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Wildlife in Colorado

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Welcome to Colorado, where nature’s canvas boasts mountains, forests, canyons, and more! This wildlife wonderland in the western U.S. is an adventure waiting to happen.

Get ready to be wowed by the diverse and charming creatures that call this place home. It’s a wild card you won’t want to miss!


Click below to jump to any section on wildlife in Colorado:

Key Points

WildlifeScientific NameSizeHabitatRangeDietConservation Status
Bighorn SheepOvis canadensis canadensisMales: 180-310 lbs (82-140 kg)Females: 130-200 lbs (59-91 kg)Rocky Mountains, North AmericaVaries by locationHerbivorous – graze on grasses, shrubs, and vegetationVaries by population
Colorado BisonBison bisonMales: 1,800-2,000 lbs (820-910 kg)Females: 900-1,100 lbs (410-500 kg)Various habitats in ColoradoNear Threatened (IUCN Red List)Herbivorous – graze on grasses and vegetationNear Threatened
ElkCervus canadensisMales: 600-1000 lbs (272-454 kg)Females: 400-600 lbs (181-272 kg)Various habitats across North AmericaLeast Concern (IUCN Red List)Herbivorous – graze on grasses, shrubs, and vegetationLeast Concern
Mountain LionPuma concolorLength: 6-9 feet (1.8-2.7 meters)Height: 2-2.5 feet (60-76 cm)Diverse habitats ranging from mountains to desertsLeast Concern (IUCN Red List)Carnivorous – prey on deer, ungulates, small mammals, and birdsLeast Concern
Black BearUrsus americanusLength: 4-7 feet (1.2-2.1 meters)Height: 2.5-3 feet (76-91 cm)Diverse habitats including forests, swamps, and mountainsLeast Concern (IUCN Red List)Omnivorous – eat plants, berries, nuts, insects, and small mammalsLeast Concern
Hawks, Falcons, EaglesVarious species in Accipitridae familyVarious species in Falconidae familyVarious species in Accipitridae familyVaries depending on the speciesDiverse habitats including forests, grasslands, and mountainsVaries by speciesCarnivorous – prey on small mammals, birds, and insectsVaries by species
Wild HorsesEquus ferusHeight: VariesTypically ranges from 13 to 16 hands (52 to 64 inches or 132 to 163 cm) at the shoulderVaries depending on the region and environmental conditionsVaries by regionHerbivorous – graze on grasses and vegetationVaries by population
Prairie DogsCynomys spp.Length: 12-16 inches (30-41 cm)Grasslands and prairies in North AmericaVaries depending on the regionHerbivorous – graze on grasses and forbsVaries by species
North American BeaverCastor canadensisLength: 29-35 inches (74-90 cm)Found in freshwater habitats such as lakes, rivers, and streamsNative to North America, from Canada to northern MexicoHerbivorous – feed on bark, twigs, leaves, and aquatic plantsLeast Concern
RattlesnakeVarious species in Crotalus and Sistrurus generaLength: VariesTypically ranges from 1.5 to 5.5 feet (45 to 168 cm)Various habitats ranging from deserts to forestsVaries by regionCarnivorous – prey on rodents, lizards, and small birdsVaries by species

About Colorado

Hiking in colorado

Colorado boasts a state known for harboring one of the healthiest populations of people! It’s no surprise, with all the fantastic mountainous and outdoor activities, as well as a vibrant health-focused culture that’s readily available for everyone to embrace. Plus, the abundant nature surrounding you adds to the overall charm, making it a captivating destination to visit and bask in the fresh, invigorating landscapes teeming with wildlife.

Would you like to delve deeper into the fascinating wildlife of Colorado? Take a journey with us as we explore these enchanting creatures, and don’t forget to share your favorite animal you’d love to encounter the most!

