Colorado’s 9 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them | Cheyenne Edition
Just as it is a place of majestic scenery, Colorado is a place of majestic residents.
When our human peers annoy us, we escape for the wild and abundant life found there.
Elk? Their ranks in the White River National Forest are among the highest in the world. Bighorn sheep? Recent estimates place them at around 7,000 in Colorado, more than in any other state. Momentum? The herds have grown steadily since the reintroduction here in 1978.
These are just a few iconic species seen across the mountains. Here’s one more review and some of the best places to find them:
As long as 9 feet, weighing over 900 pounds, and recognizable by its six-pointed antlers, it is Colorado’s most imposing native deer. They are otherwise referred to as elk, ranging from fertile grassland and alpine tundra.
Their most famous home in this state is Rocky Mountain National Park. Regulars familiarized themselves with “elk jam” as they walked up Trail Ridge Road. A trumpeting bull choir is heard in early fall, signaling the mating season when people flock to Estes Park. Although this is the most popular time for spotting, the elk are out and about all year round.
Rocky Mountain National Park is also increasingly a popular viewing location for these beasts. They were more spotted on the west side of the park from Grand Lake.
Corn State Forest State Park remains Colorado’s “moose capital”. The largest state-protected reserve is located in the Northwest Territory where moose were delivered four decades ago.
Check the State Forest Visitor Center for an updated table listing specific areas where moose have been spotted. At the Mad Moose Cafe in nearby Walden, locals could tell stories of being chased in their backyard and being on the wrong side of car crashes.
There are two types in Colorado. The desert bighorn sheep have been reintroduced to Colorado National Monument in 1979, where we can still see them, distinguished by their long legs and their sandy-colored coat that blends into the desert. Front Range residents are most familiar with the native Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, the curly-horned mascot of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
One can only be lucky to witness a clash of horns – usually between November and January, when rams compete for mates. Now is the right time to go look. They are more difficult to spot in the spring and early summer, when the ewes are calving and during the fall hunting season.
Near Denver, Waterton Canyon is a good affordable bet for viewing. The bighorn sheep also frequents the cliffs of Grand Thompson Canyon on the way to Estes. They are common on the climbs up to 14,000 feet of Mount Evans and Pikes Peak.
They seem very native, seemingly constantly smiling above the treeline, content. But mountain goats were transported to Colorado to extend the hunt, first in 1947 in the Collegiate summits. They have significantly expanded their range since then.
Anyone who reaches heights of 14,000 feet will probably know these shaggy guys. They like high, rugged terrain, which means one is generally worth watching. Otherwise the road to Mount Evans, Peak dilemma and Mount Bierstadt are among the fourteen “beginners”.
In Colorado, they are no longer wild, but captives and cattle. It is believed that the hunters wiped out the last members of the free herd in 1897 around South Park.
And so today, the hardy and woolly beasts are symbols of the glory days in the plains. They command respect to Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver. Drivers usually stop to photograph the bison behind the fenced pasture near the corner of US 24 and Colorado 9.
Bison from a Colorado State University ranching experiment graze through Natural area of the soapstone meadow, near the Wyoming border. View from March to November, more information on: https://bit.ly/3jfHXEj.
Off Interstate 70 northeast of Grand Junction, the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area is one of the nation’s three preserved ranges for free-roaming Mustangs – though they are subject to regular roundups by federal land managers. In recent years, more than 100 horses have been counted on the 36,000 acres of canyons, sage fields and hills covered with pines and junipers.
The best time to go is spring, fall and winter, when temperatures are more pleasant for long hikes and hoofed locals are more likely to descend from higher elevations. Friends of the Mustangs offers advice on its website and Facebook page.
No creature in Colorado or anywhere else in America captures the imagination like the bald eagle, its wings sometimes extending 7 feet in flight above the water, talons splayed for fish.
Bald eagles do indeed remain around large reservoirs and rivers, nesting in large poplars in winter. Colorado bird watchers flock to Barr Lake State Park in Adams County. John Martin Reservoir is an often overlooked southern destination. west of Ridgeway, Dennis Weaver Memorial Park is another must-have for fans.
In February and March, one of the oldest bird species on the planet descends into the San Luis Valley. Observers armed with binoculars follow suit, celebrating them every year at a Monte Vista festival.
The red-headed, long-legged, long-necked and broad-winged sandhill cranes date back 9 million years. At Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge, they begin their ancient dances, jumping and waving – displays of affection for their lifelong companions. Their calls fill the sky, echoing to the peaks of Sangre de Cristo.
The waters of southeast Colorado are filled with these visitors every February. The arctic birds of Greenland, Canada and Alaska fly by tens of thousands to the southwest, invading these plains to the delight of admirers. Lamar is the base for High Plains Snow Goose Festival enthusiasts. They observe the shores of the Two Buttes and John Martin reservoirs and also visit the Picture and Carrizo canyons south of town.
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