• Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

    Black Canyon Of The Gunnison

    National Park Colorado

Wildlife Watching

Mule deer

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

NPS photo by Lisa Lynch

Black Canyon is a great place to go to observe mammals in their native and wild habitat. Wild animals are an important and vital part of our natural ecosystem. We humans can learn a great deal by carefully observing animals.

Wildlife watching can be extremely enjoyable and rewarding if done with care and by keeping a few watching ethics in mind. To maximize your viewing enjoyment and success:

  • familiarize yourself with the birds and mammals of the area
  • know what time of day animals are active
  • learn about their habitat
  • learn wildlife signs such as tracks and scat
  • bring binoculars
  • wear clothing that blends in with environment
  • take a hike or walk and tread quietly
  • sit still and watch from behind cover
  • leave dogs at home, they often scare wildlife away

The best way to view and enjoy a wild animal is from a distance with binoculars. When you come across an animal, sit still, watch from behind cover like a shrub or tree, and enjoy!

We need to use common sense when observing wild animals, please remember that life in the wild has its own stresses.

  • Never disrupt, approach or attempt to feed wild animals, this is dangerous to you and the animal.
  • Never approach nesting or denning sites, this could be detrimental to the survival of the young.
  • Back off immediately if the animal seems stressed, agitated or angry.
  • Respect the space and territory of wildlife.

Wildlife watching is much more enjoyable and successful if we can watch them performing their natural activities like nursing young, playing, fighting, foraging or hunting without their knowledge of our presence. Please enjoy viewing wildlife to the fullest extent but keep respect and consideration for the animals' well being in mind.

WHO TO LOOK FOR
Look for the Yellow-bellied Marmot, a large rodent who lives and sunbathes on rocky out crops and ledges.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels, Least and Colorado Chipmunks and Mountain Cottontails can be seen just about anywhere in the Black Canyon.

Also look for the pretty spotted coats of the gray Rock Squirrel.

Mule Deer can be found throughout the Black Canyon. Look for the spotted fawns in early summer. Be careful driving along U.S. Highway 50 and CO Highways 347 and 92 at dawn and dusk, they frequently cross the road.

Occasionally seen around Black Canyon are Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.

Elk, or Wapiti, are occasionally seen in early fall and winter, look for them in grassy clearings and forested areas. They spend most of their time at higher elevations in summer.

Coyotes are more often heard than seen. Listen for their pre-dawn songs from either of the campgrounds.

Skunks, Badgers, Long-tail Weasels and Ringtail Cats are occasionally seen at dusk and dawn along trails, in the inner canyon, along roadsides and in the campgrounds.

The luckiest of visitors will get a glimpse of the great "ghost of the Rockies". The Mountain Lion may be seen in early morning and evening. This incredibly elusive mammal is occasionally seen slipping off into the oak and juniper forests and across the road. Bobcat and Black Bear are occasionally seen in this manner as well.

Walking along the trails at Black Canyon, you might cross paths with a Smooth Green Snake or a Great Basin Gopher Snake.

Also occurring along roadsides, trailside thickets and rock gardens are Garter Snakes and Striped Whipsnakes. Come see a Park Ranger to learn how to identify these non-venomous snakes.

A variety of Lizards and Salamanders can also be found.

Here are some tips for the unlikely encounter with larger wildlife:

Black Bears

  • Do not run.
  • Back away slowly.
  • Break eye contact.

Mountain Lions

  • Do not run.
  • Make yourself look bigger.
  • Back away slowly.
  • If attack seems imminent, act aggressively throwing rocks or a large stick.

BIRD WATCHING
Bird watching in the area is excellent, especially in spring and early summer. Here is just a taste of some of the feathered friends that spend time in the area.

Look for the fastest bird in the world, the Peregrine Falcon. In spring and early summer look for this amazing bird in the vacinity of the Painted Wall.

Blue Grouse can be observed in the sagebrush areas. Look for this beautiful bird along roadsides and thickets.

Look for birds of prey such as the Cooper's Hawk and Red Tailed Hawks.

Also up above the canyon rims look for Turkey Vultures and Golden Eagles riding thermals.

Listen to the graceful and unforgettable note of the Canyon Wren in the inner canyon and from Rock Point in the morning.

BLACK CANYON BIRD LIST »
(38k pdf)

Come in to the visitor center and share your wildlife encounters and experiences with a Park Ranger. Please report any unusual or rare sightings.

Did You Know?

Inner Canyon

The temperature at the bottom of Black Canyon is approximately 8 degrees warmer than at the rim.