Millions of pronghorn and bison (popularly called buffalo) roamed the plains and parks of Colorado before the species were hunted nearly to extinction. Today only small herds of bison remain on private land, although herds of wild pronghorn have recovered and are again common throughout the state. On the plains, small mammals, such as the skunk, ground squirrel, and prairie dog, are numerous, as is the larger coyote. Among the many animals found in the mountains are the black bear, moose, red fox, gray fox, bobcat, porcupine, marten, beaver, and mule deer. The bighorn sheep, which is the state animal, is found in the Rockies, where mountain lion populations have been increasing in recent years.
There are many species of birds, both migrant and resident, in Colorado. They range from the golden eagle, which lives on high rock outcrops throughout the state, to the western mockingbird, red-winged blackbird, western meadowlark, and robin, which are common on the plains. Game birds, such as species of grouse, quail, pheasants, ducks, turkeys, and geese, are also plentiful. Birds common to cultivated areas include the sparrow, the blackbird, and the yellowthroat and other warblers. The lark bunting, the state bird, is found throughout much of the state but is more common on the eastern plains than elsewhere.
Fish in Colorado’s lakes and streams include carp, perch, bass, catfish, walleye, sunfish, and the kokanee salmon.
Several kinds of trout, which live in cold mountain streams, are the state’s most popular game fish. Turtles, lizards, snakes, and other reptiles are found throughout the state, while the boreal toad and tiger salamander live in the high mountain areas. There is only one common poisonous species of snake in Colorado: the western rattlesnake, which is native to the plains.
In Colorado the two principal conservation goals are the prevention of soil erosion and the protection of the watersheds. Erosion is a problem on land in the plains of eastern Colorado, where the soils are generally light in texture and are easily removed by high winds when left bare for any length of time. Erosion was limited when grass covered the plains, but became increasingly severe as the grass cover was removed. Prolonged droughts, which have occurred periodically in Colorado, dry out the topsoil, which is the most productive layer. The topsoil is then carried away by the winds that sweep across the plains. Since the 1930s modern farming techniques have been introduced to decrease the destructive effects of soil erosion.
Protection of the watersheds, especially in western Colorado, is undertaken by maintaining the plant and tree cover on them. This slows down the rate of runoff and increases the amount of rainwater that eventually finds its way into the groundwater and rivers, and therefore into the water supply.
Wildlife conservation is conducted in the national and state parks and wilderness areas. Hunting is permitted seasonally, but it is carefully controlled. Fishing is also controlled, and rivers are stocked with fish. The work of protecting the environment in Colorado is done by the state departments of Natural Resources and Health. Divisions within the departments oversee air pollution control, the disposal of hazardous waste, and water quality issues. In 2008 the state had 18 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Between 1995 and 2000, the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment increased by 29 percent. "Colorado" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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