As you might expect, the Rocky Mountain region is home to a ton of wildlife, a lot of which you can find in Colorado. From some animals that are dangerous to some that are cute to some that are endangered, here are some things you need to be aware of when it comes to Colorado’s animals.
1. Some Colorado animals are quite dangerous.
Bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, coyotes, moose…all of these animals should be avoided. While they tend to be more scared of humans than we are of them, attack is a possibility when they feel cornered or threatened. If you happen to spot one of these animals (or any other animal bigger than a house cat), try to distance yourself. A nasty bite or death isn’t worth that picture for Instagram. Here’s a list of a few more animals that can hurt you in Colorado.
2. Don’t feed the wildlife.
Yes, I know…that deer really looks like she wants to take a carrot out of your hand. She’d probably love it. She’d probably love it so much that the next time she saw a human, she’d come to them for food again. And then again. And before you know it, she’s dependent on humans for food. This scenario is likely to end in one of two ways. Either the deer starts to wander closer and closer to civilization until they’re hit by a car or the deer is considered a threat to humans at first sign of aggression and gets put down. Not only does feeding wild animals mess with their diet (it’s lcalled “junk food” for a reason), it can also cause them to abandon their natural means of obtaining food – the means that have helped them survive for so many years. When it comes to feeding wild animals, just don’t. This also means you should also be aware enough to not leave food out while camping. Feeding them unintentionally is also bad.
3. They’re not buffalo, they’re bison.
Have you seen a buffalo before? They look like a bull and they’re native to Africa and Asia. Bison are what you’ll find in America. They’ve got the high shoulders and large head you’re probably thinking of when you hear “buffalo.” This confusion was due to a misidentification by early European settlers years ago. You’ll still see official government signs for places like the “Genesee Buffalo Herd Overlook” around the Centennial State. Maybe they’ll correct the name at some point, but I doubt it.
4. There are a TON of birds in Colorado.
According to one popular birding website, more than 500 species of birds have been spotted in Colorado. One popular place to find them is Chatfield State Park, where more than 300 species are either annual residents or passing through. One species that I love spotting is the Stellar’s Jay, fairly common and easy to recognize thanks to their bright blue body and black head.
5. Those pronghorns are actually pretty special.
I’m biased when it comes to pronghorns – one of the reasons I’m including them on this short list. I’ve even got a drawing of one tattooed on my ribcage…but let me tell you why. Pronghorns are the 2nd fastest land animal in the entire world, second to only the cheetah. Capable of reaching speeds up to 55 miles per hour, what makes the speed of the pronghorn particularly impressive is that they can keep moving quickly for a long time. In fact, they’re capable of running at 30 miles per hour for more than 20 miles, a long-distance running ability that’s rare in the animal kingdom. As you might expect, their high speed means they don’t have any natural predators in Colorado. Of course, they almost went extinct when rifles came to the Centennial State scene. That being said, a few laws protect them now and they’re on a quick rebound. Next time you see a pronghorn, take a second to admire how awesome this animal really is. And yes, they CAN jump…they just prefer not to.
6. Even “tame” animals can be dangerous.
Don’t assume that a herbivore won’t hurt you. If you’re hiking above treeline in Colorado, be wary of animals like mountain goats and bighorn sheep. They’ll charge you if they feel like you’re getting too close and they’re pretty stubborn. They’ll keep butting you even when you’re down. Generally, you’ll be left sore, but relatively unharmed. However, in the worst case scenario, their sharp horns are capable of maiming. If they catch an artery in a remote location, it could lead to death.
Long story short – respect Colorado’s wildlife. Don’t damage their natural habitat and always make an effort to leave no trace. The variety of wild animal species native to this state is a big part of what makes exploring Colorado so special. By working together to preserve natural destinations, we’ll be able to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy the same things we can enjoy today.