FC: Colorado Wildlife By: Lori A. Plank
1: One of Colorado's most majestic animals is the elk. They are incredibly beautiful to watch and the sounds that come from the bulls is indescribable but so thrilling to see and hear up close. Roger and I have been blessed with many of these opportunities. Colorado is so rich in various animals and the elk is one of our favorites. The older, mature bulls have an antler growth that is nothing short of spectacular. One thing that makes it so amazing is that they grow new racks each and every year. This happens over a period of months - just in time for the rut where they will strut their stuff to attract as many females as possible to mate and further the species. Bull elk bugle - a high pitched sound that doesn't seem possible coming out of such a large animal. It travels quite a distance and the sound is beyond words. They use it to let others know where they are but also to let the other bulls know they are strong and powerful and not to mess with them. Or perhaps, as boys - they are issuing a challenge to the others to spur on the fights.
6: Rocky Mountain National Park is a major site for elk. We travel there a few times a year to see them and to explore the park. The East side is better for elk but the West side has shown to be a great spot for moose - one of my top animals in Colorado. The moose are much harder to find and because of that, so exciting to see.
8: The moose is larger than the elk and may not be as majestic but I still find them beautiful. Ok, they aren't "pretty" with that big nose but they are truly one of my favorite animals. I remember my first sighting, he was incredible - large rack, long legs, just so impressive and I was forever hooked.
10: Mom and young calf
11: The moose seem to always be eating. You can watch them for hours and the mouth is in constant motion. Their head will be in the willows, stripping the plants of much needed nutrition.
14: The big horn sheep is another magnificent animal. So broad and powerful and those horns, wow! Both males and females have horns but the males will grow and curl and are simply incredible where the female just keeps a small spike - sometimes making it difficult to tell a female from a young male. (The difference in horns and antlers is that the horns are permanent - not shed yearly as are the antlers.) Roger and I were driving along highway 50, outside of Canon City when I spotted my very first big horn sheep. I got so exited and yelled for Roger to stop. He did and we parked and got out to just sit and watch. They were across the river, grazing on the hillside, paying no attention to us at all. There is something so moving about seeing a "wild" animal for the first time in it's natural habitat. The sheep are incredibly agile, moving along the rocky hillside with ease.
20: As I said, Colorado is rich in wildlife and another incredible creature is the mountain goat. We were told to drive to the top of Mount Evans and wait - they will come. This is so very true. The drive to the top is beautiful, the vistas are just magnificent and when you do get to see the goats - WOW! The babies or kids, are the cutest little things. You just want to pick them up and cuddle - but you can't or so Roger keeps telling me. They look like little stuffed animals, so soft and fuzzy. They live so high up in elevation that they don't have many natural predators so aren't too wary of humans and you can get relatively close. Not too close, as they are so adept at climbing the rocky cliffs, we are no match. We have been so fortunate in our quest to see the animals. Sometimes they are extremely far away but when luck is on your side, they are mere feet away from you.
26: This young goat in a field of wild flowers. What a great way to let us know spring is here!
28: Then there are times when luck is truly on your side and you are able to witness life if the wild first hand, We were on our way to Eleven Mile Reservoir when I spotted this fox. Roger backed down a dirt road so I was able to take his picture out the window. We thought sure he'd spook, but he was on a mission.
32: Mission accomplished!
33: Colorado is a wonderful place to live, so much to see and do and we try to take advantage of that as often as possible. Roger and I enjoy the outdoors and all it has to offer. Well, maybe not all, but a lot! We will continue to explore this great land and hopefully will continue to be rewarded with new critters and new adventures. There is so much wildlife we have not seen in the wilds of Colorado but we will keep trying. Our next mission is to try and get pictures of the wild cats - bobcat, lynx and mountain lion. We know they are there but they are without a doubt the most difficult to spot. Who knows how many times WE have been spotted by them? Here's to Colorado - may we always appreciate what lies before us!