Before the Ute, before the miners, ranchers or socialites, there were others here. In fact many still are here. They can be seen standing quietly in dewy meadows, or dashing across roads and trails. Sometimes they can be found rummaging in the trash or peering silently out from burrows. They are, of course, the wildlife of the White River National Forest, and they are an integral aspect of the wonder of life in Aspen and Snowmass Village.
The fleeting summer months are some of the best times to observe these original inhabitants. However, with all wildlife precautions and common sense must be used. Never feed a wild animal; do not approach wild animals. If an animal appears aggressive, back away slowly – do not run. Take the time to review appropriate safety precautions at trailheads and follow trail restrictions to the letter. When respected and given their space, encountering some of these animals can be a wonderful and memorable experience.
Most famous, or perhaps infamous due to their sometimes-unfortunate encounters with humans, is the Black Bear. These American Black Bears are territorial. A large animal, ranging from 125 – 550 pounds, however the Black Bear moves quickly and gracefully despite their size, up to 25 and 30 miles an hour. Because they can be aggressive, proper food storage and disposal are essential to the happy cohabitation of bears and man. From a distance, seeing a wild bear in his or her own environment is a beautiful sight. Rolling in the grass or scampering about in the brush, Black Bears are playful and adorable animals.
The Bighorn Sheep, although shy and elusive, are truly magnificent creatures. Their beautiful curled horns, and graceful ability to navigate steep terrain, make these enormous beasts, averaging 300lbs, an incredible sight to behold. They are one of the most difficult residents to spot, but a Bighorn spotting is a remarkable and unforgettable experience.
Mountain lions call the White River National Forest home as well. Although deeply feared, the cougar is rarely seen. Their primary prey is deer and big horn sheep. Agile and large, between 115lbs to 198lbs, the mountain lion does not like humans and tends to avoid them. However, when hiking or biking in Mountain Lion territory, be sure to have a buddy and stay together.
Elk and Mule Deer are two of the most common animal encounters in the Aspen and Snowmass Village area. Elk, a species of deer, have large antlers and a distinctive call. The largest Elk herd in North America resides within the Aspen area. Mule Deer also roam the White River Forest have large mule-like ears along with a bounding leap. These creatures are serene and timid, but lovely to encounter.
Of course there are rabbits and mice, birds of all types, and many, many other wildlife inhabitants in the Aspen/Snowmass Village area. Aspenites work hard to co-habitat with their wildlife neighbors, recognizing that their presence is part of what makes Aspen and Snowmass Village extraordinary. Very few places on earth are left in which wildlife remains part of everyday existence. The bird singing outside the window, a rabbit leaping through the wildflowers, a deer standing calmly staring as you pass by. This proximity to nature is calming, soothing, giving perspective to other aspects of life. These chance encounters define life in Aspen and Snowmass Village.