Amazing Animals of Colorado

Colorado is an absolutely wonderful place to visit with many amazing animals of Colorado; their outdoor recreation being second to none. The scenery will simply awe and inspire. It makes one just want to be outdoors in nature all day long and it makes sense as this state experiences almost 300 days of sunshine every year. All the beautiful splendor means that there are some wonderful animals out there that make it possible for nature to be so splendid. Colorado’s rugged mountains are home to, frankly, a myriad of exciting and exquisite wild animals and insects of every kind, color, and type.

Deep in the gulley and rock formations, rivers, and streams, there is breathtaking wildlife, from the bald eagle that soars high above and watches from great heights to the exquisite elk and moose, and more. While you are having adventures in Colorado, you never know what magnificent creatures you might come upon and some of them are dangerous. Let’s look at some of these amazing animals that you will not want to miss seeing while you are in Colorado.

Take a look at some of the more common animals of Colorado:

Bighorn sheep 

Animals of Colorado, bighorn

You will usually find the unusual bighorn sheep on the steep and mountainous parts of the national parks in Colorado. They are large sheep that vary in color from light to dark brown. They have spectacular curled horns which are a wonderful status symbol, and in fact, the clashing horns can even be heard over the mountains as the males take each other on. The sizes of the horns are the symbols of its rank amongst the others. They stand up and fight on their hind legs and propel themselves at each other at speeds of about 20 mph. It’s got another character mark and that is the light white patch on its rump. It’s a big sheep like we said, that can weigh up to about 279 pounds. When threatened they will charge.

They are related to the goat family. They are about 71 inches in length. Their natural habitat is alpine meadows, rocky cliffs, rugged countryside, and mountain slopes. Being herbivores, they eat grasses, forbs, and sedges. They are gregarious animals and can be in herds that have 100 bighorns in them. But smaller groups of around 10 are usually common as well. They have wonderful eyesight which helps them when they jump on the narrow mountain ledges. They can live to be about 15 years. They are watched by other animals to eat such as the mountain lion, bobcats, wolves, coyotes, and golden eagles. Eagles won’t prey on adult bighorn but they are known to carry off lambs.

Black Bear 

black bear, Animals of Colorado

Black bears can be found across the USA, so that means Colorado as well. The black bear is the only species that is found in Colorado. The black bears are large animals and have pretty powerful jaws with big claws that can rip any human or animal that dares to provoke it while it is protecting its young. It has every right to protect itself from its enemies. The largest black bear populations live in the areas of Gambel’s oak and aspen, where natural fruit sources are near them. It’s the smallest of the three bear species that are found in the USA. They can weigh anything from 45-250kg. They are so strong that they are known to flip over boulders just with one paw! Their habitat is predominantly forested where they can feed on the fruits, nuts, vegetation, and shoots.

People wonder what the difference is between the grizzly bears and the black bear, but the grizzlies prefer the more open areas whilst the black bears like the more densely forested areas. Being in the forest it makes sense that the black bear is an excellent climber and can scale trees up and down. Their claws give them an excellent grip.  They are also good swimmers and look for fish to each.  The black bear can live to be about 18 years old. When they walk they look as if they are shuffling along but can run at around 40-50kph. They can’t keep it up for too long though. Even though they are called black bears their coats aren’t always black; they can be light brown, grey-blue, and even light. 

Elk 

bull elk, Animals of Colorado

At least in Colorado, the elk population is still good and there are still many in the wild. Visitors come here in the fall to hear the booming bugling of these animals in the mating season. Elk are light brown to almost golden in color and they have a pale yellow rump. They weigh around 780 pounds. Confronting an elk can be a dangerous time with the females being aggressive in the Spring and the males being aggressive in the Fall. The elk comes in as the second-largest deer species in the world, with the moose being the largest. It loves habitat that consists of grassland and shrubland. They look very impressive with their branched antlers which only the male elk get. These impressive, branched antlers can weigh as much as 40 pounds.

