Colorado Animals: Cool Facts On Wildlife in The Rocky Mountains

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 17, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
Cattle ranch below the Dallas divide mountains in Southwest Colorado.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.8 Min

The Rocky Mountains have always been a fascinating location for adventure seekers and nature lovers.

From the Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep to beavers and rabbits, Colorado is home to a variety of animal species. The state, situated in the Western Mountain sub-region of the United States, is also known by the nickname of 'The Centennial State'. 

The mountain state of Colorado is famous for its vivid and beautiful mountains, forests, high plains, mesas, rivers, deserts, canyons, plateaus, and many more landscapes. This spot is much more than just a National Park in North America.

Colorado, with its gorgeous scenery and Colorado wildlife, is also a great place for year-round adventures like hiking, horse-riding, skiing, mountain biking, or enjoying the beauty of nature.

The forests, mesas, hot springs, sand dunes and mountains are the finest gifts of nature where you can enjoy yourself in peace.

The most beautiful National Park in Colorado is the Rocky Mountain National Park cum Wildlife sanctuary. The summer, being the most crowded time of year, is also the best time to see Alpine meadows blooming with beautiful, colorful wildflowers.

The wildlife of the RMNP (Rocky Mountain National Park) and Estes Park includes elks, bobcats, mountain lions, moose, bears, coyotes, marmots, black bears, numerous birds, butterflies, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, spiders, centipedes, and, most importantly, threatened and endangered species.

If you enjoy reading about these animals of North America, do check our other articles on elk facts and burrowing animals.

What is the official state animal of Colorado?

The official state animal of Colorado is the Mighty Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. This sheep was designated as the state animal on May 1, 1961, by the General Assembly. 

The Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep is one of the rarest mammals found in the state of Colorado. Even though these Bighorn sheep look mighty, they are very social animals. They are known to live in groups according to their body and horn size and have a lifespan of 10-12 years. 

Their massive curling horns, which can grow up to 50 in (127 cm) in length, is what gave the name ‘Mighty Bighorn’ to this rare sheep species living in the mountains. Also, they have perfect balance and agility.

The Bighorns, known as Ovis canadensis, are only to be found in regions of the Rocky Mountains, Western US.

They have adapted to live in extremely rugged terrain. Normally, unlike the antlers of deer and elk, Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep do not shed their horns on an annual basis.

Their horns grow in length and width throughout their life and are said to weigh near 30 lb (13.6kg). Rocky Mountain sheep are highly endangered and less than 45,000 Bighorn sheep can be found scattered around the Western US and Canada, in small isolated herds.

Due to their endangerment, they fall under the category of protected mammal species in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains.

These sheep are going extinct due to uncontrolled forest hunts in the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. Due to this, it is currently illegal to hunt, kill or wound these animals for their horns and skins in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

What animals are unique to Colorado?

Colorado wildlife varies largely, from harmless, like butterflies, to dangerous, like Mountain lions. Even though they are dangerous, it is very rare for them to attack humans, as there are guides around to follow people through the National Park.

While you can see monkeys in most of the other wildlife sanctuaries, in Colorado, you won’t find any. This is because you are not allowed to own monkeys, except for trained Capuchins, for the purpose of using them as service animals.

Rocky Mountain National Park Elk Herd.

Home to a huge variety of wildlife species, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado are a popular hiking spot and home to the state park where you can sight many wild animals for free from a safe distance.

If you ever see small rats or hamster-like mammals in and around the talus slopes and mountain meadows, those small little wild creatures are Pikas. Even though they look like a rat or hamster, they belong to the rabbit family.

These unique animals are found in large numbers all around the National Park.

The native western species in Colorado are pronghorns, coyotes, prairie dogs, barred tiger salamanders, great plains rat snakes, tiger whiptails, black bears, bald eagles, mountain elk, moose, mountain goats, mule, deer, canyon mouse, mountain lions, mountain bluebirds and Colorado cutthroat trout.

Most of these animals can be spotted near lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. The Rocky Mountains support many diverse species of animals, due to the great amount of vegetation, forest, and water resources in and around the National Park and sanctuary.

