Wildlife in Chaffee & Summit County
When people visit Colorado they often think of beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery, the country’s best rafting adventures & charming mountain towns. Very often visitors reach out to us and ask us if there is a chance to see wildlife around here!
Besides spectacular views of mountains and gnarly whitewater on the Arkansas River, the Arkansas Valley and Summit County has a lot to offer when it comes to wildlife. In a geographical location that includes everything from desert characteristics to thick pine forests surrounded by towering mountains, many different animal species call these locations home.
What Wildlife Can I See?
Some of these sly creatures may be hard to spot but for others, it would be considered uncommon if you were unable to view them during a visit. However, some encounters can be almost guaranteed to make your Rocky Mountain experience complete!
Probably the most common sighting of animal species in the area is Mule Deer. You can easily identify these deer by their abnormally large, mule-like ears. It is almost hard sometimes to classify these animals as wildlife because they will literally join you walking down the sidewalk in Buena Vista. Some of the locals get somewhat annoyed with these creatures because they’ll come in and eat whatever is in your garden. On the plus side, they do provide some great photo opportunities. In Summit County, the deer are found more in the wilderness and tend to stay away from town.
One of the most exciting animals to spot in the area would definitely be a moose casually strolling around. These animals aren’t as easily spotted as the mule deer in Buena Vista but do stroll through Frisco and Breckenridge fairly often at certain times of the year. It is highly recommended that you admire their beauty but respect their distance. While it is very unlikely a moose may charge you, they are known to for being very territorial and it is better to just play it safe. These creatures are very amazing to experience first hand and their beauty is something everyone should strive to seek at some point in their lives.
Black Bears aren’t seen as often as the other animals but don’t let that fool you, they are still very prevalent in the area. These wild animals can be found anywhere in the Colorado forests but can sometimes become a problem in town. They can get into trash cans and do some damage. Most male Black Bears weigh in around 275 pounds but can get up to a reported 450 pounds. Females generally hang around 175 pounds but can be as mean as a full-grown male if she feels like you’re a threat to her cubs. Overall, these animals are very cool to observe but you have to respect them. Just remember to always keep food tied up when camping to avoid any close encounters.
It is always exciting to view grazing elk in an open pasture or even be lucky enough to have a closer and more personal encounter. At certain times and locations, large numbers of elk can join together to form large herds. The excitement of that can easily be matched by having a close encounter with a big bull (male) elk. The beauty and size of these creatures is hard to match. Always remember to respect the distance of these animals and try not to interfere with their daily travels.
Mountain lions are very rarely seen in the area but do have a decent number in population. Like many say, if you do see a mountain lion, they usually want you to see them and that’s when you need to beware. These large cats move around mostly at night and are very good at being slick and staying out of sight. If you were to spot one of these creatures, hopefully it is from a good distance away. Experts say if ever confronted by a mountain lion to stand straight up, back away slowly (never turn your back on the lion), and make yourself appear as large as possible to intimidate the animal. This can be done by raising your arms or joining as a single unit with people you are near.
Bighorn Sheep are another rare animal to see but their presence is well known by the locals in the area. These animals are so majestic in their nature and they’re such a pleasure to observe if you are lucky enough to see one. You can classify these creatures by their distinct curled horns. As an adult, these animals average a weight of 150 pounds and hold so much strength and power. Consider yourself extremely fortunate if you ever see a couple of these powerful animals in a head-butting contest.
It has been reported by many people that they have seen some Bighorn’s when rafting Browns Canyon with The Adventure Company!