Native Wildlife in Colorado: A Complete Guide

Updated: December 1, 2022
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Colorado may be most known for having some of the most towering peaks in the Rocky Mountains, but the Denver Museum of Natural History has identified eight distinct ecosystems within the state that vary from grasslands and forest to wetlands and semi-desert shrub-lands that evoke the deserts of neighboring New Mexico.

The native wildlife here is as diverse as the ecosystems. There are roughly 750 invertebrate species who call Colorado home — and that includes large grazers like the bison and bighorn sheep as well as vicious predators like mountain lions and bears. From the Rocky Mountains all the way down to the grasslands, these wild frontiers allow for very diverse ecosystems to flourish.

The Official Animal of Colorado

Colorado’s official animal is understandably an animal that’s emblematic of the Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep was declared the national animal in 1961. These sociable creatures only exist in the Rockies, but they’ve unfortunately been reduced to endangered status thanks to their appeal to big game hunters.

Colorado’s state bird was actually declared 30 years before the state animal. The lark bunting is migratory and can be widely seen throughout the state from April until September. They call both the plains of Colorado and elevations of up to 8,000 feet their home.

Where To Find The Top Wild Animals in Colorado

Fitting its diverse variety of ecosystems, Colorado is home to some excellent camping and houses 42 state parks and four national parks — while each of them is beautiful in its own right, there are a few that are worthy of particular spotlight.

Wild Animals in Colorado

The wildlife of Colorado is similar to the wildlife found in many other Mountain States like Montana and Wyoming. The most notable large herbivores are the bighorn sheep, elk, bison, and moose. Major predators in these ecosystems include mountain lions, black bears, and foxes.

Small creatures constitute some of the most critical wildlife in many Colorado ecosystems. Prairie dogs are considered a keystone species because the tunnels they dig are used by roughly 150 different animals. The beaver plays a similarly critical role in Colorado’s wetlands ecosystems — and they’re becoming an increasingly common sight in urban areas as well.

The Most Dangerous Animals In Colorado Today

  • Mountain goats are relatively common sights in the mountains — and while they’re not predators, they’ve been known to gore hikers with their horns when they feel threatened.
  • Black bears also don’t actively pursue humans, but they’re known for being aggressive if they feel like their cubs are being threatened.
  • Mountain lions are one of the rarer predators, but they’ve been spotted all over the state. Encountering them out on a hiking trail isn’t uncommon, but there were only 25 Colorado mountain lion attacks documented between 2000 and 2021.

Endangered Animals In Colorado

Colorado is home to multiple endangered species. Big game like the bighorn sheep and bison were once endangered but are now recovering. Some of the most notable endangered wildlife include:

  • Black-footed ferret: The only federally endangered mammal in Colorado, they rely on prairie dogs for both housing and food.
  • Humpback chub: Native to the Colorado River, they’ve adapted to survive incredibly turbulent currents.
  • Wolverine: It’s strange to see a wolverine in Colorado, and they were once believed to be extinct in the state. One of the rarest native species, it’s believed that as many as 100 might be surviving in the state unnoticed.
  • Kit fox: A strange native species of fox most notable for its small frame and strange, deep set eyes.

Zoos in Colorado

Notable Colorado zoos include:

Read about:

Coloradan Animals


Allosaurus is the official state fossil of Utah because of the abundant number of fossils found in the state.

Arctic Char

Arctic char is the northern-most fish; no other fish lives anywhere further north!


They are so named because they "march" in armies of worms from one crop to another in search of food


Palentologists originally believed that brachiosaurus lived in the water, but they lived on land.

Burrowing Owl

The burrowing owl lives in underground burrows

California Kingsnake

A full-grown California kingsnake can be about 3.5 feet long, though there are some cases in Mexico of the snake being almost twice this size.

Cinnamon Bear

A newborn cinnamon bear weighs 1/2 pound -- about the same as a large apple.

Common Yellowthroat

The Common Yellowthroat stays close to the ground and uses stealth to survive!


Their long tales could have been used as a whip!

Eastern Fence Lizard

Females are usually larger than males.

Eastern Woodrat

The eastern woodrat mating ritual involves a potentially deadly fight between the male and female before reproduction begins!


Adult fleas can jump up to 7 inches in the air

Gopher Snake

Gopher snakes can reach up to 9 feet long.

Harris Hawk

Their vision is eight times better than a human's

Kangaroo Mouse

The Kangaroo Mouse is a tiny mouse that stands and hops around on its hind legs, much like a kangaroo.

Kit Fox

The kit fox is the smallest canid in North America.


The name “Massasauga” comes from the Chippewa language, meaning “Great River Mouth”.


They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.

Midget Faded Rattlesnake

They're also called horseshoe rattlesnakes thanks to the shape of their markings.

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males


The owl can rotate its head some 270 degrees

Plains Hognose Snake

The plains hognose snake gets its name from the upturned end of its snout.

Polyphemus moth

The Polyphemus moth doesn’t eat.

Rat Snakes

Rat snakes are constrictors from the Colubridae family of snakes.


Will mate with the entire flock!

Smokybrown Cockroach

Has up to 45 eggs per egg case

Texas Night Snake

The Texas night snake has vertical pupils to help it see better at night.

Western Tanager

They migrate farther north than any other tanager.

Coloradan Animals List

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About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

Native Wildlife in Colorado: A Complete Guide FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What rattlesnakes are in Colorado?

Colorado is home to four types of rattlesnakes. While in the state you may see desert massasaugas, western massasaugas, prairie rattlesnakes, and midget faded rattlesnakes.

What kind of animals are in Colorado?

Eagles, bighorn sheep, garter snakes, and pika call the mountains home — while big game like elk and bison roam the valleys and forests at the foot of the Rockies. Beavers call the wetlands home along with a variety of birds and amphibians.

What is the most rare animal in Colorado?

The black-footed ferret is the most endangered mammal in Colorado because of a combination of disease and a drop in the population of prairie dogs. That’s because the ferrets rely on these rodents for both shelter and as a source of food.

What mammals are found in Colorado?

All kinds of mammals call Colorado home. The sub-desert region includes rodents like prairie dogs and predators like coyotes, while you’ll find mammals like elk and bison throughout the plains and forests. Bighorn sheep, black bears, and cougars all become more common as you rise in elevation through the Rocky Mountains.

What wildlife lives in Colorado mountains?

Bighorn sheep are the most iconic — and surprisingly among the most dangerous — animals in the Rocky Mountains, but they’re joined by dangerous predators like the black bear and mountain lion as well as the strange creature known as the pika.

What other states are the Rocky Mountains in?

Other than Colorado, the Rocky Mountains are found in the states of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico and Utah.