Estes Park and RMNP offer outstanding opportunities for wildlife viewing. Bobcats, mountain lions and porcupines are well established in the Estes Park area but not easily spotted during the day. The ultimate wildlife watching experience is viewing animals’ behavior without disturbing their normal activities.
Following a few simple guidelines will increase your chances of a “good look”:
- Try to blend with the landscape by wearing natural colors and walking softly. It helps if you’re as free of added scent as possible as well.
- Stay on the sidelines, using binoculars or telephoto lenses to avoid crowding your subject.
- Move slowly, act uninterested, avoid staring. Animals can detect tension and, if you try to sneak up on them, they’ll interpret your behavior as that of a predator and run.
- Please do not feed the wildlife. Feeding produces a dependence on unnatural foods not healthy for survival in the wild. What’s more, it’s illegal.
Fall, winter and spring are the best seasons for wildlife watching. Elk observed at a distance on the tundra in summer are frequent visitors in town during the winter. In the fall, elk and bighorn sheep ruts produce spectacular sights and sounds. In spring, deer and elk sport new sets of velvet-covered antlers.
Wildlife Watching Tips: Your car serves as a good “blind” for watching wildlife, protecting you and the animals from one another. Pull all the way off the road, turn off the motor and the lights. Keep young children and pets quiet and inside the car. Don’t trespass on private property and, when in the national park or national forest, observe posted signs.
Photo Tips: Respect the safety and welfare of your subject, aiming for photos of calm, dignified, unstressed animals. Morning and afternoon light are best, with the sun at your back. If you don’t have a telephoto lens, show the animal in its natural surroundings rather than trying to move in too close. You could lose the shot altogether by spooking the subject.