A couple of weeks ago, a young bull moose wandered onto our campus. Most of the staff and instructors were delighted as we tracked the moose’s journey around campus. It got me thinking about the chance circumstances of seeing wildlife. It’s a fairly rare occasion when we take students on hikes because of the loudness of a gaggle of duckling children following one another in a line. But I know they’re still out there. All in all, how lucky are we when we see a unique animal in the wild?
While reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, I came across this quote, “According to a wildlife census by an ecologist at the University of Illinois named V. E. Shelford, a typical ten-square-mile block of eastern American forest holds almost 300,000 mammals—220,000 mice and other small rodents, 63,500 squirrels and chipmunks, 470 deer, 30 foxes, and 5 black bears.”
So what is the ratio like in Colorado? Here are some of my very amateur calculations based on 2013 population estimates from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. In a typical ten-square-mile (10 miles by 10 miles) block of Colorado forest there are:
4 mountain goats
18 Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
Based on these numbers it seems amazing that we don’t run into animals more often! So walk softly and keep your eyes open to see some truly fantastic creatures.