Vail Colorado Wildlife, Animals



Wildlife is abundant in the Rocky Mountain region around Vail, with magnificent opportunities to see elk, bighorn sheep, black bears and mountain goats in their natural environment.

Around Vail, Colorado, you’ll find a picturesque mountain location, the ideal place to spot some large animals wandering through the forests and over the craggy cliffs. It’s an excellent spot to experience the blessings of nature.


Around Vail you’ll find the Rocky Mountain Elk, one of the subspecies of elk. They eat plants, grasses, leaves and bark and are twice as heavy as other species of deer. They average around 500 pounds and stand 4 ½ feet at the shoulder.

  • Elk, when they migrate, can create havoc with the environment, eating from the aspen groves and snacking on the plants that butterflies need for survival.
  • Best Place for Viewing Elk: In the winter you will spot elk in the open forests and in summer they will be found in subalpine forestland and alpine basins.

Bighorn Sheep

These gentle creatures are a species of sheep in North America that can weigh up to 300 pounds, the horns alone weighing up to 30 pounds.

  • Originally entering the Americas from Siberia via the Bering land bridge, the population in North America was at one time in the millions. These sheep also entered into Native American mythology.
  • Best Place for Viewing Bighorn Sheep: Since bighorn sheep love steep terrain, you’ll find them in large herds up on rocky cliffs and outcroppings at high altitudes where their predators can’t reach them.

Black Bears

Black bears, the most common species of bear in North America, weigh up to 325 pounds and can run up to 30 miles an hour. They are highly dexterous and can open screw-top jars and door latches.

  • It’s the black bear that was the inspiration for our children’s Teddy Bear and famous Winnie the Pooh.
  • Best Place for Viewing Black Bears: The best place to go to see bears roaming is the dense forests where there are few inhabitants.

Mountain Goats

These goats have dense wool undercoats that protect them from the elements, and with their beards and long black horns they are clearly recognizable in the Rocky Mountain surrounds.

  • When kids are born, they weigh around seven pounds and start running and climbing within hours of birth. They are weaned within a month, but stick with their mother for a full year.
  • Best Place for Viewing Mountain Goats: Look to rocky cliffs and sandstone bluffs at high elevations to find this sure-footed climber.

Respecting Wildlife

To show your respect for the wildlife you see around Vail (and stay safe), follow these simple rules:

  • Never approach wildlife but watch them from afar. Use binoculars if needed. Stay at least 100 yards distant.
  • Always store any food in your possession in bear-proof containers.
  • If a wild animal shows an interest in you, face them but back away slowly. Then change your route.
  • Take bear repellant with you when in bear country.

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