Mammals of The Nature Place...
“Lions, tigers, and bears, Oh my!” Yes, well two of the three live here in Florissant, Colorado less the tigers. The Nature Place Conference Center and Outdoor Education Center is teeming with wildlife. From the highest level of the food chain as far as mountain predators exist, to the smallest alpine field mice and chipmunks, our Colorado ranch and retreat center is inhabited by many mammals native to the Rocky Mountains.
Black Bears ‘might be’ sighted on the ranch from April through October. These curious animals are attracted to our human impact as a result of the food waste we create during our peak season. A keen sense of smell is hard to keep these persistent bears away, despite the increase in ranch activity through the seasons. It is difficult to resist many of the sweet and savory scents our kitchens offer while we are hosting summer campers and guests.
Elk roam through our ranch meadows regularly. They are the most majestic of our woodland mammals on property, whether viewed individually or grazing as a herd. We are most likely to come into contact with them in the Spring and Fall months when they are in the rut. Once the females have calved they make their way to higher elevations to remain cool and graze on the grasses of alpine meadows for the summer. The dominant male bucks either stay with the herd or head off independently, and oftentimes can be found fraternizing with other bucks in lower woodland valleys.
Mule Deer are our casual neighbors, who are a constant visual reminder of wildlife present through the ranch. They may surprise you on a walk or you might observe them from afar while taking in an evening sunset. As daily grazers, don’t mind them while they enjoy the native grasses, or occasional wild flowers.
Coyotes are seldom seen, but more often heard howling through the nearby valleys of the ranch. Their raucous howls typically ring out in hours shortly after dusk or early morning times. During daylight hours, coyotes on property are seen traveling alone away from their dens, or rarely seen at all escaping the heat.
Abert’s Squirrels are maybe the most unique woodland animal that inhabits the Ponderosa forests of Florissant. Named for the American naturalist, John James Abert, this squirrel is distinguished by pointed tufts on its ears, and dark gray to black fur colorings. These squirrels call the high canopies of Ponderosa Pines home nibbling on the budding pine cones, bark, and forest fungi.
Beavers and Badgers are not often seen noteworthy to be aware of while exploring Florissant and nearby areas. Beavers live in our drainages and delicate valley lowlands. They are not often seen on the ranch property however are in the areas west of Florissant in the Pikes Peak and South Platte regions.
To be clear, Mountain Lions are present in the Pikes Peak region and local Florissant Valley. They are not spotted often, yet make their presence known with the remains of meals past; bones strewn about, carcasses in trees, and fur from scuffles with other animals. While perception remains predominantly negative, spotting a mountain lion should be revered as a cautiously majestic experience. Respect the animal’s space, maintaining an enclosed safe distance from the mountain lion. The mountain lions on our property are usually passing through and keep to themselves. Most sightings have come from vehicles in transit, while the lion was also on the move and moving extremely fast at that. It is rare that a mountain lion will engage with livestock or a larger herd of elk. Big cats prey on smaller mammals from mule deer to cow elk, in turn keeping these growing populations in check. These large feline creatures are cunningly stealthy and more likely than not catch their prey while isolated away from dense populations. Despite their perceived stealthy existence, these predators are integral to regulating the natural mountain ecosystem.
Our mammal species are beloved and we hope that we will continue to coexist with them in the best symbiotic way possible as stewards of over 6,000 acres of Rocky Mountain forest land.