Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Wildlife at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

The wildlife species native to Rocky Mountain Arsenal are species adapted to live on the high plains---the northern shortgrass prairie. Prior to settlement, the bison and the black-tailed prairie dog were "keystone" species of this ecosystem. The grazing and burrowing activity of those species created habitat for many other species associated with the shortgrass prairie. Today the refuge supports many of its original inhabitants. Many more species occur now because of changes man has made to the landscape. The introduction of water, creation of lakes and wetlands, and tree planting have all increased the species "richness" (total number of species present) of the area by allowing many eastern species to become "naturalized" on the refuge. If they come at the right time of year, visitors to the Refuge will enjoy good viewing opportunities for black-tailed prairie dogs, coyotes, bald eagles, and both mule and white-tailed deer. Because hunting is not allowed on the Refuge, the decades have balanced the sex ratio of the deer and there are many older, mature bucks in the population.Many species of waterfowl use the arsenal's lakes, and because prairie dogs provide a food source, many species of hawks and owls are seen.

Ecologically, the Refuge is most important to some of the smaller, less charismatic species native to the short grass prairie. Small birds like the grasshopper sparrow, lark bunting and others that cannot adapt to live in agricultural or suburban landscape find good native habitats on the refuge.

From a conservation standpoint the Refuge is very important to the burrowing owl. Dozens of pairs of burrowing owls raise their young each year in the Refuge's prairie dog towns. Burrowing owl populations are depressed across North America but the refuge supports the largest remaining breeding population along the Colorado Front Range.

While wildlife thrives here, the Refuge is not ecologically whole. Several species native to the area no long occur here: the gray wolf and the black-footed ferret. The bison was reintroduced to the Refuge in March, 2006..

Some of these species will never return because the refuge is not large enough to support them as an island of habitat in an urban area. In the future, following the clean up of past pollution and upon completion of restoration, several species will probably be reintroduced: (1) pronghorn (2) sharp-tailed grouse (3) bison.


The Refuge is 11 miles northeast of Denver, Colorado.
From I-70 take the Havana Street exit north to 56th Avenue.
Procede forward through the gate and follow any posted directions.

US Fish & Wildlife Service
Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR
5650 Havana Street Bldg 121
Commerce City, CO 80022

MAIN NUMBER: 303/289-0232
FAX: 303/289-0579

Please note: There are no public thoroughfares on the Refuge. In other words, you cannot commute from one side of the Refuge to the other side (72nd Ave, Havana or Peoria Ave).