A Guide to Animals in Rocky Mountain National Park

Here at Rams Horn Village Resort, our back yard is Rocky Mountain National Park. And alongside being just minutes from one of the most beautiful national treasures, we’re also smack dab in the middle of a habitat that numerous majestic mountain animals love to call home. Throughout Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and Estes Park, you can find moose, bears, elk, bighorn sheep, bobcats, mountain lions, deer, coyotes, marmots, pikas, and numerous birds. Here are some of the creatures that you might see on your visit:

Moose

Massive moose aren’t an uncommon site around RMNP. Moose feed on grasses and aquatic plants throughout Rocky Mountain National Park, which means that you can often find them near rivers, lakes and wetlands. You’re likely to find a moose trudging through willow thickets near the Kawuneeche Valley—which is on the eastern side of the park. Moose can also be found throughout the lowlands of RMNP, and, on occasion, you might even find a moose moseying through Estes Park.

Take note, if you do encounter a moose while you’re out on the trail, be very cautious. Do not approach the moose. Moose can attack, especially if they feel that they are in danger or if they think their young is in danger. Emergency Essentials outlines other safety tips that you can follow to stay safe near moose.

Bears

Although bears are more rare than many of the other animals that you’ll find throughout the park, you may be able to spot one if you’re lucky! Black bears tend to live in inaccessible areas throughout the Rocky Mountains, where they prefer to live in thick vegetation. Black bears consume tree nuts, although they have also been known to find and consume trash. If you’re camping in the area, be sure to store your food properly. Use food storage lockers, bear-resistant containers, or hang your food at least 10 feet up a tree and 4 feet out on a limb.

The National Park Service tells us what to do if you do encounter a bear:

“Never approach a bear. Keep children beside you. There is more safety in numbers; it is best to travel in a close group. If a bear approaches you, stand up tall, and make loud noises: shout, clap hands, clang pots and pans. When done immediately, these actions have been successful in scaring them away. However, if attacked, fight back! Never try and retrieve anything once a bear has it. Report all incidents to a park ranger.”

Be cautious if you encounter a bear, and make sure that you’re safe before you reach for your camera.

Elk

Elk can be seen all throughout the park, and it’s very likely that you’ll see a lots elk while you’re visiting. Elk can be seen at the top of the Continental Divide, as well as in the valley near the entrance to the park, and everywhere in between. Elk bulls are most active during the “rut”—or mating season—which happens during fall and early winter. Often, you hear hear elk bulls bugling during the rut, especially in the early evening. After the rut, usually during summer months, elk shed their antlers and begin growing new antlers for the next season.

Rockymountainnationalpark.com again notes that guests to RMNP should take caution and keep plenty of distance from elk. Here are their guidelines:

“Please remember that wildlife are the natives in this area and that we are the visitors! Wildlife are very keen on “personal space.” In other words, they’re happier if you keep your distance. […] Bring your binoculars or telephoto lens to get a close-up view of these majestic creatures. If your presence causes the elk to move away, then you are too close. Within the park, you may be cited for harassment of wildlife if your actions affect the behavior of an animal in any way.”

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep can be spotted throughout the park, and they favor steep granite slopes, as well as grassy valleys including Sheeps Lake in RMNP. These agile creatures are most often sighted in and around Horseshoe Park, which is near the western entrance of the park. Bighorn sheep are most active in October and November, when males butt heads during the rut. During the winter months, bighorn sheep are attracted to warm, south-facing slopes throughout the park. Bighorn sheep love to consume sprouting grass and shrubs in the spring, which makes them more visible if you’re traveling along Trail Ridge Road.

Bobcats & Mountain Lions

Mountain lions and bobcats are considered common in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, they’re still rarely seen since they’re so elusive. Mountain lions are predatory and often feed on deer throughout the park. As such they’re an important part of the ecosystem, and they help to balance the population of deer.

Once again, the National Park Service outlines what to do if you do encounter a mountain lion:

“Never approach a mountain lion especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation. Always give them a way to escape. Don’t run. Stay calm. Hold your ground or back away slowly. Face the lion and stand upright. Do all you can to appear larger. Grab a stick. Raise your arms. If you have small children with you, pick them up. If the lion behaves aggressively, wave your arms, shout and throw objects at it. The goal is to convince it that you are not prey and may be dangerous yourself. If attacked, fight back! Generally, mountain lions are calm, quiet, and elusive. The chance of being attacked by a mountain lion is quite low compared to many other natural hazards. There is, for example, a far greater risk of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a mountain lion. Report all incidents to a park ranger.”

Deer

While you can see deer all over the country, deer are especially prevalent throughout RMNP. Keep an eye out for young, spotted fawns in the spring.

Be especially wary of deer crossing the roads around the park and throughout Estes!

Coyotes

Coyotes also call Rocky Mountain National Park their home. Coyotes can be seen traveling in packs in order to stock their prey. Like mountain lions, coyotes help to control the deer population. They also consume rodents, fish, and birds throughout the park.

Marmots

Marmot live at high altitudes, and they can be seen even in the Rocky Mountain tundra above treeline. Marmots thrive on even sparse greenery, and they can consume tundra grasses, lichen, flowers, and roots. Marmots can also root through trash or steal food from people.

It’s best not to feed marmots, since they may carry disease. Park authorities warn us: “Plague is endemic to the park and there have been outbreaks here in the past. This disease is transmitted by fleas from infected rodents especially ground squirrels. Do not feed or approach ground squirrels or other small mammals.”

Pikas

These cute little creatures also live at high altitudes throughout the Rockies. As herbivores, pika seek out grasses, lichen, moss, sticks, and flowers. They’re known to stow food in a burrow to wait out the winter.

Birds

Rocky Mountain National Park is a birder’s paradise. Along with eagles and hawks, you can also spot woodpeckers, owls, and much more. In fact, there are 260+ bird species that have been sited in RMNP. On that list, you’ll find beautiful birds, including magnificent hummingbirds (yes, that’s their name!), red-headed woodpeckers, nighthawks, great horned owls, Williamson’s sapsuckers, white-tailed ptarmigan, and bald eagles. You can see a full list of birds that you can find on the park’s Birds Of Rocky Mountain National Park page.

 

 


Join Us at Rams Horn!

If you love animals, sightseeing, and the Rockies, there’s no better place to stay than Rams Horn Village Resort. We provide luxury cabin rentals, and we’re conveniently located just minutes away from Estes Park, as well as Rocky Mountain National Park. If you’d like to make a reservation, check availability today! You can also learn more about Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park while you’re here!