It's difficult to keep track of all the different animals that live in Summit County, so here's a list and description of which ones to look for when you're passing through Colorado.
Colorado is nature's playground, with a great diversity of habitat and terrain, supporting creatures big and small in an incredibly delicate balance.
Visitors come to these nature reserves and protected lands, hoping to get the chance to see some of the beautiful creatures that call it home. Even a short walk in the woods will uncover definitive signs of life in the forest, although you may never see the creatures that made them.
Here is a list of some of the more famous animals to be found in Summit County. Some, like the elk and deer, are readily seen. However, the lynx and lion, among others, are difficult to find - and even harder to photograph!
- Black Bear
After the disappearance of the grizzly bear, the black bear reigns supreme as the largest of Colorado's carnivores. They can be found in the forest and meadows of the mountains around Summit County.
- Mountain Lion
Also called a cougar, puma, panther, or a catamount, this impressive animals hunts deer and other prey. Sightings do happen, but you're more likely to hear their distinctive, long-range scream.
The lynx is a large cat that disappeared from Summit County in the early 1970's, only to be successfully reintroduced in 1999, among considerable controversy. Their footprints are all most visitors get to see.
- Bighorn Sheep
As Colorado's state mammal, the bighorn sheep is plentiful, preferring the high, steep mountainside to provide protection from predators. The rams have distinctive horns that coil and curl, forming nearly 10% of their body weight.
Also called wapiti, the elk is the largest deer natively found in Colorado. These large animals can be seen in the forests and meadows of the mountains.
Colorado has both mule deer and white-tails, occupying a habitat that often overlaps with residential areas. So you may get to see one of these mammals while sipping your morning coffee!
This impressive species were introduced in 1978 and 1979, and have expanded their territory considerably. Their number are still small in Summit County, but look for them in forest wetlands.
- Mountain Goat
Artificially introduced in 1947 to develop hunting opportunities, mountain goats compete directly with the bighorn sheep, often pushing herds away from prime habitat. They are popular around Quandary Peak, an excellent day hike outside Breckenridge.
These rodents are incredibly influential in their habitat. Their ponds provide wetlands for many other species, so keep a lookout for the dams and dens that they build from the surrounding forests.
- Snowshoe Hare
You're more likely to see their prints crossing new snow, but it's definite evidence that these rabbit-like creatures are living among us!
Birds of Prey
- Bald Eagle
As the United States' national symbol, North America's second-largest bird of prey is found along the rivers of Colorado, high up in the trees, so keep an eye out for their distinct white head.
- Golden Eagle
These impressive birds live higher in the mountains than the bald eagle, where their small and medium-sized prey tend to live.
- Great Horned Owl
These nocturnal hunters can be found throughout the state, with their large eyes and tufts of feathers marking their "horns."
- Peregrine Falcon
This species of bird may be the fastest creature on earth, swooping in on their prey at over 200mph! Keep an eye out for these falcons around cliffs and bluffs overlooking water.