The most dramatic season for wildlife watching begins now: This fall, Centennial State singles will cross scorching prairie and traverse icy streams in search of love. There will be connections. There will be clashes. There will be bugling. And like any good reality show, the journey will make for prime viewing. Before the quest begins, we rounded up three opportunities to catch Colorado creatures in the act.

Creepy Crawlers

Even nightmares need romance. Starting this month, large groups of male Oklahoma brown tarantulas can be seen making multiple-mile treks across southeastern Colorado in order to reach prospective mates that have burrowed throughout the prairie. Because females prefer to make their homes in unplowed farmland, they’re most often found next to roads and highways. That means, until late October, males must dodge cars near Ordway and La Junta to reach them. A mid-September evening just before sunset is when you’re most likely to catch the parade, according to Visit La Junta, and CO 109 south of town in the Comanche National Grassland is one of the best spots to watch it.

In a Rut

Come September and October, the elk near Estes Park engage in a ritual known as rutting. To help decide who can get frisky with a particular female, males sometimes show off their physical prowess by locking antlers. During the dance, as well as throughout the mating period, they also make grunting noises—called bugling—to scare challengers and release pheromones that lure the ladies. The spectacle happens wherever the mood strikes, including on the town’s two golf courses. But the National Park Service recommends viewing from a safe distance, like from roads in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Nest Eggs

When temperatures drop into the low 40s, brown trout start swimming upstream looking for natural tributaries. In those shallow waters, females create nests called redds to lay eggs and males battle for the chance to fertilize the spawning beds. (Anglers are highly encouraged not to try and snare such fish because it disrupts the ecosystem and the reproductive cycle.) If you’re fishing anywhere from the Vail Valley to the Roaring Fork Valley—basically, any mountain river—you might catch the phenomenon, including fish clearing gravel for nests with their tails or males swinging fins, through October.

This article was originally published in 5280 September 2020.
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.