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Colorado Winter Wildlife Spotting

We partnered up with talented illustrator Todd Telander and Colorado State Parks & Wildlife to showcase some of the amazing wildlife that can be spotted (if you're lucky) around the state this winter.


Lagopus leucurus

This small ptarmigan goes through a dramatic molt each year to remain camouflaged in every season. Well adapted feet for walking, the completely feathered feet and toes of ptarmigans act as snowshoes and insulation for walking in snowy conditions. Colorado is the most southern portion of the range and they can be found in rocky and tundra areas of the mountains.


Cervus canadensis

Male elk grow and shed their antlers each year, while females and juvenile animals do not have antlers. Elk are a light brown with a distinctly darker brown neck and head. The best time to spot elk is at dawn and dusk, however, keeping a respectful distance will ensure you and the animal stay safe.


Oreamnos americanus

Covered in white fur with short black horns, mountain goats blend into the rocky slopes of mountaintops perfectly and usually do not venture below tree line. A native species of Colorado, the Mountain goat was reintroduced to parts of the Collegiate Peaks, Gore Range, San Juan Mountains and West Elk Mountains in the 1950’s-1970’s.


Bubo virginianus

The Great Horned Owl is one of the most widespread owls, found throughout North America in wooded areas. This large nocturnal predator sits on perches and hunts for mammals as large as rabbits using its excellent night-vision, hearing and sharp talons to catch its prey.  


Nucifraga columbiana

Clark’s Nutcracker is gray all over, except a black bill, legs and feet and black and white wings and central tail feathers. Birders can find these birds west of the Front Range in coniferous forests.


Lepus americanus

Found from 8,000-11,500 feet in elevation in the Rocky Mountains, these medium-sized hares go through a dramatic change in their appearance from summer to winter. During the summer they are brown with a white belly and black-tipped ears and during the fall they molt to become all white (except the black-tipped ears).


Falco sparverius

Very adept at hovering in place when hunting for a variety of small prey items (insects, small mammals, birds and reptiles) the American Kestrel can also hunt from a perch or fence. Kestrels do not build nests but rather use the hollows made by Northern Flickers for their nests.


Bassariscus astutus

The Ringtail is an under-studied small mammal inhabiting rocky canyons, piñon-juniper woodlands and montane shrublands in the southern part of Eastern Colorado as well as much of the Rockies and Western half of the state.


Sitta carolinensis-

Nuthatches will cache food in tree trunk crevices for the winter. Dead trees provide excellent habitat for nesting cavities and they have been known to frequent human-placed bird feeders.


Sciurus aberti

Abert’s Squirrels nest in ponderosa pine trees, so look for them in open montane forests during the day all along the Front Range and in the Southwestern part of the state. These squirrels are active year round so even in the winter you can spot them feeding on the twigs of ponderosa pine; discarded twigs at the base of a tree are a sign they are in the area.


Pipilo maculatus

This beautifully-patterned songbird is often found rustling through leaf litter in dense forest floors in search of insects using a method called the “double-scratch” to move leaves out of the way. Year round, you can find this solitary bird through the state; however, they tend to move to the plains and lower elevations during winter.


Vulpes macrotis

The Kit Fox is a Colorado endangered species and is extremely rare to spot here. The most western part of Colorado is considered the most easterly portion of the range of this small mammal. Kit foxes prefer semi-arid shrubland and mostly hunt for small mammals at night.


Melanerpes lewis

Found in the mountains year-round, they move to lower elevations during the winter in search of food, and prefer open areas as opposed to heavily wooded areas.

About Todd Telander

While earning degrees in Environmental Studies and Biology, Todd Telander discovered he was happiest when his coursework took him out of the classroom, particularly when he was sketching birds, plants and insects as part of his journal.

Telander recognized his calling as a science illustrator after enrolling in a natural science illustration program at his university.

His freelance work took off, eventually landing him work with clients on a national and international level. Telander provided highly-rendered and scientifically-accurate ink drawings and paintings for the likes of museums, aquariums, zoos, field guides and other books.

After moving to Boulder, Telander explored impressionism, surrealism and abstraction, noting artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, Claude Monet and Mark Rothko as influences.

He also spent time in Denver at the Art Student League where he first explored figure drawing and plein air painting.

Telander and his wife now operate The Telander Gallery in downtown Walla Walla, Washington. Telander paints in his home studio, teaches classical painting to community members and offers landscape-painting workshops. In addition to selling existing paintings, he regularly takes on commissions.

Read the whole winter issue of West of 105 for FREE here


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