Wildlife share Ouray with us in exchange for the occasional glimpse.
You don’t have to look very far to see wildlife in Ouray and the surrounding area.There are very few places that remind guests not to feed the animals outside your hotel room door, or to watch the hills as you travel north so as to catch a glimpse of the Bighorn Sheep (more likely, you will wind up sitting in the highway for quite some time as they pose for photos) For a long time, there was an old ewe living in the park, but after several relocation efforts, she and her family finally decided that the grass actually is greener about a mile outside of town off of county road 14.
A few fortunate people have caught sight of moose as they travelled different four wheel drive trails in the summer, and Silverton actually has frequent updates on Moose sightings around the area. Elk do not come into town as often as they once did, but just a few miles north can still be seen in small numbers grazing in the open fields by the cemetery. And of course, the photo of the elk standing on the steps of the Elks Lodge years ago is not a hoax, but was once a common occurrence.
The town deer seem to have figured out that they are safest here in the city limits, especially during hunting season. Jack is a huge buck who has made a backyard on Second Street his home for at least six years. He majestically swaggers about town with a full sense of entitlement, safe in the knowledge that no one will harm him. The old floppy eared doe that frequents Second Street is battle scarred and bold. I know we shouldn’t have favorites, but she impresses me. Over the years, she has raised a couple of sets of twins in the field across the street from the Box Canyon Lodge.
The little red fox who lives by the hot springs tubs is quite a bit more shy, but in the evenings can be seen scurrying from here to there, and I have even seen him running across the street with a field mouse or rabbit in his mouth. There is a Lynx living on the north side of town that has been glimpsed a few times, but it is almost as shy as the mountain lions and wolves in the area.
The black bear living somewhere near the Box Canyon Park has wandered into town a few times. She and a couple of other young bear made Ouray their personal playground a couple of summers ago, and it almost became the norm to see them at least a few times a week lumbering down the side streets and alleys. Not as often over the past couple of years, thanks to stricter rules regarding garbage disposal, and a more conscious town as a whole.
It’s not that we don’t cherish every time we catch a glimpse of the local wildlife, but part of sharing the land with them is respecting that first of all, these are wild animals; it is not unheard of for even a deer to attack if it feels threatened. Bear have a two strike rule; the second time they are caught in an area inhabited by people, they are put down. Mountain lions have three strikes, and so on. Not to mention, people food is bad for animals. They cannot digest the preservatives we put in our treats; it stays in their stomachs, taking up space, and blocking real food and nutrients from doing their jobs. Even if we aren’t personally feeding them scraps, leaving garbage where it is easily accessible also teaches animals they do not have to work for their food, and reduces their natural fear of us. No one wants to be even partially responsible for one of these beautiful creatures being destroyed.
Birds of every variety make Southwest Colorado home; Jays, Eagles, Swallows, Owls, and the list go on and on. The Box Canyon Waterfall Park is one of the few known nesting sites for the Black Tailed Swift. Flocks of Wild Turkeys can be spotted in fields all over the area, often close to the highway. Bald Eagles nest outside of Ridgway, around the reservoir, and can be seen surveying their territory either on the wing, or still as statues in tree tops close to the water. At a distance, you might mistake one for a falcon or hawk diving from the sky to capture small prey below. Wild geese and ducks form V’s across the skies, and Woodpeckers join the melee of sound with their own recognizable efforts.
Summer at the Box Canyon Lodge is a frenzy of activity as the hummingbirds arrive and feast at the many feeders positioned around the property. A virtual rainbow of wings and crests surround the front office as Black Chinned, Magnificent and Broad Tailed hummingbirds vie for treats. Everywhere you look in and around Ouray, there are creatures beside and above us. And if you don’t happen to actually see something, you can be sure that they are there, just on the other side of that tree or hillside.
Evenings and early mornings, a soak in our all natural hot spring tubs are often shared with at least on or two deer, as they graze and enjoy the warm moist ground near the hot springs.