Colorado is well noted for its variety of landscapes, which include desert lands, rivers, plateaus, canyons, mesas, high plains, forests, and mountains! As such, you can expect each of these places to be full of animals.
Colorado is home to a variety of animals like bison, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, foxes, golden eagles, and much more! Since Colorado has over 107,000 miles of rivers, there are a lot of amphibians and marine life as well, such as yellow perch, trout, and wood frogs.
Since Colorado’s land is rich in nature and wildlife, there is much more you should know about this state!
To help you out, we here at Floofmania have compiled information about the wildlife you can expect to see in Colorado.
Animals That Are Typical For Colorado
Table of Contents
Colorado has all sorts of animals, and the easiest ones for people to spot are mammals. A quick list of some mammals in Colorado are:
- Black Bears
- Prairie Dogs
- Mule Deer
This state is fairly diverse, however, having a variety of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and fish as well. A few examples include:
- Wood Frogs
- Western Toads
- Common Collared Lizards
- Garter Snakes
- Gray Jays
This state has a variety of species of animals listed, so let’s look at more wildlife in Colorado!
The Official Animal of Colorado
The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep was named the official animal of Colorado back on May 1, 1961. Since the Rocky Mountains are a major feature of Colorado, it was fitting to name a sheep that symbolizes the Rocky Mountains as the state’s official animal.
Before the bighorn sheep was named the official animal, however, the Lark bunting bird was named the official bird of Colorado in 1931! It was chosen since it is native to Colorado, has melodic songs, and an acrobatic courtship dance.
The Most Common Mammals In Colorado
Amongst the groups of animals, mammals are some of the most common animals you will see in Colorado. Here is a quick look at some of the more commonly seen ones in the state:
1. Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs
Found in the eastern areas of Colorado, the black-tailed prairie dog is a burrowing ground squirrel that is fairly common in the state.
Normally, you can spot these prairie dogs on the east of Colorado’s foothills, where they will be in the grasslands below 6,000 feet.
One of the more common mammals you can find in Colorado is the coyote, which is a canine that is a bit smaller than its relative, the wolf. They are mainly found in the Front Range of Colorado.
You can learn more about the coyote’s habitat by looking at our other article, Where Do Coyotes Live?
A unique fact about coyotes is they are excellent communicators! They can howl, squeak, growl, yelp, huff, and more.
Here’s what a coyote sound’s like!
3. Rocky Mountains Bighorn Sheep
As you can guess from the name, the bighorn sheep is a native of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Thanks to various conservation efforts, the bighorn sheep is now one of the more common mammals in Colorado with over 7,000 of them in the state!
These sheep are the biggest wild sheep you can find in North America. The males can be heavier than 300 pounds and taller than three feet!
A common wild cat that you will find in Colorado is the bobcat. Currently, it is estimated that there are over 12,000 of them living in Colorado.
Usually, you can spot bobcats in the state’s plateaus, mesas, canyons, and foothills. They prefer to live in the woodlands and thrush found in those areas.
5. Mule Deer
Perhaps one of the most prolific mammals in Colorado today is the mule deer. It is estimated that there are over 400,000 mule deer in Colorado alone! You can find mule deer throughout Colorado’s foothills and mountains.
Mule deer look very similar to elk. The main way you can differentiate a mule deer from an elk is that a mule deer is smaller and walks with smaller groups of other mule deer. On the other hand, elk are larger and like to be in big groups.
The Most Common Birds In Colorado
With over 11 billion trees in the forests alone, Colorado is an excellent habitat for many birds to thrive in. Here are 5 birds you are likely to see in Colorado.
1. Lark Bunting
Being the state’s national bird, the Lark Bunting is also a common bird in Colorado.
The Lark Bunting is an average-sized songbird that can get up to six inches long. They have short and thick bills with a blue hue.
Adult male Lark Buntings have dominantly black feathers with a white patch at the ends of their wings. Their female counterparts mostly have brown feathers and a white underbelly and deep streakings.
2. Gray Jay
Commonly known as Canada Jays, the Gray Jay is easily found in Colorado. They are often in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, which is where they will live in coniferous forests at high elevations.
The Gray Jay is a unique bird because it is an omnivore. Gray Jays are known for hunting rodents, other bird’s fledglings, amphibians, insects, and even small mammals!