Bighorn Sheep

bighorn sheep
Scientific NameOvis canadensis canadensis
SizeMales (Rams): 180 to 310 pounds (82 to 140 kg)
Females (Ewes): 130 to 200 pounds (59 to 91 kg)
HornsMale Horns: Up to 30 pounds (13.6 kg)
Male Horns Length: Up to 30 inches (76 cm)
HabitatRocky Mountains, North America
Social StructureSocial animals living in herds
DietHerbivorous – primarily graze on grasses, shrubs, and other vegetation
Conservation StatusVaries by location, some populations may be endangered or threatened

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

  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
Scientific NameBison bison
SizeMales (Bulls): 1,800 to 2,000 pounds (820 to 910 kg)
Females (Cows): 900 to 1,100 pounds (410 to 500 kg)
HornsBoth males and females have horns
Horns can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) in length for males
HabitatVarious habitats in Colorado
Social StructureLive in herds with complex social structures
DietHerbivorous – graze on grasses and other vegetation
Conservation StatusNear Threatened (IUCN Red List)

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

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


Scientific NameCervus canadensis
SizeMales (Bulls): 600 to 1000 pounds (272 to 454 kg)
Females (Cows): 400 to 600 pounds (181 to 272 kg)
AntlersOnly males (bulls) have antlers
Antlers can reach up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) in length and have multiple points
HabitatVarious habitats across North America, including forests, grasslands, and mountains
Social StructureLive in herds with separate groups of males and females during most of the year
DietHerbivorous – graze on grasses, shrubs, and other vegetation
Conservation StatusLeast Concern (IUCN Red List)

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.

Mountain Lion

Animals of Colorado, mountain lion
Scientific NamePuma concolor
SizeLength: 6 to 9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 meters) from nose to tail
Height: Around 2 to 2.5 feet (60 to 76 cm) at the shoulder
WeightMales: 130 to 220 pounds (59 to 100 kg)
Females: 65 to 140 pounds (29 to 64 kg)
ColorTawny or grayish-brown with a white underbelly
HabitatDiverse habitats ranging from mountains, forests, and grasslands to deserts and swamps
RangeFound throughout the Americas from Canada to South America
DietCarnivorous – primarily preys on deer and other ungulates, but can also eat smaller mammals and occasionally birds
Conservation StatusLeast Concern (IUCN Red List)

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.

Black Bear

black bear
Scientific NameUrsus americanus
SizeLength: 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 meters) from nose to tail
Height: Approximately 2.5 to 3 feet (76 to 91 cm) at the shoulder
WeightMales: 130 to 600 pounds (59 to 272 kg)
Females: 90 to 300 pounds (41 to 136 kg)
ColorVaries, but often black or dark brown; some individuals may have a lighter-colored “cinnamon” phase
HabitatDiverse habitats including forests, swamps, mountains, and open fields
RangeFound in North America, including the United States and Canada
DietOmnivorous – diet consists of plants, berries, nuts, insects, small mammals, and occasionally carrion
Conservation StatusLeast Concern (IUCN Red List)

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.

You can read more with our dedicated article on the largest North American Black Bear.

Birds of Prey: Hawks, falcons, and eagles

Scientific NameVarious species in Accipitridae familyVarious species in Falconidae familyVarious species in Accipitridae family
SizeVaries depending on the speciesVaries depending on the speciesVaries depending on the species
Wingspan2 to 4.5 feet (60 to 137 cm)2 to 4 feet (60 to 120 cm)5 to 8 feet (150 to 240 cm)
HabitatDiverse habitats including forests, grasslands, mountains, and open areasFound worldwide, often in open areas and cliffsDiverse habitats including forests, mountains, and near large bodies of water
DietCarnivorous – prey on small mammals, birds, and insectsCarnivorous – mainly hunt birds, using high-speed dives to catch preyCarnivorous – primarily feed on fish and small mammals, but may also eat birds and carrion
Unique FeaturesSharp beaks and strong talons for huntingExcellent vision and agile flightPowerful beaks and talons for hunting and large, strong wings
Conservation StatusVaries by species, some may be threatened or endangeredVaries by species, some may be threatened or endangeredVaries by species, some may be threatened or endangered

