- Squirrels (Family Sciuridae):
These diurnal rodents are the most visible mammals at Florissant Fossil Beds.
- Least Chipmunk
- 3.5 - 6" body, 3 - 4.5" tail.
Chestnut, yellowish grey to light grey, lighter below. Stripes on
face. Dark stripe down the middle of the back to the tail.
Holds tail straight up when running. Insects make up 50% of a
chipmunk's diet. Additionally, they eat stems, leaves, fruit, and
buds. They can climb, but usually stay close to the ground.
Hibernation occurs in the winter.
- Richardson's Ground Squirrel
- 8 - 10" body, 2 - 4" tail. Solid
golden brown, lighter below. No stripes. Often mistaken for
prairie dogs, these squirrels are smaller and more abundant at the
Monument. These animals eat green vegetation and sometimes
carrion. They have an extensive burrow for shelter and food
storage. Hibernation occurs during winter months.
- Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel
- 6 - 8" body, 2 - 4" tail.
Coppery head, light sides bordered by two black stripes that do not
extend to the head or tail. Tail is gray above and lighter
below. Often mistaken for chipmunks, these ground squirrels eat
fruits, seeds, insects, and meat. They store food and hibernate in
- Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel
- 4 - 7" body, 3 - 5" tail. Light
to dark brown with thirteen stripes on sides and back. No
stripes on the face. Diet includes green vegetation, insects, seeds,
and occasionally meat. These solitary animals hibernate from October
- Abert's Squirrel
- 11 -12" body, 8 - 9" tail. Conspicuous
ear tassels. Usually all black with the Monument. Members
of this species may also be grey or reddish. Also known as the
Tassel-eared Squirrel, diet consists of cones of the ponderosa in the
summer, and inner bark of the tree in winter. They do not store
cones or hibernate.
- Red Squirrel
- 7 - 8" body, 4 - 6" tail.
Greyish brown above, whitish below. Black line along side during
summer. Also known as the Pine Squirrel, diet includes seed, nuts,
eggs, and fungi. These squirrels cache conifer cones. They are
active throughout the year, and are occasionally out after dark.
- Gunnison's Prairie Dog
- 11 - 12" body, 1 - 2" tail.
Brownish yellow back and sides. Whitish below. Tip of the
tail is white. These animals are occasionally seen in the
monument, away from the visitor's center. Diet consists of grasses
and forbs. They live in small colonies in mountain meadows.
They may hibernate in winter.
- Nocturnal Rodents
- Florissant Fossil Beds is home to many other rodents which are not
commonly seen because they are active primarily at night. Deer
Mice are the most abundant mammals in the Rockies. The Northern
Pocket Gopher feeds mostly on roots and lives almost its entire life
underground where may be active both day and night. The Bushy-tailed
Woodrat is known for its habit of hoarding objects, particularly shiny
ones in a large messy nest of sticks and twigs. The Montane Vole feeds
on grasses, seeds, inner bark and insects, but only briefly leaves the
protection of its shelter. Porcupines eat inner bark, leaves,
seeds, grasses. During the day, they sleep in the tops of trees.
- The Beaver is the largest rodent in North
American, with an adult weight of up to 70 pounds. It builds dams of
sticks and mud to slow rivers. It has prominent yellowish front
teeth which it uses for eating bark and twigs, as well as for dam
building. Extra large lungs allow the animal to stay under water
fifteen minutes at a time. It's tail is broad and flat, unlike the
smaller Muskrat which has a long, thin scaly tail. Muskrats
eat aquatic vegetation and can stay under water for up to five minutes.
- Rabbits and Hares
- Members of this family are characterized by the
presence of two upper incisors which are used to clip plants. Nuttall's
cottontail are commonly found around the visitor's center. They
may spend their entire lives on a single acre. The White-tailed
Jackrabbit has very long ears to detect coyotes and other predators in
the grasses. The colors of the Snowshoe Hare vary with the
seasons, changing from brown in summer to white in winter.
- Bats are nocturnal animals and are the only
mammals capable of true flight. They have very poor vision, but are
able to locate prey through "echolocation". This
involves emitting 50 - 60 high pitched calls per second and locating prey
by the echoes of these calls. Bats must eat half their weight in
insects each night to support their high metabolic rate. Although
there have been no studies of bats at the Monument, species which may be
present include the Little Brown Myotis, Big Brown Bat, and Hoary
- Badger and Long-tailed Weasel
- Family Mustelidae. The Badger is
known for its digging ability. It uses its powerful front legs and
1/2 inch claws to dig out food, including small rodents, earthworms, and
snakes. The Badger may also dig itself a hole when threatened.
The Long-tailed Weasel is primarily nocturnal. To obtain
food, it captures a rodent by wrapping its body around the animal and then
kills it by biting the back of the neck. It does not build its own
burrow, but instead takes over the burrow of one of its prey.
- Coyote and Red Fox
- Family Canidae. Coyotes are vocal
animals which are often heard howling at dusk. They are
opportunistic and my actively hunt or feed on carrion, fruits and
berries. The Red Fox eats rodents, rabbits, birds, small reptiles,
insects, and fruit. It may mate for life and remain
monogamous. Because this animal can adapt to a variety of habitats,
it is the most widely distributed carnivore in the world.
- Mountain Lion and Bobcat
- Family Felidae. The Mountain Lion is
secretive and rarely seen. Its excellent sense of smell and sharp
eyes aid the animal in capturing its prey, primarily large animals such as
deer. However, it will also eat smaller animals, including
insects. The Bobcat is the most common wildcat in North
America. It hunts alone, primarily at night. The night vision
of the bobcat is six times as acute as human night vision. Diet
consists of rabbits, rodents, birds, and frogs.
- Black Bear
- Family Ursidae. The Black Bear is
the only bear found in Colorado. The coat may be black, brown or
blond. Black bears are true omnivores, eating a wide variety of
food, including grasses, seeds, berries, fruit, inner bark of trees, eggs,
carrion, rodents, and garbage. They are primarily nocturnal, but can
sometimes be seen during the day. Although they sleep through the
winter they do not truly hibernate because the heart rate and temperature
do not decrease.
- Order: ARTIODACTYLA
(Even-toed Hoofed Mammals)
- Elk or Wapiti
- Elk eat primarily aspen leaves, shoots, and
bark, but also grasses and sedges. Antlers are found on males, and
occasionally on females. They are shed annually, any time between
November and March. Once they are shed they are usually eaten by
rodents because they are a rich source of calcium. Look for Elk on
the Hans and Sawmill Trails at dusk and dawn.
- Mule Deer
- Mule deer feed on shrubs and grasses.
Although they have excellent eyesight, they rely primarily on sound to
detect danger. They usually run uphill to evade predators.
Mule deer spend the summers in high mountain meadows. During the
winters, they migrate to favorite feeding grounds where south facing
slopes offer more plentiful food.
- Pronghorn antelope feed on shrubs and
grasses. They live on open meadows and are the fastest land animals
in the western hemisphere. They can easily run 40-50 miles per
hour. Pronghorn are active both day and night, and rely on vision to
detect predators. Their eyesight is so keen that they can detect
movement up to four miles away.
How to Observe Mammals
Always observe mammals from a safe distance, leaving them
undisturbed. Please DO NOT FEED wild animals. Human food is
not part of their natural diet. Fed animals can become dependent on
hand-outs and lose the ability to find food on their own.
Additionally, mammals may carry plague or rabies and can bite.