Denver’s Animal Magnetism

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Written by Cassidy Barnes posted on Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

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Denver Zoo polar bear cub. Courtesy Stan Obert for Visit Denver.

Denver Zoo polar bear cub. Courtesy Stan Obert for Visit Denver.

Denver area wildlife viewing opportunities

DENVER, Colorado ( – In Denver, there are a handful of opportunities for wildlife viewing right in downtown Denver and just a little beyond. You can stop in at the Denver Zoo to see the wildlife or you can go exploring and see the local wild animals. For more on the city, itself, see our Denver video guide.

The Denver Zoo has all of the requisite wildlife: zebras, giraffes, lions, polar bears, penguins, flamingoes and a whole lot more. The Zoo has been upgrading many of the animal enclosures to look more natural and less…enclosed. Visitors can even interact with the lorakeet birds in one exhibit and monkeys swing overhead in the trees in another spot. Visits can be scheduled to observe some animals’ feeding times – such as the seals and penguins – when they are most visible and animated.

If the zoo is too tame, go about 10 miles northeast of downtown Denver to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. This one time chemical weapons facility is home to over 300 species, many of them native to the Colorado Plains. On the bus tour you will likely see a buffalo herd, deer, eagles, coyotes and a variety of migratory birds.

To see more birds at your own pace or from a boat, a bit further east of downtown Denver is Barr Lake, part of the Colorado State Parks system. Depending on the time of year that you visit, chances are good you will see white pelicans, cormorants, great blue herons, hawks and bald eagles. Back on land there are often deer, fox and coyotes spied.

But to really get up close and personal with wildlife, the deer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the foothills of Boulder are always around for a quick snapshot. Given the popularity of the trails with hikers and mountain bikers, the deer have become accustomed to people, so please don’t feed the animals even if they seem friendly. Be warned that mountain lions and bears have also been seen around these trails.

To get your wildlife viewing fix, you never have to drive more than 30 minutes from downtown Denver.

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