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…

Bird trail app

Wild Horses

wild horses in colorado
Scientific NameEquus ferus
SizeHeight: Varies depending on the breed and region
Typically ranges from 13 to 16 hands (52 to 64 inches or 132 to 163 cm) at the shoulder for most wild horses in North America
WeightVaries depending on the breed and region
Typically ranges from 500 to 1,000 pounds (227 to 454 kg) for most wild horses
ColorVarious colors and coat patterns, including brown, black, white, gray, and roan
HabitatVaries depending on the region and environmental conditions
RangeWild horses are found in several regions worldwide, including North America, Europe, and Australia
DietHerbivorous – primarily graze on grasses and other vegetation
Unique FeaturesAgile and strong runners, able to cover long distances
Conservation StatusVaries by region and population, some may be considered threatened or endangered

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

prairie dogs
Scientific NameCynomys spp.
SizeLength: 12 to 16 inches (30 to 41 cm)
WeightVaries depending on the species
Typically ranges from 1.5 to 3 pounds (0.68 to 1.36 kg) for most prairie dog species
ColorTypically light brown with lighter underparts
HabitatGrasslands and prairies in North America
RangeFound in North America, primarily in the central and western regions
DietHerbivorous – primarily graze on grasses and forbs
Social StructureLive in large underground colonies called “towns”
Unique FeaturesExcellent burrowers and communicators through “barks”
Conservation StatusVaries by species and location, some may be considered threatened or endangered

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

Scientific NameCastor canadensis
SizeLength: 29 to 35 inches (74 to 90 cm)
WeightTypically ranges from 35 to 70 pounds (16 to 32 kg)
ColorDark brown fur with a lighter underbelly
HabitatFound in freshwater habitats such as lakes, rivers, and streams
RangeNative to North America, from Canada to the United States and northern Mexico
DietHerbivorous – primarily feed on bark, twigs, leaves, and aquatic plants
Unique FeaturesExcellent swimmers with webbed hind feet and a broad, flat tail for steering in the water
BehaviorHighly skilled at building dams and lodges with sticks and mud to create underwater homes
Conservation StatusLeast Concern (IUCN Red List)

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.


snakes in colorado
Scientific NameVarious species in the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus
SizeLength: Varies depending on the species
Typically ranges from 1.5 to 5.5 feet (45 to 168 cm)
WeightVaries depending on the species
Typically ranges from 1 to 4 pounds (0.5 to 1.8 kg)
ColorVaries, but typically have a pattern of dark and light bands with a rattle at the end of the tail
HabitatVarious habitats ranging from deserts to forests
RangeFound in North and South America
DietCarnivorous – primarily feed on rodents, lizards, and small birds
VenomRattlesnakes are venomous snakes, and their venom is used to immobilize and digest their prey
Unique FeaturesCharacteristic rattle at the end of the tail, which is used as a warning signal to potential threats
Conservation StatusVaries by species and location, some may be considered threatened or endangered

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…

Trail finder

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.


YouTube video

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What part of Colorado has the most wildlife?

Colorado is known for its diverse wildlife, and various regions of the state support abundant wildlife populations. Generally, areas with more extensive wilderness, forests, and mountainous terrain, such as the western and central parts of the state, tend to have higher concentrations of wildlife. National parks and protected areas like Rocky Mountain National Park, San Juan National Forest, and the Colorado Plateau are popular destinations to observe diverse wildlife.

What wildlife should I be aware of in Colorado?

While exploring Colorado’s outdoors, it’s essential to be aware of potentially encountering various wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, coyotes, foxes, and a variety of bird species. Rattlesnakes are also found in the region, especially in lower elevations and drier areas.

Is there mountain lions in Colorado?

Yes, mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, are found in Colorado. They inhabit various habitats, including forests, canyons, and rocky terrain, and are known to roam across the state.

Does Colorado have a lot of bears?

Yes, Colorado is home to a significant population of black bears. They can be found throughout much of the state, especially in forested areas. Black bears are adaptable and often encounter human-populated areas as well.

Do bears and lions live in the same area?

Yes, bears and lions can share overlapping habitats in Colorado. Both species have wide ranges and can be found in similar environments, such as forests and mountainous terrain. However, they tend to avoid direct confrontations, and their activity patterns and hunting habits differ.

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