Colorado has an abundance of stunning wildlife, from black bears to bighorn sheep. It's tempting to get a close-up look at these animals ⁠— but you shouldn't.

According to the National Park Service (NPS), approaching wildlife is dangerous for you and the animal.

Get our free mobile app

"As wildlife become used to humans and lose their natural fear, the animals become aggressive and may be destroyed," said NPS. "Although they may appear harmless and even curious about you, wildlife do injure [national park] visitors every year."

Thankfully, there are ways to safely view wildlife in the Centennial State, whether you're visiting a national park or come across an animal in your neighborhood. Read on to see how far away you need to be from Colorado wildlife:

Moose — 120 Feet

Zachery Perry // Unsplash
Zachery Perry // Unsplash
loading...

The Town of Breckenridge and mycoloradoparks.com suggest staying 50 to 75 feet away from moose. However, NPS says that you should keep at least 120 feet of distance from the animals.

Black Bear — 120 Feet

Danika Perkinson // Unsplash
Danika Perkinson // Unsplash
loading...

According to NPS, you should stay at least 120 feet away from black bears. If a bear approaches you, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) recommends deploying bear spray when the animal is 40 feet away.

Mountain Lion — 120 Feet

Zach Key // Unsplash
Zach Key // Unsplash
loading...

According to CPW, you're unlikely to spot a mountain lion in the wild until it's already too close to you. In that case, fight back — but if you can help it, NPS recommends staying at least 120 feet away from the animals.

Elk — 75 Feet

Meredith Fontana // Unsplash
Meredith Fontana // Unsplash
loading...

NPS and mycoloradoparks.com agree this time: stay at least 75 feet away from elk. According to Visit Estes Park, elk are even more dangerous during the rut, which usually starts in September.

Bighorn Sheep — 75 Feet

Joanna Wroblewska // Unsplash
Joanna Wroblewska // Unsplash
loading...

According to Colorado Outdoors, bighorn sheep become stressed and aggressive if you're in their space. Like elk, NPS suggests staying at least 75 feet away from these animals.

Bison — 75 Feet

Jonathan Mast // Unsplash
Jonathan Mast // Unsplash
loading...

You're unlikely to see a wild bison in Colorado — but you don't want to end up like this Centennial State man. Yellowstone National Park recommends staying at least 75 feet away from bison.


If you aren't sure how to measure your distance from wildlife, try using the "rule of thumb." Learn more about dangerous Colorado wildlife in the gallery below.

These Are the Most Dangerous Animals in Colorado

It's no secret that Colorado is home to stunning wildlife. However, that doesn't mean we should interact with the wildlife — some animals are meant to be avoided. See the dangerous Colorado animals you should steer clear of in the gallery below.

25 Crazy Wildlife Encounters That Happened in Colorado This Year

2022 has already been a wild year for Colorado wildlife. Check out some of the craziest wildlife encounters in the Centennial State in the gallery below.

More From ESPN Western Colorado