3. Belted Kingfisher
Another common bird you can find in Colorado is the Belted Kingfisher. These birds are present year-round in Colorado and are often found near bodies of water.
Similar to the Gray Jay, Belted Kingfisher is an omnivore. While they prefer to eat amphibians, insects, crustaceans, and small fish, they have been seen eating small mammals, berries, and even birds!
4. Black-Capped Chickadee
Being nonmigratory birds, the black-capped chickadee is a permanent resident in Colorado. The highest population of these birds in the state is usually found 5,000 and 9,000 feet above the ground in the Rocky Mountains.
Other than being a cute bird, the chickadee is regarded as an intelligent and curious bird. They are also friendly birds that may approach humans!
5. Golden Eagle
Another common resident of Colorado is the Golden Eagle, which also happens to be one of the biggest birds in North America. Typically, they are in the southeast canyon habitats and west mountain habitats.
A golden eagle’s wingspan can reach up to 7 feet, and the females are usually larger than the males. They also happen to be the fastest birds for their size!
If you want to see their impressive size and speed, here’s a video of a golden eagle in action:
The Most Common Amphibians In Colorado
With over 158 rivers, Colorado is an excellent home for many amphibians to reside. A few you may find are:
Bullfrogs are one of the most prolific amphibians you can find in the state. Unfortunately, they are not native to Colorado.
Bullfrogs are the largest type of frog in the United States, reaching up to 8 inches in length and weighing over 1 pound!
2. Wood Frog
Wood frogs are one of the most widely dispersed frogs in the United States, being found in states as far as Alaska and of course, Colorado.
The wood frog can be seen in various parts of Colorado, such as ponds, marshes, meadows, forests, and lakes. They have even been spotted in potholes!
3. Western Toad
One of the more common toads you can run into is the Western toad. While they are primarily terrestrial, they can live in a variety of habitats. Usually, you can find them in Colorado’s forests.
These toads are known for secreting a mild toxin from their skin. While this may not harm humans, this toxin can be dangerous to many predators.
4. Green Toad
Another toad you can see in Colorado is the green toad. Usually, these green toads are found in southeastern Colorado, where they will be found in very dry areas. Ironically, you will spot them during heavy rains since they will come out of their burrows!
5. Couch’s Spadefoot Toad
A native toad to Colorado is the Couch’s spadefoot toad, which is seen southwest of southeastern Colorado. From there, you will find them in very dry areas that have well-drained and sandy soil.
The Most Common Reptiles In Colorado
Reptiles are no strangers to Colorado since the state houses 29 kinds of snakes, 19 kinds of lizards, and more. Here are some common ones you may see.
1. Common Collared Lizard
The common collared lizard is one of the most common and recognizable lizards in Colorado. These lizards are found around Saddlehorn Campground, in the Devil’s Kitchen, and the canyons.
You can easily distinguish this lizard by looking at its brightly colored scales and two black lines around its neck. These scales are usually bright green with yellow, blueish, brown, olive, and tan scales.
2. Garter Snake
Being one of the more common snakes in Colorado, there are four kinds of garter snake in the state:
- Black-necked garter snake
- Plains garter snake
- Western terrestrial garter snake
- Common garter snake
Ironically, the most common snake in Colorado is not the common garter snake. The most common is the western terrestrial garter snake!
3. Lesser Earless Lizard
The lesser earless lizard is a small lizard found in southern Colorado. They prefer semi-arid to arid regions where there are open spaces and minimal vegetation.
4. Many-Lined Skink
The many-lined skink can easily be found in Colorado, specifically in eastern and southern Colorado. Skinks look like snakes with legs, and most many-lined skinks have alternating dark and light stripes on their bodies.
5. Long-Nosed Snake
Long-nosed snakes are seen in the southeastern corner of Colorado. While they are fairly common, they are hard to see because they like to burrow and are mostly active at night.
The Most Common Fish In Colorado
As stated, Colorado is home to a lot of rivers, which many species of fish have made their home, such as:
1. Yellow Perch
The yellow perch is one of the most common fish found in almost all of Colorado’s rivers. As you can guess from the name, the yellow perch has yellow and gold scales with 6-8 olive-green stripes on their sides.
