Grabbing a snack

A pair of golden mantle ground squirrels grab a snack of sunflower seeds left by visitors in St. Elmo. The striped squirrels are often confused with the smaller chipmunks that share the same habitat.

One of the benefits of being close to wilderness areas is the opportunity to view wildlife.

While there are many places to view animals in the area, three local favorites are usually good for sighting deer, bighorn sheep, elk and other wildlife.

The best times to look for wildlife are the early morning hours or around sunset.

Bighorn Sheep Canyon – The 60-mile stretch between Salida and Cañon City on U.S. 50 features spectacular scenery, including the rocky habitat bighorn sheep prefer. It is common to see the state mammal on the hillsides above the road.

Love Ranch Wildlife Observatory – On CR 162 about 7 miles west of U.S. 285 at Nathrop, you’ll find a grassy meadow that attracts deer, bighorn sheep and other wildlife. A permanent observation shelter with wildlife information is at the site.

Heckendorf Elk Reserve – The reserve is northwest of Buena Vista and features an observation area to watch elk herds. Traveling north of town on U.S. 24, turn left on CR 384, then right on CR 361. The reserve is just past CR 368.

For birders, the areas around lakes and rivers and wide open stretches between Salida and Buena Vista offer opportunities to see a variety of birds throughout the year.

The area is home to eagles, hawks and other raptors throughout the fall months, while many varieties of migrants pass through on their way to warmer climes.