Wildlife Observation

512x219_Osprey_Bob Hailey

Who's watching who?


Located at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert in the Central Flyway, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is home and rest stop for a large variety of wildlife species. From mammals and birds to reptiles and insects, wildlife observation can be an engaging way to explore this place.

Keep in mind that migration patterns and local climate influences which wildlife is using Bosque del Apache, especially during certain times of the year. Type of habitat effects where wildlife may be observed as much as time of year.

Check out our Seasons of Wildlife page for a glimpse at a year at Bosque del Apache.

Observation decks, overlooks, and nature trails tend to be good places to stop and search for wildlife – and set up tripods or easels! You may also move your vehicle to the side of the roadway, roll down your window, and look and listen ... just don't block the path of other drivers! 

Tips for wildlife watching:

  • Use your vehicle as an observation blind – many wildlife species may be observed from your vehicle.
  • Plan for wildlife to be most active around dawn and dusk.
  • Observe from the sidelines. Leave “abandoned” young animals alone. A parent is probably close by waiting for you to leave. 
  • Let wildlife be wild - don’t offer snacks; your lunch could disrupt wild digestive systems. 
  • Bring binoculars for a closer look.
  • Stay quiet and still in one location. Let wildlife get used to your presence. Many animals that have hidden will reappear after the have settled down from your initial disturbance of the area.   
  • Move quietly and be aware of sounds and smells. Often you will hear more than you will see. 
  • Teach children quiet observation. Other wildlife watchers will appreciate your consideration. 
  • Search for animal signs. Tracks, scat, feathers, and nests left behind often tell interesting stories.

Interested in plants? The desert habitat supports an impressive assortment of wildflowers, cacti, trees, shrubs, and agave. Spring blooms give way to summer fruits, and summer monsoon rains often encourage new flowers, especially along the Canyon and Chupadera Trails. A guide to select plants along the Desert Arboretum Trail identifies some of the species you may encounter in other parts of the refuge, and may be available at the entrance to the Desert Arboretum or in the Visitor Center.