Seasons of Wildlife

Young Coyote lg

Refuges abound with wildlife like this young coyote.

  • Fall

    Lg Moose sm

    With nesting season finished, many songbirds migrate south; blackbirds gather in flocks. Raptors that may be sighted include red-tailed hawk, osprey, merlin, bald and golden eagles and northern goshawk. Bayley and McDowell Lakes along with smaller ponds host groups of waterfowl on their journey south. Fall is a season of color with golden aspens and larch on hillsides and cottonwoods and willows along rivers. Berry and fruit producing bushes and trees draw birds and mammals to feed on them. We get our first snow on the ridge behind Refuge headquarters the end of October or beginning of November. Deer start the rut.

  • Winter

    season winter

    Mammals like white-tailed and mule deer, elk, moose, coyote, bobcat, cougar, otter, snowshoe hare and weasel use the Refuge during winter months. Following their tracks in the snow can lead to bedding areas or hunting grounds. Bald eagles are often seen perched in the cottonwood tree behind Refuge headquarters along with northern shrike. Finches feed in noisy flocks that are easy to find. Ten of the eleven species of woodpeckers in the state have been seen here. Downy, hairy, pileated, black-backed, three-toed and white-headed woodpeckers and northern flickers can be observed year round.

  • Spring

    MTBL sm

    Spring means migratory birds return to the Refuge. Male red-winged blackbirds arrive so early that at least one more snowfall covers the ground but quickly melts off. Some of the first arrivals are Say's phoebe and western bluebird followed by tree swallows. Chipmunks and Columbia ground squirrels emerge from hibernation. Turtles line up on logs in our lakes and ponds. Buttercups are the first flowers to bloom followed by white trillium a month later. Wilson's snipe winnow; ruffed grouse drum, great horned owls and tree frogs call - all courtship activities. Yellow-rumped warblers are the first warbler species to arrive followed by many more. Three species of hummingbirds nest here - black-chinned, calliope and rufous. Bald eagle young hatch and ticks emerge.

  • Summer

    Fawn sm

    White-tailed deer fawns are born along with elk and moose calves. Canada geese are busy with goslings and songbirds are occupied with nests and young. Willow flycatcher, eastern kingbird and western wood-pewee are all very vocal around Refuge headquarters. You might catch a glimpse of the bright colors on a Bullock's oriole, Lazuli bunting or western tanager. Look for colorful wildflowers and the numerous butterflies that visit them. Insect life is abundant and provides nourishment for young birds. Black bear, elk and moose sightings are most common this season - females with young or solitary males.

  • Wildlife Viewing Tips

    Cat Tail

    Wildlife viewing carries responsibilities; observe from a safe distance and use binoculars. Move slowly and casually, not directly toward wildlife. Your vehicle can serve as a blind and allow you to watch wildlife without panicking them. The Refuge is home to several species of large mammals who may feel threatened by human presence. Be alert and aware of your surroundings. Slow down - wildlife viewing requires patience and quiet. Best viewing is typically dawn and dusk. Transition zones between habitats like forest and field or field and river have the greatest diversity of birds and mammals. Areas around lakes, ponds and creeks are also good spots to observe wildlife.

    White-tailed deer, red squirrel, chipmunk, ground squirrel, moose, wild turkey, great blue heron, red-tailed hawk, bald eagle, mallard, common goldeneye, wood duck, yellow-rumped warbler and painted turtle are easy to see on the Refuge while bobcat, lynx, cougar, black bear, wolf, mink and great gray owl are more difficult to observe.