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June 17, 2016

Wildlife of Colorado

Mountain Lions

The Colorado Mountain Lion is part of the cougar family and is one of the largest feline groups in North and South America.  Cougars are also known as puma, panther, and catamount depending on region and coloration, and range from the Canadian Yukon to the Andes of South America.

Though it’s most closely related to the smaller felines, including the domestic house cat, Mountain Lions are one of Colorado’s main predators.  Their primary food sources have traditionally been deer with the occasional smattering of livestock, but as neighborhoods collide with habitat, more and more family pets fall prey to this fierce creature.It’s rare to actually catch a glimpse of Mountain Lions in the wild, however, it’s recommended you keep smaller animals and young children quite close when hiking in the back country.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has one of the best Mountain Lion Exhibits in North America and gives you a great up-close look as these beautiful creatures.

Black Bears

black bearThe black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America.  It’s the smallest and most widely distributed bear species on the continent.  They are omnivores and are particularly drawn to fruiting trees and bushes.

During the summer, it’s not uncommon to see black bears roaming through local neighborhoods looking for leftovers.  If you were wondering why Coloradans have their trash locked down tighter than their mountain bikes, it’s because of these guys!

For the most part, our black bears will leave you alone as long as you give them a healthy distance, UNLESS you get between the mama and her cubs.  Mama bears really do live up their reputation!  Look for them lounging in the taller trees during the day, and keep an eye out for those moving shadows after dusk.

Manitou Springs is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the black bear after dark.

Deer

Visitors to the area are often surprised just how common it is to see deer here.  They are so pervasive, one of the most common conversations at the local gardening nursery is how to keep them from treating your garden as their personal salad bar.  Keep a sharp eye out while driving, particularly in the mountains and on the westside of town.  They are terrible jaywalkers and can put a real damper on your vacation should they decide to cross against the light!

One common question we hear, in varying forms, is about their relation to elk.  Though they belong to the same family, Cervidae, along with moose and reindeer, they are in fact different species.  They do not become elk at a certain elevation or age. (We’re completely serious. It really is a common question.)

You can see deer all over Colorado, but the Garden of the Gods makes a great backdrop!

Jackalope

jackalopeThe Colorado Jackalope is almost as elusive as Big Foot, and has for many years been the Colorado equivalent to snipe hunting.

Many legends have been told about the jackalope all over the world and appear as early as the 13th century.  They have been known as tricksters, are reported to be very aggressive and dangerous, and have a predilection for whiskey — like any good western legend should.

Jackalope trophies can seen and procured at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post.

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