Discover The 8 Largest Animals In Colorado, and Where You’ll Find Them

Written by Volia Nikaci
Updated: December 12, 2022
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Colorado exemplifies so much of what is characteristic of the wild west in America. In fact, Colorado has a wide range of species that inhabit its eastern plains and the Rocky Mountains, making it a state with a diverse range of wildlife. This state’s uniqueness lies in its many national wildlife refuges, public lands, state parks, and national parks. In North America, you won’t find many places with such easy access to wildlife. Are you curious about what kind of amazing wildlife lives in this state? Let’s discover the 8 largest animals in Colorado and where you can find them.

1. Elk

boiling river yellowstone
Colorado’s elk population is the largest in the world, with more than 280,000 animals.

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The number of elk in North America was fewer than 40,000 in the early 1900s. Despite this, there have been incredible conservation efforts over the past few decades. In the past few years, Colorado has become one of the largest elk populations in the world, with more than 280,000 elk located in the state. An adult Rocky Mountain bull elk typically weighs between 660 and 780 pounds at the hoof, and comparatively, a mature cow weighs about 500 to 600 pounds. In Colorado, the largest elk herds occur west of the Continental Divide, where the elk range is the most diverse. To see these amazing animals up close, you should check out Rocky Mountain National Park.

2. Colorado Bighorn Sheep

Male bighorn sheep ram with large horns on a cliff.
Colorado made the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep its state animal on May 1, 1961.

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Bighorn sheep are known for their enormous horns. Their horns were the reason for their name, after all. The average bighorn sheep weighs 160 to 250 pounds (73 to 113 kilograms), but larger males can weigh more than 350 pounds (159 kilograms) and stand 40 inches (102 centimeters) tall. Rocky Mountain bighorns, however, are relatively large, with males exceeding 230 kg (500 lb) and females exceeding 90 kg (200 lb). Colorado’s mountain ranges are home to bighorn sheep. The Rocky Mountain National Park area is home to about 300-400 bighorn sheep. So your best bet to see one of the largest animals in Colorado is to explore the Rocky Mountain National Park.

3. Black Bear

Black Bear Population by State
American black bears are closely related to Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus)

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Despite being among the smallest bears in the United States, black bears are the largest animals in Colorado. They can weigh up to 600 pounds for males and 200 pounds for females. The average black bear can stand tall at five feet on its back legs and walk on all fours at three feet. The black bear inhabits most of the forested areas in Colorado, including the Rocky Mountains. There are also several along the banks of rivers and even in otherwise sparsely forested regions, such as the San Luis Valley and the Great Plains. Although black bears aren’t known to attack unprovoked, it is best not to get too close!

4. Moose 

What do moose eat
A mature Colorado moose weighs 1,000 pounds and can run 35 mph.

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The moose is an enormous animal, and it’s undeniable. In Colorado, the Shiras moose (Alces alces shirasi) is the largest big game animal, weighing between 800 and 1,200 pounds as an adult. It is not uncommon for bulls to stand up to six feet at the shoulder. You’ll have to climb high to see these majestic animals, and a higher altitude is usually the best place to find them. The west side of Rocky Mountain National Park and State Forest State Park are great places to spot them.

5. Coyote

How and Where Do Coyotes Sleep - Coyote Resting
It has always been common for coyotes to roam around the Front Range of Colorado because they are native to the midwestern prairies.

©sumikophoto/Shutterstock.com

Although coyotes are one of the smaller animals on our list, that doesn’t mean they can’t pose a threat. It is not uncommon for coyotes to grow from three to four feet long and weigh from 20 to 50 pounds. A coyote can run faster than humans over short distances since we average 28 miles per hour, and Coyotes typically travel at 40 mph. Unlike in urban areas, coyotes can roam freely in wild sanctuaries such as Rocky Mountain National Park. It is common to find them roaming the Front Range of Colorado and the midwest prairies.

6. Mountain Lion

Cougar or Mountain lion (Puma concolor) walking in the winter snow
 It is estimated that there are between 3,000 and 7,000 mountain lions in Colorado.

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A mountain lion also called a cougar, panther, or puma, is found only in the Western Hemisphere. Among cats, the mountain lion is one of the largest animals in Colorado, second only to the Jaguar in North America. There is a difference in size and weight between male and female mountain lions, with males being larger and heavier. It is not uncommon for adult males to exceed 8 feet in length and weigh 150 pounds on average. An adult female can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh 90 pounds. You can find this powerful lion in much of Colorado, but they are primarily found along the Front Range.

7. Mule Deer

Mule deer are a North American species, so they are well adapted to the western environment in which they live.

As a hoofed mammal with antlers, mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) belong to the Cervidae family along with elk, moose, and caribou. Mule deer habitat is extensive in Colorado, and mule deer numbers here are among the highest in the country. In terms of size, the Mule Deer is slightly larger than the White-Tailed Deer. They are estimated to stand at three feet or more at the shoulders and weigh between 100 and 300 pounds. Some buck species can weigh as much as 350 pounds or even more. Compared to a large buck, females are smaller, about half the size of one. In the northwest part of Colorado, in particular, a large herd of mule deer can be seen quite frequently.

8. Colorado Bison

Bearded Animals
Colorado once had a large population of bison roaming its land. In the present day, they can only be found living in managed herds.

©iStock.com/Jillian Cooper

Bison were once one of the largest animals in Colorado that roamed all across the land. Grasslands are necessary, which is why they populated the area so much. The late 1800s saw these animals nearly wiped out by unknown diseases and widespread overhunting by white European settlers. It’s interesting to note that no mammals are larger than bison in North America. The male bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and stand 6 feet tall. Meanwhile, the female bison can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and reach a height of 4-5 feet. There are several conservation herds in Colorado today, such as those at Genesee Park and Daniels Park.

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The Featured Image

Largest Land Animal in North America - American bison walking and looking for food in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.
American bison walking and looking for food in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.
© jack-sooksan/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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