Wildlife is abundant on Deadwood Ranch. All year round, over 100 elk call Deadwood Ranch their home, but elk and deer are not the only wildlife to be found.

Fauna Of Deadwood Ranch

Rocky Mountain Elk typically migrate to lower altitudes in the winter. However, elk are oftentimes seen in the evening bedding down in the pastures of the ranch throughout the year. Elk are most active at dusk and dawn. These are the best times to observe them. In the winter, elk enjoy southerly and western facing slopes, taking advantage of the solar generated warmth from the ground. These are the slopes directly located behind of the Homestead Cabin, which extend all the way to the right and left for the entire length of the property (about 1 mile). Also, the western facing slopes of the small mountains across the pastures (west) are another location on the ranch the elk tend to favor. The area is kind of difficult to get to and I have never been able to find the time to explore it. Though, Willie has informed me that it is one of the elk’s favorite spots due to its inaccessibility. There are a lot of antlers that can be found there, especially in the early spring when they begin to drop off of the bulls.

Elk can reach speeds up to 35 MPH. Their rutting season occurs from August through November.  During this time, the bulls (males) create a herd of cows (females). In the fall, rutting bulls bugle or whistle as a challenge to other bulls.  The whistle can carry for great distances.  Rocky Mountain Elk are the most polygamous members of the deer family in America.  A bull can collect a harem of up to 60 cows.  Cows will leave the herd for about a week to bear their calves. They can birth one or two calves, which weigh up to 40 pounds each. Calves are able to walk almost immediately after being born. The Elks young are typically born in late May through early June. To protect themselves from predators, calves are born spotted and scentless as a form of camouflage.  The babies spend their first few weeks hiding motionless while nursing from their mothers.  Mountain lions and bears prey on the calves as they are found to be easy targets.

Elk grazing in Deadwood

Elk of Deadwood

Recent Elk Rubbing

Recent Elk Rubbing

Elk Rubbings

An elk will mark territory by stripping the bark from saplings and rubbing the tree with its chin.  In late summer, as antler growth ceases, they finish mineralizing and the blood supply to the velvet begins to deteriorate. This causes the velvet covering of the antlers to dry up and shed. As it dies, bulls begin to vigorously rub their antlers on shrubs and trees, to help rid them of the velvet. This rubbing behavior may also be the first ritualized use of the bull’s newly hardened antlers—it is quite noisy and attracts the attention of other elk.

This has been theorized that “horning” the shrubs frequently causes branches to break off and intertwine with the bull’s antlers, effectively making them look larger, a threat to rivals, and more attractive to potential mates. The rubbing also covers the bone-white antler with plant compounds, which subsequently oxidize and stain the antlers to their characteristic dark brown color.”.

An elk’s top two canine teeth are called ivories. Scientists believe ivories are remnants of saber-like tusks that ancestral species of elk previously used in combat. Most hunters save ivories as a memento of the hunt. Please leave your rifles and bows and arrows at home as we do not permit hunting of any type on the ranch.

Regardless of the cause of this behavior, the results cannot be hidden: small saplings and shrubs are left looking like someone grabbed a hedge trimmer and went on an angry rampage. In areas where elk are abundant, mangled vegetation are obvious signs of the presence of bulls and their preparations for breeding.

Old Elk Scars

Here are some older scars from an elk rubbing their antlers on an Aspen tree.

Resident Elk Herd

Finding the simple treasures of shed, deer or elk antlers can brighten up a casual winter hike in the woods

Aspen With Bark Eaten

Although antler hunting season gets under way in late winter/early spring, most bucks (male deer) and some bulls (male elk) have shed them by then.

Other wildlife on the ranch to be found are birds, but also includes a very active beaver population. The beavers are located where the water flows the most, which on Deadwood Ranch is in West Sopris Creek.  If you walk to the Creek at the point where the bridge crosses it, you will find a beaver pond complex.  Another active beaver location is at the end of Dry Creek, about 150 feet before the old ranch road intersects with West Sopris Creek Road, and empties into West Sopris Creek.”

A Complete List of Mammals That Call Deadwood Ranch “Home”

Deadwood Black Bear
American badger –  Taxidea taxus
Big brown bat – Eptesicus fuscus
Black bear –  Ursus americanus
Bobcat – Lynx rufus
Bushy-tailed woodrat –  Neotoma cinerea
Common muskrat – Ondatra zibethicus
Common porcupine –  Erethizon dorsatum
Coyote – Canis latrans
Deer mouse –  Peromyscus maniculatus
Dwarf shrew – Sorex nanus
Golden-mantled ground squirrel –  Spermophilus lateralis
Heather vole – Phenacomys intermedius

Hoary bat –  Lasiurus cinereus
Least chipmunk – Tamias minimus
Little brown myotis –  Myotis lucifugus
Long-legged myotis – Myotis volans
Long-tailed vole –  Microtus longicaudus
Long-tailed weasel – Mustela frenata
Masked shrew –  Sorex cinereus
Montane vole – Microtus montanus
Mountain cottontail –  Sylvilagus nuttallii
Mule deer – Odocoileus hemionus hemionus
Northern pocket gopher –  Thomomys talpoides meritus
Red fox – Vulpes vulpes
Rock squirrel –  Spermophilus variegatus

