado, lions are found in pinyon pine, juniper, mountain mahogany, ponderosa pine, and oak brush. Lions generally will be most abundant in areas with plentiful deer.
Many Colorado locals have experience dealing with mountain lions; however, we advise tourists to exercise caution when staying close to areas with recent sightings of the mountain lions.
Lion Alert: A lion has been seen in the area or neighborhood when this sign is posted. The lion may or may not have had contact with humans or pets. Citizens need to be aware of the presence of mountain lions and consider these precautions:
- Supervise children and pets when they are outside.
- Refrain from playing, running, or walking outside between dusk and dawn.
- Turn on outside lights when leaving home or returning in the evening and early morning hours.
There are approximately 10,000-12,000 of them in the state. Black is a species, not a color, and in Colorado, many black bears are blonde, cinnamon, or brown. Colorado once had grizzlies but officially has only one type of bear: the American Black Bear.
Black bears can be found throughout Colorado in areas of Gambel’s oak and aspen, mostly living in oak brush areas and occasionally venturing into aspen forests. The highest concentration consists from Walsenburg to Trinidad, west of the San Luis Valley. They hibernate around early November and make their appearance the following May. Two cubs, on average, are born during hibernation.
Birds of Prey: Hawks, falcons, and eagles
Birds were commonly seen in Colorado Springs and surrounding areas. The following species are indigenous and can be witnessed in all their glory.
Hawks, eagles, and kites
- White-tailed kite, Elanus leucurus.
- Swallow-tailed kite, Elanoides forficatus.
- Golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos.
- Northern harrier, Circus hudsonius.
- Sharp-shinned hawk, Accipiter striatus.
- Cooper’s hawk, Accipiter cooperii.
- Northern goshawk, Accipiter gentilis.
- Bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus.
With more than 400 species in Colorado, there’s no telling which wings you’ll see flapping. The Favorite Colorado birds to seek out are the mountain. While there are many birding opportunities throughout the state, the Colorado birding trails are a great place to start.
In Western Colorado, there are seven trails where you can view a variety of species that reach to the four corners. Within the Rocky Mountains, 27 trails range from northern to southern Colorado. Lastly, the Eastern Plains offers 20 trails, with the majority in the northeastern part of the state.
Colorado Birding trail: Look at the app to track birds on hikes, which can be found at the following link below…
Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area covers more than 36,000 acres of beautiful canyons and plateaus where visitors can hike and see the horses roaming. The range is 1 of 3 in the U.S. specifically designated to protect wild horses. It’s located just northeast of Palisade.
There is also Sand Wash Basin in northwest Colorado, near Craig, that is home to more than 75.
Here are a few places where you might find this majestic creature around the state:
- The Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area. …
- The Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area. …
- The Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area. …
- Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.
Prairie dogs are herbivorous burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America.
They are considered a “keystone” species because their colonies create islands of habitat that benefit approximately 150 other species. They live in groups called coteries. Males jump between coteries but females stay together forever.
Where to find them:
The black-tailed prairie dog inhabits the eastern third of Colorado. According to one estimate, black-tailed prairie dogs once covered seven million acres in Colorado. They typically reside in grassland areas below 6,000 feet, east of Colorado’s foothills.
North American Beaver
The North American Beaver is a native species to Colorado and plays an important role in the environment and the state’s ecology.
They are pretty common in Colorado, including in urban areas. In Castle Rock, beavers are active along East Plum Creek and Sellars Gulch. However, you might not catch a glimpse of these animals as you walk along the creeks during the day since beavers are primarily active at night.
Of the 25 species of snakes in Colorado, the western rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and the massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) are the only venomous species. The western rattlesnake appears in most habitats throughout the state. The massasauga, however, is limited to the southeastern grasslands.
Colorado is home to two species of rattlesnakes: the western/prairie rattlesnake and the massasauga. The latter is only found in the southeastern plains in dry grasslands and sandhills below 5,500 feet. It’s usually about 20 inches long, with multiple shades of brown with a loosely checkered pattern. Exercise caution when spotting a snake or in snake territory, as these snakes are venomous!
For the best hiking trails, you can use a trail finder to plan your trips according to which wildlife, you hope to see…
You don’t even need to leave your car to see the wildlife in Colorado. We have found some areas where you can witness wildlife from a safe distance.
- Rocky Mountain National Park. …
- Guanella Pass Scenic Byway. …
- State Forest State Park. …
- South Platte River Trail. …
- Mount Evans Scenic Byway. …
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. …
- San Juan Skyway. …
- Bighorn Sheep Canyon.
The Best National Parks
Colorado’s four National Parks — Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison — are home to some of the world’s most wondrous and diverse scenery. Take a look!
Rocky Mountain National park
Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments. Enjoy Trail Ridge Road – which crests at over 12,000 feet, including many overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds – along with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, starry nights, and fun times. In a world of superlatives, Rocky is on top!
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 to preserve and interpret the archeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people, who made it their home for over 700 years, from 600 to 1300 CE. Presently, the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Open all day and night year-round, the tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra.
Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park
Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of North America’s steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires. With 2 million years to work, the Gunnison River and the forces of weathering have sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky.
Which wildlife in Colorado do you wish to see? Colorado has a diverse landscape of arid desert, river canyons, and snow-covered Rocky Mountains and won’t disappoint nature lovers seeking wildlife experiences. We recommend visiting the wildlife in Colorado!
If you enjoyed this blog, you might be interested in blogs about the US in general, Wildlife in Iowa, or Wildlife in Florida.
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