Similar to the yellow perch, bass can be found in many of the water sources of Colorado. Some species of bass in Colorado include:
- White Bass
- Smallmouth Bass
- Largemouth Bass
- Striped Bass
- Spotted Bass
Like the bass, trout are also plentiful in Colorado’s rivers. There are even more species of trout in Colorado as well, and some examples are:
- Tiger Trout
- Splake Grayling Lake Trout
- Rainbow Trout
- Golden Trout
- Brook Trout
- Brown Trout
- Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout
- Colorado Cutthroat Trout
4. Kokanee Salmon
Unique to Colorado, the Kokanee Salmon is a special kind of salmon found in the state water sources. Unlike other types of salmon, the Kokanee salmon will spend their whole lives within a landlocked freshwater system.
5. Green Sunfish
One of the only two sunfish in Colorado is the green sunfish, which is a stocky fish with green scales and black stripes on its sides. You can find green sunfish in impoundments and streams.
How To Act Around Wild Animals In Colorado
No matter where you are, it is generally best to keep a fair amount of distance between yourself and a wild animal. You do not want to tempt them to run after you and attack you.
Ideally, you should stay at least 20-25 yards away from most wildlife. However, you may need to stay as far as 100 yards away from larger animals.
For instance, a mountain lion is one of the largest predators in Colorado that could stalk you if you are not careful. You need to stay very far away from them.
If you are close to an animal, you can slowly back away from the animal until you are out of its sight. This precautionary method will work for most types of animals.
For larger and more dangerous predatory animals like the mountain lion, you would have to make yourself appear larger and speak loudly to make yourself seem more threatening. Of course, you will still be backing away slowly, but you should not run or crouch.
To learn more about what to do if you see a mountain lion, check out our other article Are Mountain Lions Dangerous?
Endangered Species In Colorado
While Colorado is lush with wildlife, there are still some species that are endangered, and here are a few examples:
- Boreal Toad
- Gray Wolf
- Black-Footed Ferret
- Kit Fox
- Razorback Sucker
Extinct Animals That Used To Live In Colorado
Other than prehistoric animals like Plesiosaurs and Uintatheres, there are no extinct animals that were recently extinct in Colorado.
Instead, there have been two instances where two species that were thought to be extinct were revived!
For instance, the Greenback cutthroat trout was believed to be extinct since the 1930s because of mining pollution, competition from other animals, and overfishing. However, the fish was found naturally reproducing in Colorado waters in 2022!
The second is the lynx since all the lynx native to Colorado were wiped out in the 1970s. Lynx from other states were brought into Colorado in 1999 as part of a program to bring back the lynx population in Colorado, which was deemed a success in 2010!
Places In Colorado To Spot Wild Animals
Hoping to see some wild animals in their natural habitat? Here are a few places you can visit to view animals in Colorado.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most common tourist spots, and it is a great place to look at wild animals. Some animals you can expect to see are elk, moose, coyotes, pikas, various birds, and more.
Colorado Birding Trail
For people who are die-hard fans of birds, the Colorado Birding Trail is the place to be. These are a network of trails that will guide you to see over 400 species of birds, such as pinyon jays, snow geese, and prairie chickens.
State Forest State Park
If you want to stay in your car, you can visit the State Forest State Park. There are a variety of animals that you can see year-round during your drives, such as black bears, eagles, and foxes. You are sure to run into a moose since there are over 600 moose in the State Forest State Park.
Zoos In Colorado
Hoping to see a wide array of animals in one place? Here are some great zoos you can visit while you are in Colorado:
Perhaps one of the most popular zoos in Colorado, Denver Zoo is a great place for everyone to visit. You can see more than 450 species of animals thanks to the over 3,000 animal inhabitants in the zoo.
Denver Downtown Aquarium
If you are more interested in marine life, you ought to check out Denver Downtown Aquarium. Other than having over 500 species of marine life, you can see the 50,000-gallon centerpiece aquarium, next to which you can ideally have lunch or dinner.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary
The Wild Animal Sanctuary spans over 700 acres and is home to over 460 animals. While that may not be as many as the other zoo and aquarium mentioned, The Wild Animal Sanctuary is worth visiting.
They care about animals because they specialize in caring for and rescuing large predators like bears, lions, and tigers.
Author: Allison Marie Dinglasan
Hello! I am Allison, an avid writer for 6 years with a deep interest in animals since I was a child. I grew up on Animal Planet and animal books and often did rescue work for stray and sickly cats, dogs, and birds in my area, which led to over 60 rescues. My future goal is to be a veterinarian to have a more hands-on approach to helping and learning about animals!