Southwest Colorado Wildlife

Southwest Colorado Wildlife

Southwest Colorado, a part of the four corners region, is known for the majestic mountains and high country alpine forests. As humans, we get to enjoy these sights and areas through hiking, biking, and other activities. However, and more importantly, this area is home to rich and diverse wildlife. From elusive predators to common mammals, the wildlife of this area adds depth and beauty to its already stunning landscapes.


Common Durango Wildlife

Nestled within the expansive wilderness of Southwest Colorado, a part of the Rocky Mountains and many wilderness areas, locals and visitors can encounter an array of wildlife species. The most common non-domesticated mammal in Durango are mule deer. Sunbathing in the backyard or crossing the streets, these deer generally travel in groups and can be found just about anywhere. One of the most iconic residents is the larger and slightly lesser seen: elk. Their large antlers and distinct call accompany these creatures as they roam the forests and meadows, including those in the Animas Valley.

Big horn sheep in Southwest Colorado

If you’re lucky, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and moose can also be seen, although they generally live at high elevations (towards Silverton, CO) and tend to be more private animals. These species thriving on rugged mountain terrain, and you might be able to catch a glimpse of them on a hike or while backpacking the Colorado Trail.


Predators and Prey

Southwest Colorado is inhabited by a diverse range of predators. Among them, the elusive mountain lion stands out. Stealthy and solitary, these cats play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance within their habitats. More wild cats, lynx and bobcats, are very similar in looks and scarceness. 


Other predators found in Southwest Colorado are in the dog family: wolves and coyote. Their howls are sometimes heard echoing, adding to the allure. Foxes are a bit smaller than coyotes but usually sport their stereotypical reddish brown coloring. Colorado is home to black bears whose name can be misleading. Ranging in color from golden to brown and black, these bears can act aggressively but mainly feed on fruit, insects, honey, while occasionally preying on young deer or other small mammals. 

Marmot in the mountains near Durango, CO

On the opposite side of the food chain, smaller mammals like marmots and prairie dogs can be found in the area. Also a part of the rodent family, there are many species of mice including the white-footed mouse, deer mouse, and pinyon mouse. The mice can be a nuisance to your home; it is important to watch for signs of rodent activity, and employ measures to prevent future intrusion.  Chipmunks and squirrels are very common and seen intown as well as in the forests. 



Southwest Colorado offers a paradise of avian diversity as it serves as a crucial migratory route for numerous bird species. Year round, raptors like red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, and our national bird - the bald eagle - can be spotted. A variety of owls including burrowing owls, barn owls, and the great horned owl are also native to Southwest Colorado. Common ravens, magpies, and doves are frequent fliers. Seasonally, colorful songbirds like chickadees, robins, and finches visit.. Wild turkey roam the area as well, identified by the male’s distinct red wattles and fanned tail displays. Other winged creatures like bats, quail, and hummingbirds are a great addition to our skies.

Bald eagle spotted in Colorado

Additionally, our area boasts several rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs that attract waterfowl such as ducks, Canada geese, and great blue herons. 


Water Animals

Our water resources benefit waterfowl, act as a crucial watering hole, and provide year-round homes for some animals. Of course fish are found in the local waters with trout, pike, and salmon are among the most common.. Frogs, toads, and salamanders are all amphibians that share the water with larger animals like beavers whose dams give away their location. River otters were reintroduced to the Western Slope and conservationists say they are readjusting, repopulating, and spreading out across Colorado well.


Conservation & Safety

Habitat loss, climate change, and human-wildlife conflicts are among the threats facing many species in the region, nation, and world. However, there are many conservation efforts led by agencies and local organizations to protect and preserve these animals.


Hunting and fishing play a large role in these ecosystems. Colorado Parks & Wildlife requires licenses for both of these activities to limit the impact on the wildlife annually. Hunting and fishing on private land also requires a state license.


From the peaks of the San Juan Mountains to the tranquil valleys carved by the Animas River, Durango and Southwest Colorado offer a true haven for wildlife. Whether you're an avid nature enthusiast or simply seeking a retreat in the outdoors, learning about and exploring the different  ecology of this region is sure to exceed your expectations. Please do not hesitate to contact The Durango Team for more Colorado information.

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