Walking the tranquil paved paths at the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center in Pueblo, it is not uncommon to see an osprey swiftly dive into the Arkansas River to catch a fish.
Lizards scamper and scurry across the cement trails, dodging oncoming cyclists.
Mule deer, often with fawns in the fall, can be seen munching on shrubs and grass while keeping a close on eye on passersby.
Mallard ducks and ducklings take their daily swim in the cool waters of the river, while a crane uses its long legs to wade in shallow waters along the river’s banks.
All this can be seen at just one location in Southern Colorado.
Colorado is home to some of North America’s most amazing wildlife. From black bears to Sandhill cranes to bull snakes, Southern Colorado is home to a wealth of beautiful creatures.
Here’s a look at some of the wildlife you can see throughout Southern Colorado.
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Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep can be found just west of Canon City
Colorado’s state mammal, the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, live on steep cliffs throughout the state’s mountains.
The mammals are the largest species of sheep in North America, and can be found throughout Colorado. These sheep can often be seen scaling the steep, rocky red cliffs of Bighorn Sheep Canyon west of Canon City.
Bighorn sheep are visible during their mating season or “rut” between July and December each year.
A ewe usually gives birth to one lamb a year, and while mating season can last several months, bighorn are most seen in the late fall or early winter.
During this time, rams often compete for mates and will battle other rams with their large horns.
The largest, strongest and most mature rams often win these battles in which they charge, shove and lock horns with competitors. The size of a male’s horns are believed to determine “rank” among a herd.
The majestic, cliff scaling animals were named Colorado’s state mammal on May 1, 1961, and have remained atop the list of travelers’ must-see wildlife since then.
— Colorado Outdoors Magazine
The birds of prey that call Southern Colorado home
Southern Colorado is home to several species of hawks, eagles, owls, osprey, falcons, vultures and herring.
Nine Hawks call Colorado home: red-tailed Hawks; sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, broad-winged hawk, Northern Goshawk, common nighthawk, rough-legged hawk, Swanson’s hawk and the Ferruginous hawk.
Golden eagles and American bald eagles are also native to Colorado, with golden eagles the most commonly seen of the two raptors in the Centennial State.
Ospreys—often called sea hawks or river hawks, which are not actually hawks—are found living near many waterways and rivers in Southern Colorado.
A stroll through Pueblo’s Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center during the spring and summer months will often present hikers several opportunities to spot the black and white raptor.
Peregrine falcons and kestrels are two falcon species commonly found in Colorado. The kestrel is a jay-sized, bluish falcon while Peregrine falcons are large raptors known for their intelligence and cunning hunting abilities.
Barn owls and great horned owls call Southeastern Colorado home, while turkey vultures and western harriers can also be seen throughout the plains and mountainous regions of the southeast.
No matter what terrain, or what area of Southeastern Colorado you travel, birds of prey are easily seen throughout the region.
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Southern Colorado offers visitors many birding opportunities
More than 400 species of birds call Colorado home.
The state’s bird; the lark bunting, gray jays, black-capped chickadees, mourning doves, Northern flickers and downy woodpeckers are just a few of the species that can be viewed in Southern Colorado.
The Centennial State is also home to various species of hummingbirds including the broad-tailed and Rufous hummingbird species.
The Comanche Trail in Baca and Las Animas counties; the Pikes Peak Trail in Colorado Springs; the Plover Trail east of Pueblo; the Spanish Peaks Trail south of Pueblo; and the Pronghorn Trail east of Pueblo are all considered to be excellent birding trails in the region.
Sandhill cranes often migrate through Colorado each year, bringing more than 20,000 birds to the San Luis Valley region each spring and fall.
The Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area and Great Sand Dunes National Park offer some of the best places to see these majestic, long-legged birds.
— National Parks Service; Coloradobirdingtrail.com; birdwatchinghq.com
American black bear can be seen in some parts of Southern Colorado — at a safe distance
Bears are no stranger to Southern Colorado, with the largest concentration of American black bears seemingly found from Walsenburg to Trinidad, east of the San Luis Valley.
Black bears are seen in a variety of colors including blonde, brown or reddish-brown. Black bears hibernate through the winter months, usually venturing out with cubs in April and May of each year. Females typically have two cubs per year.
Male black bears weigh between 126 and 551 pounds, while females weigh between 90 and 375 pounds. On their hind legs, black bears can stand anywhere from 3-to-7 feet tall.
The species is known for having great dexterity. Often bears can unscrew lids to jars, can easily open trash cans that aren’t bear-proofed and are adept climbers.
While watching bears from a safe distance can be a fun summertime activity in Southern Colorado, it is best to do so by using binoculars.
It is advised that you should not feed bears, nor attempt to pet a wild bear or its cubs.
When visiting areas where bears may likely be found, it’s best to keep food stored appropriately. It is said bears can smell up to five miles away.
— Colorado Parks and Wildlife
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Other animals that can be seen in Southern Colorado
Southern Colorado is home to various species of deer, elk and antelope.
Coyotes and bobcats can be seen throughout Southern Colorado.
Beavers can be found throughout lakes, rivers and streams throughout the region.
Mountain Lions live near mountainous areas of Southern Colorado, but like bears, sometimes venture into more residential areas when food is scarce.
It is important to respect wildlife while visiting Southern Colorado, both for your safety and that of the animals.
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Luke Lyons is the news director of The Pueblo Chieftain. He can be reached at LLyons@chieftain.com.