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Wildlife at home among Mesa Verde National Park’s ancient dwellings

A fox peers into a monitoring camera at the Spring House site in Mesa Verde National Park. (Courtesy Mesa Verde National Park)
Park cameras capture a variety of species in and around ancient dwellings

When the tourists leave the cliff houses at Mesa Verde National Park, wildlife will wander in for a photo shoot.

Cameras monitor the condition of ancient dwellings and watch for looting and trespassing humans.

But when wildlife show up and trigger the cameras, it’s a “highlight of the monitoring program – much better than seeing people illegally entering sites,” said Kay Barnett, a park archaeologist, in an email.

Here are a few favorites over the years. They include a black bear, bobcat, foxes and a ringtail cat, which is a member of the raccoon family.

Squeaks, a 2-year-old mountain lion living at the park since August 2020, is also featured on a game camera and appears to be doing well. He made headlines after a 558-mile journey from central New Mexico recorded on a GPS collar. The trek included swimming across Navajo Reservoir twice.

A group of foxes investigate something at Spring House in Mesa Verde National Park. (Courtesy Mesa Verde National Park)
A black bear visited Spring House in 2016 at Mesa Verde National Park. (Courtesy Mesa Verde National Park)
The nocturnal ringtail cat hangs out at Jug House in Mesa Verde National Park. The ringtail is member of the raccoon family. (Courtesy Mesa Verde National Park)
Spruce Tree House has been closed to the public for safety reasons, but wildlife can come and go as they please, such as this bobcat on March 30. (Courtesy Mesa Verde National Park)
A 2-year-old mountain lion nicknamed Squeaks resides in Mesa Verde National Park, and is seen here in this July 2021 photo. He migrated to the park in August 2020 after traveling 558 miles from the Santa Ana Pueblo in central New Mexico. (Courtesy Pueblo of Santa Ana Department of Natural Resources)