The females don’t get antlers. In the rutting season, you hear loud, impressive, “bugling” cries, which can be heard during the fall mating season. These impressive animals are around 2 m in length and almost 5 feet at the shoulders. They are ungulates; which means that they are large mammals with hooves. Their coats are dark reddish-brown and pale over the rump. Elk are ruminants. This means that they have four stomachs. This helps with the digestion of leaves and grass which is the main part of their diet. They also eat tree bark. They usually live in small single-sex herds and this provides them with protection against their predators which are mountain lions, wolves, bobcats, and coyotes. 

Moose 

moose, Animals of Colorado

Moose became part of Colorado’s ecosystem around 30 years ago. Sometimes people mistake the moose for the elk, but moose are in fact quite a bit bigger than the elk. Moose are very dark brown to the point that they can look black. They have a large bulbous type nose and fur which extends down from the neck. They are towering in size and they have a dewlap under their chin called a bell. They like places where there are deciduous shrubs disturbed by flooding, fires, and avalanches. They enjoy visiting mineral licks. You get natural mineral licks in the wild and they are important to the physiological ecology of several species such as the Moose. In winter they will eat conifers like yew and fir. They are even aquatic eaters and like to wade in shallow streams. They are known to even go underwater for 50 seconds or so to feed. They don’t frequent snow, rather retreating to dense forests if they do find themselves in the snow – this helps to protect them from roaming wolf packs. They are bold when it comes to protecting themselves and their young against black bears and grizzlies. They try and escape their predators by trotting at high speed because this costs them little energy.

Coyote

coyote, Animals of Colorado

Don’t think that because the coyote doesn’t have a bulk body he can just be dismissed as harmless. Not a chance. When they are in a pack, these animals are not to be misjudged. To begin with, never feed a coyote and think you can become on good terms with them. They are wild animals and that’s the way it should stay, adapting highly to the environment and makes the best of wild situations. These animals of Colorado enjoy deserts, grasslands, and forests. He is grayish-brown in color and has white fur under his neck and belly. They have pointed ears and a long muzzle and a long bushy tail. They are from the dog family so they have similar traits to that of the dog. They weigh about 25 pounds and measure about 35 inches long. They live for about 14 years.

They hunt alone or in pairs, running with their tails up, not down. The coyote has his own natural predators that are after him and these are bears, wolves, and mountain lions. They are nocturnal creatures, searching for their food at night. Being carnivorous means they will eat meat, but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying fruits as well. Then at night, they seek out birds, mice, mammals, and snakes to eat. 

Mountain Lion 

Animals of Colorado, mountain lion

Mountain lions are of the biggest cats in North America. Fortunately, they are not on the endangered list. They love the canyons and foothills because they find the prey they need to eat. They have extremely powerful jaws and claws that you don’t want to encounter. You might have heard of the words cougar, panther, red tiger, or deer tiger – these are often other names referred to as the mountain lion.

This is a carnivore that weighs around 136 pounds. These majestic creatures eat mostly deer, but they will take down smaller animals like mice even, and rabbits. They don’t have a great sense of smell, but their vision is super excellent as well as their hearing. It is t these that contribute to their successful hunting in the early morning and evening hours. Of course, their excellent jumping helps as well – they can jump as far as 45 feet.

Brown Recluse Spider

brown recluse spider, Animals of Colorado

The brown recluse spider might be rare in Colorado, but it still is an inhabitant of Colorado and is poisonous. A bite from this spider can be pretty nasty and can cause tissue death. This spider is sometimes known as the violin spider or the fiddle back spider. Look on its dorsum – you will see what looks like a violin-shaped marking.  Its body can vary in size, but with their legs extended, they are about the size of a USA quarter.  Their color can be anything from dark brown to tan. Brown recluse spiders have six eyes in a semi-circle arrangement; i.e. three groups of two.  Their natural habitat is outdoors, under logs, rocks, woodpiles, and debris.

