In my last post I introduced my new project in which I am setting out to photograph the mammals of Colorado in the wild. I would now like to share with you my official list of the 70 species of mammals I hope to photograph:
Order Didelphimorphia: Opossums and Kin
- Virginia Opossum – Dihelphis virginiana
Order Cingulata: Armadillos
- Nine-banded Armadillo – Dasypus novemcinctus
Order Primates: Monkeys, Apse and Kin
- Humankind – Homo sapiens
Order Rodentia: Rodents
- Cliff Chipmunk – Neotamias dorsalis
- Least Chipmunk – Neotamias minimus
- Colorado Chipmunk – Neotamias quadrivittatus
- Hopi Chipmunk – Neotamias rufus
- Uinta Chipmunk – Neotamias umbrinus
- Yellow-bellied Marmot – Marmota flaviventris
- White-tailed Antelope Squirrel – Ammospermophilus leucurus
- Rock Squirrel – Otospermophilus variegatus
- Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel – Callospermophilus lateralis
- Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel – Ictidomys tridecemlineatus
- Franklin’s Ground Squirrel – Poliocitellus franklinii
- Spotted Ground Squirrel – Xerospermophilus spilosoma
- Wyoming Ground Squirrel – Urocitellus elegans
- Gunnison’s Prairie Dog – Cynomys gunnisoni
- White-tailed Prairie Dog – Cynomys leucurus
- Black-tailed Prairie Dog – Cynomys ludovicianus
- Abert’s Squirrel – Sciurus aberti
- Fox Squirrel- Sciurus niger
- Pine Squirrel – Tamiasciurus hudsonicus
- Northern Flying Squirrel – Glaucomys sabrinus
- American Beaver – Castor canadensis
- Common Muskrat – Ondatra zibethicus
- North American Porcupine – Erethizon dorsatum
Order Lagomorpha: Pikas, Rabbits, and Hares
- American Pika – Ochotoma princeps
- Desert Cottontail – Sylvilagus audubonii
- Eastern Cottontail – Sylvillagus floridanus
- Mountain Cottontail – Sylvilagus nuttallii
- Snowshoe Hare – Lepus americanus
- Black-tailed Jackrabbit – Lepus californicus
- White-tailed Jackrabbit – Lepus townsendii
Order Carnivora: Carnivores
- Mountain Lion – Puma Concolor
- Canada Lynx – Lynx canadensis
- Bobcat – Lynx rufus
- Coyote – Canis latrans
- Gray Wolf – Canis lupus
- Kit Fox – Vulpes macrotis
- Swift Fox – Vulpes velox
- Red Fox – Vulpes vulpes
- Common Gray Fox – Urocyon cinereoargenteus
- American Black Bear – Ursus americanus
- Grizzly Bear – Ursus arctos
- American Marten – Martes americana
- Fisher – Martes pennanti
- Short-tailed Weasel – Mustela erminea
- Long-tailed Weasel – Mustela frenata
- Black-footed Ferret – Mustela nigripes
- Least Weasel – Mustela nivalis
- American Mink – Neovison vison
- Wolverine – Gulo gulo
- American Badger – Taxidea taxus
- Northern River Otter – Lontra canadensis
- Western Spotted Skunk – Spilogale gracilis
- Eastern Spotted Skunk – Spilogale putorius
- Striped Skunk – Mephitis mephitis
- White-backed Hog-nosed Skunk – Conepatus leuconotus
- Ringtail – Bassariscus astutus
- Northern Raccoon – Procyon lotor
Order Perissodactyla: Odd-toed Hoofed Mammals
- Feral Horse – Equus caballus
Order Artiodactyla: Even-toed Hoofed Mammals
- American Elk – Cervus canadensis
- Mule Deer – Odocoileus hemionus
- White-tailed Deer – Odocoileus virginianus
- Moose – Alces alces
- Pronghorn – Antilocapra americanus
- Bison – Bison Bison
- Mountain Goat – Oreamnos americanus
- Bighorn Sheep – Ovis canadensis
- Feral Pig – Sus scrofa
Source: Armstrong, D., J. Fitzgerald, C. Meaney. Mammals of Colorado. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2011.
