Published: Jan. 21, 2021 By


Boulder is beloved for its outdoorsy atmosphere and commitment to letting nature thrive, that helps create a city that is home to all types of plants and animals. With CU’s campus located in the heart of the city, many of Boulder’s urban wildlife can be spotted on the walk to class. From the occasional curious bear to the pollinator-friendly lavender, here are 10 plants and animals you can find around campus. 

A campus squirrel perches atop a recycling bin.

1. Bears

Although they don’t come often, these furry mischief-makers have been known to wander down from the foothills to visit campus every once in a while. In 2019, campus saw several visits from bears, most notably on fall move-in day. Read this article to learn how to stay safe if you see a bear on campus.

2. Raccoons

Raccoons can be found in rural and urban areas across the country, but Boulder's raccoons have become so familiar that they almost feel like honorary on-campus residents. Raccoons are known for being smart and playful, but its best to keep your distance if you see one, since they can be aggressive if provoked.   

3. Squirrels

Every college campus thinks their squirrels are exceptionally bold and fearless. Could CU’s campus squirrels really be unique? Either way, these fluffy-tailed buddies can be seen anywhere on campus, often in search of whatever food they can get their tiny paws on.

4. Lavender

Although it originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe, this soothing aromatic can be found in the campus pollinator garden. The garden is split between two locations on campus that together cover a total of 10,000 square feet. Other plants you can spot in the pollinator garden include barberry, currant, gooseberry and yarrow.

5. Turtles

Turtles are very common throughout the world, and they often enjoy one of the longest animal life spans that we know of. CU's campus turtles can be seen swimming or basking on a log at Varsity Lake.

6. Hackberry Tree

The hackberry tree is a Colorado native, just like over half of our students here at CU. Hackberry trees can be identified by their serrated leaves and small, dark purple fruit.

7. Prairie Dogs

The prairie dog population in Boulder is plentiful, and when they’re not burrowing underground, they can often be seen around campus. Prairie dogs are considered a “keystone species” in Colorado because of their important role in our natural ecosystems. 

8. Little Leaf Linden Tree

The variety of little leaf linden trees that can be found on campus has heart-shaped leaves and hails from Europe.

9. Redbud Trees

Redbud trees are often used as decorative trees, as they are known for their gorgeous lavender or pink blossoms. Stroll around campus in the early spring to see these beauties in full bloom.

10. Deer

The type of deer most commonly spotted around Boulder is the mule deer, which are known for their big ears said to resemble those of a mule. Seeing these cuties on campus can be difficult if they’re skittish, as their excellent hearing and eyesight keep them constantly aware of potential danger.

Read this article for tips on safely co-existing with campus wildlife.

(Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)