Prime Natural Areas for Wildlife Viewing
Looking for a great place to see wildlife? These 5 natural areas are highlighted because of the amount and variety of wildlife use. Use the Natural Areas Map (pdf) to find your way. When watching wildlife, remember to be respectful; if the creature changes its behavior, you are too close.
Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area
Key Habitats: Shortgrass prairie, wetlands.
Look for: Prairie dogs which support bald eagles and hawks, especially in the winter. The raptor observation building, off Shields Street is a bird blind, so its a great place to see raptors. You may also see horned lizards, ground-nesting songbirds, butterflies, rabbits, coyotes and foxes. Mountain lions are occasionally sighted. Rattlesnakes are common and abundant. If you see a rattlesnake, remain calm. Rattlesnakes are not aggressive. Give it lots of space and walk around the snake or wait for it to move away. See Coping With Snakes Fact Sheet from Colorado State University Extention.
Cottonwood Hollow Natural Area
Key Habitats: Previously mined gravel ponds designed with a gradual shoreline, wetlands.
Look for: Abundant waterfowl are attracted to the gradual shoreline and abundant wetland plants. You might see a high diversity of birds including red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds, egrets, herons, sandpipers, pelicans and killdeer. Also look for warblers, kingbirds and song sparrows which nest in the uplands. Other wildlife includes painted turtles, foxes, muskrats, and both mule deer and white-tailed deer.
Bobcat Ridge Natural Area
Key Habitats: Grasslands, foothill shrublands, ponderosa pine forest.
Look for: Significant species such as elk, deer, black bear, mountain lion, black-tailed prairie dog, golden eagle, grasshopper sparrow, and black-chinned hummingbird. You may see wild turkeys or bobcat too. The Moss’s elfin butterfly and Townsend’s big-eared bat are state-listed species of concern that are found at Bobcat Ridge.
Pineridge Natural Area
Key Habitats: Shortgrass prairie, foothills shrubland, ponderosa pine forest, Dixon Reservoir and associated riparian forest.
Look for: The variety of habitat here makes it rich with wildlife, in fact, over 150 bird species have been seen here. The reservoir supports migrant waterfowl and other waterbirds. Pelicans, ospreys, and bald eagles may be seen. Mature cottonwoods and willows provide habitat for migrant songbirds, including vireos and warblers. Red-tailed hawks nest in the pines. Mule deer are common in the forest, especially in winter. A variety of small mammals are found here including prairie dogs. Elk and mountain lions are occasionally sighted.
Soapstone Prairie Natural Area
Key Habitats: Nearly pristine shortgrass prairie, foothills shrubland.
Look for: Pronghorn, elk and deer. The rare swift fox lives here, although a glimpse is rare. Mountain lions, bobcats and bears have been sighted. Soapstone Prairie supports many grassland bird species, including: burrowing owl, mountain plover, McCown’s longspur, chestnut-collared longspur, long-billed curlew, horned lark, lark bunting, grasshopper sparrow, and loggerhead shrike. Birds of prey include raptors such as eagles, hawks and falcons, as well as owls and harriers. Nesting birds of prey on Soapstone Prairie include golden eagle, ferruginous hawk, Swainson’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, prairie falcon and American kestrel.