Spotted towhee singing on branch
Spotted towhee - NPS/Jeremy Stringfield
In what part of the canyon is it easiest to live? It depends on who you ask. Due to its vertical nature, animals of the park thrive in habitats found along a spectrum from rim to river. Each habitat is different and requires specific lifestyles to be successful. Read on to explore these areas, asking yourself if any habitat would appeal to you.
short-tailed weasel peeking out from den
Short-tailed weasel - NPS/Jeremy Stringfield

Along the Rim

Gregarious pinyon jays flit from tree to tree of the pinyon/juniper forest while colorful collared lizards bask on sun-soaked rocks below. In the oak flats long-tailed weasels weave between stands of oak, prowling for small mammals. Spotted towhees hop through the understory searching for seeds, berries and insects. Mule deer and cottontail rabbits rustle through dense brush, munching fresh green leaves in summer or service berry, oak and sage brush in winter.
Two big horn rams navigate rocky escarpment
Rocky Mountain bighorn rams - NPS/Jeremy Stringfield

Canyon Walls

Animals prove themselves well-adapted to the extreme terrain of the inner canyon. The clinking of tumbling rocks echoes as big horn sheep navigate dizzyingly steep slopes, using their rubber-like hooves to grip unstable surfaces. As the echoes fade, a peregrine falcon flies by with a sudden whoosh as it returns to a nest perched on the face of a sheer cliff. Its talons clutch a limp songbird, freshly picked from the air.
Three river otters near river bank
River otters - NPS Photo

In the Depths

Surrounded by the deafening roar of the Gunnison animals embrace life in and along the river. Furry brown heads bobbing up and down in the water reveal the playful behavior of river otters. In summer, salmon flies are picked from the skin of the water’s surface by hungry trout, which are later hauled out of the water by excited anglers.
Mountain lion
Mountain lion - NPS Photo

After Dark

When the day is done, countless stars blanket the sky and nocturnal species like mountain lions, bobcats and ringtails emerge to dominate the night. Gazing upward, fluttering silhouettes can be seen against the Milky Way as bats gorge themselves on insects. Black Canyon was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2015, preserving the dark and the creatures that rely on it.
Black bear
Black bear - NPS/Jeremy Stringfield
With such a variety of habitats, it’s no wonder that animal life at Black Canyon is so varied. Over 125 bird species can be found here, many of which arrive as spring and summer migrants. The canyon is also home to over 46 mammal species, ranging from pint-sized voles to hefty black bears. Cold blooded creatures have also carved out niches, with over 12 species of reptiles and amphibians present. Curious about these Black Canyon residents and their habitats? Check out the species list link below, or follow the links in the text above for more.

Animal & Plant Species Lists

By the Northern Colorado Plateau Network Inventory & Monitoring Progam.

Last updated: November 11, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

102 Elk Creek
(GPS/physical address = 9800 Highway 347, Montrose, CO)

Gunnison, CO 81230



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