Fortunately the clouds broke last night and we were able to get a glimpse of the solar eclipse from Boulder, Colorado. My wife and I watched it from the top of the parking structure at Boulder Comminity Hospital on Foothills. That turned out to be a great vantage point and we even had a little awning to keep the cameras dry when a small cloudburst rain moved through. I shot a few photos with a supertelephoto lens on my D7000 using the LiveView feature so I didn’t damage my eyes (looking straight at the sun through a 500mm lens is not a good idea).
We rigged a pinhole camera out of my Tachihara 4×5 view camera with some gaffer tape and aluminum foil. It worked really well for viewing, but I didn’t take any photos with it.
I would like to make a somewhat formal announcement of my latest photography project. I’m nicknaming it the Colorado Critter Challenge. I wanted to do something to share the diversity of wildlife found in our state and that also to challenge and expand my skills as a wildlife photographer.
I am endeavoring to observe and photograph every species of mammal native to Colorado – in the wild and on Colorado soil. That’s the basic idea, anyway.
I am going to lay down a couple of caveats:
First, I’m skipping over the mice, rats, and bats. I don’t want to get hantavirus or rabies and even the expects can’t decide what delineates a distinct species (Preble’s Jumping Mouse, anyone?).
Second, some of these critters are going to be nearly impossible to photograph in the wild in the state of Colorado. Species such as the grizzly bear, wolverine, and wolf, long ago considered extirpated (locally extinct). Odds are that I will not find them but this is about the journey just as much as the destination. We’ll go looking for them and learn what we can along the way.
I’ve taken my list from the book Mammals of Colorado by David M. Armstrong, James P. Fitzgerald, and Carron A. Meaney, the definitive text of it’s kind. In total my list contains 70 species.
I hope you’ll join me on my quest and follow me here on my blog. In my next post I’ll be introducing the official species list for my project.
Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous stretch of highway in the United States, opened on Monday. This was the earliest the road has been opened in a decade. There is still lingering snow, but absolutely nothing like last year.
I recently spent a morning in Rocky Mountain National Park with Jared Gricoskie of Yellow Wood Guiding. Last spring my wife and I joined Jared for a field seminar through the Rocky Mountain Nature Association where we learned about Beavers. We had a great time and learned so much. I’ve since run into Jared around the park on many mornings and this winter I made plans to photograph sheep with him in April.
Normally, April is an excellent time to see Bighorn Sheep at the lower elevations in Rocky Mountain National Park, but this year has been anything but normal. Since the sheep have already moved to higher elevations and also since I’d had the good luck to spend some quality time with some rams in Roosevelt National Forest earlier in the season we picked an alternate plan – owls!
My wife and I had a great time – she especially loves owls! We saw quite a few other species throughout the day, including Wild Turkey, Mountain Bluebirds, plenty of Elk, Mule Deer, a Coyote, Mountain Cottontail, Wyoming Ground Squirrels, Pine Squirrels, Chipmunks, and even a few Bighorn Sheep (ewes)! If you are visiting Rocky Mountain National Park and want to learn more about the ecology of the park, have the best chance of seeing critters, and get some great photography tips to boot, Jared is your guy!
When you think of wildlife in Colorado you might think of bull elk bugling amidst quaking aspen, or maybe even pronghorn and mule deer grazing on the short grass prairie. Regardless, I’m willing to bet that one critter you haven’t considered is the turtle!
There are five species of turtle native to Colorado. Four of them are aquatic; the Western Painted Turtle, Snapping Turtle, Yellow Mud Turtle, and the Spiny Softshell Turtle. The sole terrestrial turtle is the Ornate Box Turtle.
Western Painted Turtle
The Western Painted Turtle is the most common of the Colorado turtles and happens to be the Colorado State Reptile. They are easy to identify and can frequently be seen on logs or rocks in wetland areas.
The Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) can be up to 20″ in shell diameter and is equipped with a pair of sharp and very strong jaws. It has a rough, jagged shell and a long tail that looks a bit like an alligator tail. They can be seen swimming in ponds or lakes and also crossing roads in the springtime when they may travel several hundred yards from water to nest. It should be pretty obvious that this turtle is capable of inflicting a nasty bite so don’t try to pick one up unless you know what you are doing. Watch for the tail cutting through the water as the Snapping Turtle swims just beneath the surface.
Yellow Mud Turtle
Spiny Softshell Turtle
Ornate Box Turtle
I have not yet observed or photographed these species in Colorado. They are found mostly along the eastern margin of Colorado. If you are interested in learning more about these species, visit the Colorado Division of Wildlife Nautural Diversity Information Source page about turtles.