All about Wildlife in Colorado

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 is a part of the western and southwestern United States.

colorado

About Colorado

Colorado is considered a state home to one of the healthiest populations of people, possibly due to all the mountainous/ outdoor activities and health focused culture available and the nature at disposal to all. A reason to visit the fresh aired, serene landscapes of wildlife.

Hiking in colorado
Dallas Peak in the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado near the Continental Divide.

Are you intrigued to learn more about the wildlife in colorado? Read on or jump to the healine that piques your interest and comment which animal you would love to see the most!

Bighorn Sheep

Colorado Bison

Elk

Mountain Lions

Black bears

Birds of Prey

Wild Horses

Prairie Dogs

North American Beaver

Rattle Snakes

Wildlife in colorado: National Parks

Summary

colorado

Wildlife in Colorado: The top 10 animals you are bound to encounter on a trip to see colorado’s wildlfe…

Bighorn sheep

bighorn sheep

The official state animal of Colorado, they are fairly 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

  1. Garden of the Gods Park.
  2. Glen Eyrie Castle.
  3. Pikes Peak.
  4. 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.

Colorado Bison

colorado bison

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 at speeds of 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.

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 10 genetically pure descendants of bison in Yellowstone National Park.

Where to see Bison in Colorado

  1. Rocky mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
  2. Buffalo Outlook
  3. Genesee Park

Elk

elk

Probably the most popular wildlife to see in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Elk is part of the deer family that thrives in Colorado’s forests. According to the Colorado Parks & Wildlife, in the early 1900s, only 40,000 elk remained in all North America. Due to massive hunting efforts, elk were almost completely 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, especially during their fall rutting (mating) season, in Moraine and Horseshoe sections near Estes Park.

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.

Mountain lions

Often feared but hardly ever heard 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 in length and weighing an average of 150 pounds.

Mountains lions can be found throughout the state of Colorado, with most found 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.

Most likey to see them:

lions

The mountain lion’s habitat ranges from desert, chaparral, and badland breaks to subalpine mountains and tropical rain forests. In Coloradolions are found in areas of 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—When this sign is posted it means that a lion has been seen in the area or neighborhood. The lion may or may not have had contact with humans or pets. Citizens need to be aware of the presence of a mountain lion and consider these precautions:

  • Supervise children and pets when they are outside.
  • Refrain from playing, running, or walking outside between dusk and dawn.
  • When leaving home or returning in the evening and early morning hours, turn on outside lights.

Black bears

black bear

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 the state of Colorado in areas of Gambel’s oak and aspen and 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

hawk

Birds commonly seen in Colorado Springs and surrounding areas. The following species are indeginous to the area 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.
hawks in colorado

With more than 400 species in Colorado, there’s no telling which wings you’ll see flapping. 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 all the way to the four corners. Within the Rocky Mountains themselves, there are 27 trails that 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: Have a look at the app to track birds on hikes, which can be found at the following lik below…

Bird trail app

Wild horses

wild horses in colorado
Close-up of a group of horses galloping free in rural USA.

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 roam throughout the area. The range is one of three in the U.S. that is 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

prairie dogs

Prairie dogs are herbivorous burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America. 

Prairie dogs 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.

prairie dogs

​​​​​​​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 America 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 fairly 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 active mostly at night.

Snakes

snakes in colorado

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 in elevation. It’s usually about 20 inches long, multiple shades of brown with a loosely checkered pattern. Exercise caution when spotting a snake or when 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 are hoping to see...

Trail finder

colorado
Autumn views near Telluride Colorado Rocky Mountains

You don’t even need to leave your car to see the widlife in colorado. We have found some of the areas where you can witness widlife in action 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.

Wildlife in Colorado: The best national parks

colorado
Dawn at Maroon Bells With Autumn Aspen Trees and Maroon Lake in the Rocky Mountains near Aspen Colorado

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. Today, 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

Elk
Colorado Bull Elk in Rut at Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain 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 the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky.

Wildlife in Colorado Summary

colorado

Which wildlife in Colorado do you wish to see? Colorado state, has a diverse landscape of arid desert, river canyons and snow-covered Rocky Mountains and won’t disappoint nature lovers in seek of wildlife experiences. We recommend visiting the wildlife in colorado!

If you enjoyed this blog then you may be interested in blogs about the US in general or about Wildlife in Florida.