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The Most Dangerous Colorado Animals

By: Spencer McKee

Even as the population in Colorado rises, many parts of the state still remain quite wild. While most animals encountered in the wilderness are more likely to avoid you than to cause problems, when a wild animal feels threatened it may lash out. Here's a list of animals to watch out for in Colorado and why they make the cut for the most dangerous animals in the state.

Colorado Bighorn - OutThere Colorado

12. Colorado Bighorn

Treat the Colorado bighorn in the same way you treat a mountain goat…just make sure they’ve got their space. If a bighorn feels threatened, they’ll charge and often keep charging. They’re known for their stubbornness.
Mountain Goat - Adventure_Photo - OutThere Colorado.jpg

11. Mountain Goats

Though not a native species to Colorado (they were brought by early miners), mountain goats are something to be aware of while hiking. Generally, they mind their own business. That being said, if they feel threatened they might charge. Hikers that get gored by these horns in remote places can face serious consequences, and in some cases, even death. When it comes to mountain goats, give them some space, don’t gawk, and you should be fine. Photo Credit: Adventure_Photo
Brown Recluse Spider - OutThere Colorado

10. Brown Recluse Spider

Though rare, brown recluse spiders have been spotted in Colorado. Their bites get increasingly painful over time with a potentially deadly venom. To avoid them, be extra cautious when going through clothes and gloves that have been undisturbed for a long period of time. If you’re bitten, contact a doctor immediately for proper treatment. NOTE: The brown recluse spider is not native to Colorado, though they have been spotted here – likely brought in by travelers from other states. The black widow is also a spider to watch out for. Though their typical range is also not in Colorado, they are reported in the state.
Tick - ArtBoyMB - OutThere Colorado

9. Ticks

Ticks don’t seem to get talked about much in Colorado, but they should be mentioned on this list due to infections they can carry. There’s actually a specific type of tick called the Rocky Mountain wood tick that carries a viral infection called Colorado tick fever, as well as Rocky Mountain spotted fever. While Colorado tick fever has noticeable symptoms, it tends to go away in a few days without treatment. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, though rare, can have more serious consequences including partial paralysis and gangrene that requires amputation, as well as organ damage. If you find a tick bite, watch for symptoms and see a doctor for appropriate antibiotics if needed. Photo Credit: ArtBoyMB.
Baby Black Bear - SEMARNAT - OutThere Colorado

8. Black Bears

While it’s been years since a grizzly has been sighted in Colorado (look up Ed Wiseman’s story from 1979), black bears are actually quite common. In fact, some estimates suspect that there could be 12,000 spread around the state. Fortunately, bears are generally scared of humans. That being said, if they feel cornered or their children are threatened they can become quite aggressive. They’ve also been known to target humans in times when food is very scarce, though this is rare. To keep them away, make sure to use bear-proof containers for food and garbage when camping. If you happen to spot one, make yourself known by calmly talking as you back away slowly without breaking eye contact. Photo Credit: SEMARNAT.
Elk - OutThere Colorado

7. Elk

Known for their large antlers, elk are another animal to watch out for while hiking in the Colorado wilderness. They’re not an aggressive species, but if you get in their space, they’ll use their antlers to defend themselves. Keep in mind that elk can become more aggressive during certain times of the year, like during their “rut” season. This is from mid-September to mid-October, a time when males fight it out for their female counterparts.
Black Widow Spider - OutThere Colorado

6. Black Widow Spider

While only female black widow spiders are dangerous to humans, their bites can cause permanent damage and even death (though death is now rare thanks to modern treatment). You can easily recognize them thanks to their red markings. Watch out for these spiders in dark, secluded areas, and see a doctor if you think one has bitten you.
Moose - OutThere Colorado

5. Moose

The largest big game species in Colorado, moose have few natural enemies. Because of this, they don’t fear humans, often approaching people with a tone of curiosity over anything else. While moose aren’t generally aggressive, they can be if they feel like their children or territory is threatened, especially during their “rut” season in the fall. If you see a moose, keep your distance, especially if you’ve got animals with you. If the moose starts to act aggressively, make sure your presence is known by talking while you slowly back away. If they charge, try to hide behind a large object that will block their path, like a car or tree.

4. Coyotes

Frequently heard and sometimes seen, coyotes can be found in most parts of Colorado. Quite smart, they’ve adapted to live in close proximity to humans over the years unlike most other large mammals in the state. While their smaller size tends to make them wary of adult humans, they can still be a threat to children and house pets. It’s also important to note that they generally hunt in packs. If you’re hiking or camping with kids or pets, make sure to keep an eye out for coyotes. Fortunately, they tend to scare easily. Photo Credit: LeFion.

3. Mountain Lions

Most hikers in Colorado know that mountain lions are always a risk. While these creatures prefer to avoid human contact, in times of desperation or threat they’ve been known to attack. Their stealthy nature generally means that their prey rarely hears them coming, often targeting vital spots on the body like the neck first. If you ever encounter a mountain lion in the wild, make noise, make yourself look as big as possible, and slowly create distance between you and the animal. Photo Credit: Evgeny555.

2. Rattlesnake

If you’re going to encounter a dangerous animal on the trail, there’s a good chance it will be a rattlesnake. Found in many parts of Colorado (especially arid places, including much of the Front Range), rattlesnakes carry a potentially deadly venom. Fortunately, rattlesnakes will let you know if they’re feeling threatened thanks to the bone-chilling sound their tail makes when shaken. If you spot one on the trail, don’t try to move the snake…just go the other way. If you’re bitten, seek medical attention immediately and avoid increasing your heart rate if possible. Photo Credit: milehightraveler.
A pika yawns ferociously. Photo Credit: DougLloyd (iStock).

1. Pika

Found around the world at elevations of more than 20,000 feet, the pika is one of the most resilient beasts around. Roughly the size of a fist, the pika tends to be underestimated amongst hikers and climbers, though this should not be the case. By using a special type of telepathy, pikas are able to pull together into large groups within moments if threatened, joining up in numbers upwards of 100 to fend off a predator. If you happen to stumble on pika in the wild, know that his pika friends have his back. While deaths related to pikas are rarely discussed, dozens occur each year in Colorado. (This is obviously a joke…don’t fear the pika. Just admire their cuteness when you encounter them instead).
Photo Credit: DougLloyd.

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