Rocky Mountain elk – Cervus elaphus nelsoni
Short-tailed weasel –  Mustela erminea
Silver-haired bat – Lasionycteris noctivagans
Striped skunk –  Mephitis mephitis
Townsend’s big-eared bat – Plecotus townsendii pallescens
Uinta chipmunk –  Tamias umbrinus
Water shrew – Sorex palustris
White-tailed jackrabbit –  Lepus townsendii
Wyoming ground squirrel – Spermophilus elegans
Yellow-bellied marmot –  Marmota flaviventris

A complete list of birds that call Deadwood Ranch “Home”

[caption id="attachment_1044" Hummingbird of Deadwood

American coot - Fulica americana
American crow - Corvus brachyrynchos
American dipper -  Cinclus mexicanus
American goldfinch - Carduelis tristis
American kestrel -  Falco sparverius
American robin - Turdus migratorius
Bald eagle -  Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Band-tailed pigeon - Columba fasciata
Bank swallow -  Riparia riparia
Belted kingfisher - Ceryle alcyon
Black-billed magpie -  Pica hudsonia
Black-capped chickadee - Poecile atricapillus
Black-headed grosbeak - Pheucticus melanocephalus
Blue-gray gnatcatcher -  Polioptila caerulea
Blue-winged teal - Anas discors
Brewer's sparrow -  Spizella breweri
Broad-tailed hummingbird - Selasphorus platycercus
Brown-headed cowbird -  Molothrus ater
Bullock's oriole - Icterus bullockii

Canada goose –  Branta canadensis
Cassin’s finch – Carpodacus cassinii
Chipping sparrow –  Spizella passerina
Cinnamon teal – Anas cyanoptera
Clark’s nutcracker –  Nucifraga columbiana
Common grackle – Quiscalus quiscula
Common nighthawk – Chordeiles minor
Common poorwill – Phalenoptilus nuttallii
Common raven –  Corvus corax
Dark-eyed junco – Junco hyemalis
Downy woodpecker –  Picoides pubescens
Dusky flycatcher – Empidonax oberholseri
Dusky grouse –  Dendragapus obscurus
Eurasian collared-dove – Streptopelia decaocto
European starling –  Sturnus vulgaris
Evening grosbeak – Coccothraustes vespertinus
Fox sparrow –  Passerella iliaca
Gadwall – Anas strepera
Golden eagle – Aquila chrysaetos
Great blue heron –  Ardea herodias
Great-horned owl – Bubo virginianus
Green-tailed towhee –  Pipilo chlorurus
Green-winged teal – Anas crecca
Hairy woodpecker –  Picoides villosus
House finch – Carpodacus mexicanus
House wren –  Troglodytes aedon
Juniper titmouse – Baeolophus griseus
Lazuli bunting –  Passerina amoena
Mallard – Anas platyrynchus
Lesser goldfinch – Carduelis psaltria
Lincoln’s sparrow –  Melospiza lincolnii
MacGillivray’s warbler – Oporornis tolmiei
Mountain chickadee – Poecile gambeli
Mourning dove – Zenaida macroura
Northern flicker –  Colaptes auratus
Northern harrier – Circus cyaneus
Northern rough-winged swallow –  Stelgidopteryx serripennis
Orange-crowned warbler – Vermivora celata
Pine siskin –  Carduelis pinus
Pinyon jay – Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus
Plumbeous vireo –  Vireo plumbeus
Prairie falcon – Falco mexicanus
Red crossbill – Loxia curvirostra
Red-breasted nuthatch –  Sitta canadensis
Red-naped sapsucker – Sphyrapicus nuchalis
Red-tailed hawk –  Buteo jamaicensis
Red-winged blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Rock pigeon –  Columba livia
Rufous hummingbird – Selasphorus rufus
Savannah sparrow –  Passerculus sandwichensis
Say’s phoebe – Sayornis saya
Sharp-shinned hawk –  Accipiter striatus
Song sparrow – Melospiza melodia
Spotted sandpiper –  Actitis macularia
Spotted towhee – Pipilo maculatus
Steller’s jay – Cyanocitta stelleri
Townsend’s solitaire – Myadestes townsendi
Tree swallow – Tachycineta bicolor
Turkey vulture –  Cathartes aura Vesper sparrow – Pooecetes gramineus
Violet-green swallow –  Tachycineta thalassina
Virginia’s warbler – Vermivora virginiae
Warbling vireo –  Vireo gilvus
Western kingbird – Tyrannus verticalis
Western meadowlark –  Sturnella neglecta
Western screech-owl – Otus kennicottii
Western scrub-jay –  Aphelocoma californica
Western tanager – Piranga ludoviciana
Western wood-pewee – Contopus sordidulus
White-breasted nuthatch –  Sitta carolinensis
White-crowned sparrow – Zonotrichia leucophrys
Wild turkey – Meleagris gallopavo merriami
Wilson’s snipe – Gallinago delicata
Yellow warbler –  Dendroica petechia
Yellow-rumped warbler – Dendroica coronate

A complete list of amphibians and reptiles that call Deadwood Ranch “Home”

Bullsnake (syn. Gopher snake) -Pituophis catenifer
Northern plateau lizard – Sceloporus undulates elongatus
Sagebrush lizard – Sceloporus graciosus

Fulica americana – Opheodrys vernalis
Tiger salamander – Ambystoma tigrinum
Tree lizard – Urosaurus ornatus

Western chorus frog – Pseudacris triseriata
Western terrestrial garter snake – Thamnophis elegans

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