Seasons of Wildlife

Ouray fall scene 512x2219

Ouray National Wildlife Refuge is a different place each time you explore it in a different season.  Read more to learn about which animals use the Refuge throughout the year.

  • Spring

    great horned owl 150 x 118

    Beginning in late February or early March, thousands of migrating waterfowl stop to rest and refuel at several of the Refuge wetlands – the only ones for miles around.  By May, most of the migrating songbirds are starting to arrive.
    They are also dependent on the riparian corridor for refueling on the abundant insect populations.  Some birds, like the yellow-billed cuckoo, stay behind to nest here, but many will continue north to their breeding grounds.  Great-horned owls young are beginning to learn how to fly, while the red-tailed hawks and ospreys are just beginning to nest.  Many Canada geese pairs are establishing territories and nest sites.

  • Summer

    river otter 150 x 118

    Young of all species become visible after they are old enough to be able to escape from predators and start foraging with their parents. If you’re lucky you’ll see river otter young on the river banks; elk calves crossing the river with their mothers; or songbirds feeding their raucous young. There are lots of waterbird broods  - ducks, coots, and grebes - during this season. Look for young western grebes riding on their parents' back. The best time to observe wildlife is in the early morning during the hot summer months.


  • Fall

    sandhill cranes 150 x 118

    As the cottonwoods begin to turn a brilliant yellow, birds begin their return trip through Ouray Refuge on their way to wintering grounds in the southern United States, Central and South America. Elk are bugling within the valley while the other animals try to put on fat to survive the winter or the flight to wintering grounds.  Large numbers of sandhill cranes passing through on their fall migration make lots of noise!

  • Winter

    mule deer 2 150 x 118

    Ouray Refuge is a quiet place in winter, as most of the migratory birds have headed south. The Flaming Gorge Dam releases a constant flow of water throughout the winter.  Although the Green River may freeze as it passes through Ouray Refuge, some areas retain open water that support resident waterfowl such as mallards and Canada geese. When there is open water, this riverine habitat draws bald eagles here to fish. The Refuge also provides important habitat for wintering mule deer, elk, and pronghorn.