Thirty-seven mammal species have been documented on the Refuge. The mammals here are extremely variable in size ranging from Shiras’ moose weighing up to 1,400 pounds to the masked shrew weighing only 6 grams! The best viewing times for the large, charismatic mega-fauna like elk and moose are early morning and in the evening just before sunset. Viewing the smaller mammals like the masked shrew can be much like trying to find a needle in a haystack!
Mammals can be found in all four habitats on the Refuge. Many species, such as the striped skunk, are generalist and use multiple habitat types and others specialize and are dependent on only one habitat. While driving around the auto tour, all four habitat types and associated wildlife can be observed. Badgers and white-tailed prairie dogs coexist as habitat specialist in the sagebrush uplands. However, the sagebrush may be sparse in these areas due to the burrowing lifestyle and the ground disturbance of these animals. Other mammals that spend most of their time in the uplands are the white-tailed jack rabbit, pronghorn, and porcupine, although you may find them venturing into grassy areas as well. Pronghorn are the second fastest land mammal on Earth. Wyoming ground squirrels, white-tailed prairie dogs and least chipmunks are abundant in the grass and sagebrush habitats surrounding the Headquarters building making them a prime target for photographers.
Strolling down the boardwalk along the Moose-Goose Nature Trail you will find yourself in riparian habitat which is home to several mammal species that depend on it including: beaver, muskrat, river otter, and mink. Beavers are the most visible of these species, but even if they do not make an appearance, their “busy as a beaver” existence is evident from the many lodges and dams along the Illinois River. Muskrat can be found in the river or wetlands. Shiras’ moose are a common sight in the spring, summer, and fall. There are times when visitors have seen 10 to 15 moose in one day from the nature trail and from the Owl Ridge Overlook. Northern raccoon are more likely to spend time along the river bottom or one of the creeks near wooded areas or rock cliffs.
Coyotes are the most abundant mammalian carnivore on the Refuge. They are often seen hunting small mammals in open, grassy meadows, but can also be found in sagebrush steppe and riparian habitats as well. Red fox try their best to keep distance from their coyote cousins, but fox have also been observed on the Refuge on occasions. Rarely, an American black bear or mountain lion may wander through the Refuge. Another small, but mighty carnivore that calls the Refuge home is the long-tailed weasel. This fearless and aggressive hunter can take prey much larger than itself and is content living in a variety of habitats. Long-tailed weasels change color according to season for camouflage – white in the winter and brown in the summer.
Providing ample food sources for raptors and carnivores, there are a variety of small mammals that can be found in varying abundance in meadows and riparian areas. These small residents include: the deer mouse, house mouse, western jumping mouse, montane vole and masked shrew. The northern grasshopper mouse is carnivorous and makes its home in the burrows of ground squirrels and prairie dogs.For more information about mammals found on Arapaho NWR check our Wildlife List brochure and Arapaho’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan.
Follow Us Online
Shiras' moose were reintroduced to the North Park area in 1978 and have thrived ever since. Fifteen to twenty individuals may be found on the Refuge in spring, summer and early fall.