They are strong enough to withstand the cold winters and can go on for quite a few months without food or water.  It hunts at night, seeking dead or alive prey. In the daytime, they retreat to secluded dark areas. Nearer home, the spider might be found in barns, sheds, woodpiles, and anything lying on the ground. Outdoors, other animals that will feed on the brown recluse spider are praying mantis, robins, wrens, chickens, crickets, and centipedes.

 Colorado Bison

colorado bison, Animals of Colorado

It is exciting to note that the wild bison have finally returned to Colorado, although not a lot. In the past, they would sweep across the plains in the millions as they migrated in search of food. But today they are confined to wildlife refuge places. Apparently, there are just seven females and two males that have been reintroduced; they form part of Colorado State University’s research herd. Isn’t it wonderful to know that these animals are genetically pure descendants of the 30 million North American bison that were nearly hunted to extinction more than a century ago? The mind boggles how so many could just have been hunted down! And they are so good for the ecosystem too. They are large mammals that can grow to be around 6 feet tall and weigh over 1000 pounds and more.  Their heads are slung low. They have shaggy beards and manes.

They travel in herds and can live to be about 20 years. They can run at about 40 miles an hour. They enjoy habitats of tall grass, prairie, desert grassland, and even coniferous forests. In their habitat, they enjoy eating sedges and herbaceous grasses as they are herbivores. They are huge animals, growing anything from 7 feet to 11 feet. They are social creatures and live in groups called herds. Usually, they are migratory animals and head to the warmer areas to escape the winter. Being huge, you can imagine that the male bison weighs around 2,500 pounds and stands at about 5 feet at the shoulders. Their length is about nine feet. Females are slightly smaller. It’s so exciting to see them flourishing again!

Golden eagle

golden eagle, Animals of Colorado

These beautiful birds; golden eagles, are exceptionally fast and agile and that makes them expert hunters. But they are also the fiercest and most aggressive of the avian raptors. The bald eagles, which are just as magnificent as the golden eagle, eat fish. But the golden eagle differs in that it usually always eats mammals. They like to eat hares, rabbits, marmots, ground squirrels, and prairie dogs. Sometimes you see them perched on a carcass they have just killed. They are so adept at what they do that they even go for small deer, mountain goats, seals, badgers, and coyotes. They are dark brown with golden feathers at the back of their necks – that’s how they got their name. Their feathers go all the way down to their feet. The golden eagle stands about 30 inches tall and has a wingspan of around seven feet! They love to inhabit cliffs and even build their nests there, but they will also make use of trees or observation towers as well. He has excellent views because he has such excellent vision. They love the vast open spaces where the mountains and hills and cliffs are – what a sight to see them gliding in the air. From a great height, they swoop down at 50 miles an hour hitting their unsuspecting prey in the back of the neck with their piercing talons. 

Wild horses 

Animals of Colorado, wild horses

Wild horses are not indigenous to Colorado but still, they are a worthwhile sight to see when you are in Colorado. There is a place in Colorado called the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area and it covers more than 36,000 acres of beautiful canyons and plateaus. Here, visitors can see these wild horses roaming throughout the areas – all for their protection. Similar to the bison, the wild horse, back in the day, was driven to the edge of extinction.  Today, the best places to see wild horses are from Nevada to Nova Scotia. There is no doubt that they are just majestic to watch; in fact, they are mesmerizing in their beauty. Wild horses feed on large areas of land. They eat grass, edible plants, and shrubs and the seed heads of grasses. They like to be near freshwater supplies. It has been estimated that the wild horses will graze for around 15-17 hours per day. For anyone interested the watching the spectacular sights of these wild horses, Colorado is the best place to do it. In Colorado, they roam freely in designated areas as preserves of the American West, and they are in their natural habitat. You can view these wild horses from four management areas in Colorado

Animal lovers visiting Colorado will love:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • State Forest State Park
  • Guanella Pass Scenic Byway
  • South Platte River Trail
  • Mount Evans Scenic Byway

If you enjoyed reading about amazing animals of Colorado, take a look at our North American wildlife content.