More of the fascinating native creatures that live in Colorado are Colorado bison, Bighorn sheep (official state animal of Colorado), Elk, birds (like Lark Bunting), Gray Jay, Golden Eagle, Belted kingfisher, North American beavers, wild horses, and more.

What is the rarest animal in Colorado?

As habitats are degraded due to human activities like deforestation, hunting, and pollution, several rare and listed species are on the decline with extinction and endangerment just around the corner. 

Furthermore, climate changes and devastating natural disasters are causing serious dangers to these rare wild species. 

Some of the rare and threatened species of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado are Whooping crane, Couch’s spadefoot, Ferruginous Hawk, Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse, Kit Fox, Bald Eagle, Mexican Spotted Owl, River Otter, Bonytail fish, American Peregrine Falcon, Greater Sage Grouse, Black-tailed Prairie dogs, black-footed ferret, Plains Orangethroat Darter, yellow mud turtle, Texas’ blind snakes, and Lesser Prairie Chicken. 

Throughout the expansive wilderness, Colorado’s North American rocky mountain National Park has 750 species of animals with vertebrae and ten thousand animals without vertebrae.

Out of all these rare Colorado animals, only 11 found in the mountains and native wild regions of the Colorado parks.

As they get rarer, more legal protection is imposed to aid in their survival.

For native residents and visitors of Colorado, the diversity of the wildlife provides economical and recreational benefits.

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado can be a great place for scientists and researchers.

A few of the endangered and rare animals and species of Colorado are grizzly bears, rare species of bison, wolves, black-footed ferrets, Colorado pikeminnow (a native fish found in Colorado rivers), kit fox (a mammal adapted to desert or semi-desert shrublands, and also the smallest known fox in North America), long-nosed leopard lizards (their skin is gray-black in color with small brown spots just like a leopard skin design), humpback chub (a minnow family member, mostly found today in the canyon regions of the Colorado river), burrowing owl (unlike most owls, this owl is seen during the day sitting on posts or open ground near their habitat), river otter, midget faded rattlesnake (they prefer sandhills and semi-desert regions), Gunnison sage grouse (who like a range of habitats like grasslands and sagebrush), peregrine falcon (the fastest animal in the world who preys on small rodents and birds), Townsend’s big-eared bat and Bighorn sheep.

What mammals are found in Colorado?

The Rocky Mountains in Colorado are known to be a safe space for mammals to live in. Nearly 67 rare mammal species are native animals to the area.

Among these species, gray wolves, bison, and grizzly bear were almost extinct locally during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The list of mammals that could be found in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado includes beaver, black bear, Bighorn sheep, elk, yellow-bellied marmot, coyote, moose, mountain lion (pumas, cougars, and panthers), mule deer, pika, snowshoe hare, squirrel and chipmunk.

Beavers, being nature's engineers, are seen together as a family or in pairs in the Rocky Mountains. A sad truth about grizzly bears is that they are no longer to be found in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Their cousin family of black bears is the only bear species seen in Colorado. A large family of Elk can also be spotted grazing on the grasses and shrubs.

Even though Yellow-bellied Marmots are a squirrel species, they share a resemblance with hamsters. Due to their red-brown fur color and yellow belly, they are known as yellow-bellied marmots.

These marmots eat flowers, grasses, and even insects and bird eggs, making them omnivores. As gray wolves were absent from the Rocky Mountains Park, Coyotes started to take their place.

These intelligent groups of canines are mostly seen during the evening and early morning time.

They make sounds like howls and growls, which synchronize with the sound of wolves and foxes. The Rocky Mountain National Park is a wildlife sanctuary, allowing coyotes and other animals to run free throughout the region.

A large predator group in the Colorado Rocky National Parks is the mountain lion. These hunter predators silently stalk their prey, hiding behind trees and plants and get hold of prey in a fast and tight motion.

If you encounter any mountain lion or puma in their natural habitat, it’s better not to move and stay calm. It is good to have locals in your group while visiting mountains and state parks to maintain a safe distance from humans.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Colorado animals: cool facts on wildlife in the rocky mountains then why not take a look at fun pomegranate fruit facts for kids: where do pomegranates grow?, or what do wasps eat?

Do all types of wasps eat the same food?

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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