Estes Park shares the downtown area with an abundant wildlife population. It is very common to see various animals roaming around the village streets alongside out-of-town visitors. The most common wildlife you’ll see downtown is elk. But you also might see beavers, bears, mountain lions, coyotes, mule deer, fox, raccoons, big horn sheep, an occasional lost moose or two. At the Silver Moon Inn elk enjoy grazing next to the river as much as the guests enjoy relaxing there. This shot of a beaver working on an aspen tree was taken on the Silver Moon grounds.
The wildlife of Estes Park can be cute, funny, quiet, regal, placid, curious, and playful. Remember that they also can be territorial, belligerent if provoked, and unpredictable. Try to follow the guidelines below for safe viewing.
Problems arise when visitors do not give the wildlife enough space. Often in their excitement of discovering an animal, viewers get way too close. It is important to remember to keep a very healthy distance between yourself and the animal. This isn’t Disneyland – the animals here are all totally wild. None of the creatures you might come across are tamed or domesticated in any way and therefore can be quite unpredictable.
For the most part if you stay back from an animal, move slowly, speak in hushed tones, and do not make eye contact, the experience will be pleasant for the humans and the critters alike.
If you stop along a roadway to view elk or other wildlife minimize disturbance to the animals by turning off your car engine immediately. Shut car doors quietly and keep conversations to a minimum. Move slowly, don’t make any large gestures. Observe and photograph from a distance that is comfortable for the animal, not what is a good range for your photograph.
If the animal moves away or if their attention is diverted from what they were doing before you arrived, you are too close. Do not assume that an animal with its back to you is not aware of you. Know that the animal is critically watching you too, no matter how nonchalant it may seem as it grazes or lounges.
Wildlife viewing in Estes Park is half of the fun of coming here. Just be smart, careful, and always respectful of the animals.
It is illegal to use artificial lights or calls to view or attract wildlife. Go to http://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm for more useful tips and information.