Surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest and the City of Hot Springs, Hot Springs National Park is a critical sanctuary for a variety of animals. This oasis of dense forest on rocky mountain slopes with their novaculite outcrops and lush creek valleys make a perfect home for many different species.
Prior to park expansion in the early twentieth century, over hunting, trapping, and loss of habitat caused the eradication of the gray wolf, the red wolf, and the bison in this area. Because of this reason it is vital for National Parks to protect and preserve its natural resources.
Today, there are over 50 species of mammals protected in the park. The most common are the white-tailed deer, groundhog, chipmunk, and squirrel.
There are also over 100 species of birds, 23 of which stay only temporarily, as they migrate from their breeding grounds in Canada and the northern United States to their wintering grounds along the Gulf of Mexico and in Central and South America.
The park has around 50 fish species, including the grass carp, bluegill, and banded darter. Because of the size of the shallow creeks and pond, the park cannot support the large game fish. The larger fish, like bass, uses these waterways for nesting and laying their eggs. These eggs will then hatch, and the fry (baby fish) will stay in the creeks until they move into larger bodies of water.
There are more than 70 types of reptiles and amphibians. You can find many species of snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs, and salamanders in the park. Caution the park is home to five venomous snakes, including the copperhead snake that can be seen along most trails.
Viewing wildlife in the Hot Springs can be challenging because most of the park is covered by dense forest and within the boundaries of a city. Open trail areas offer some of the best opportunities to see animals like the white-tailed deer. Since many animals are most active at night, the best time to view wildlife occurs during early morning and evening hours. In the wintertime, wildlife is more visible because deciduous trees have lost their leaves. It's also a good idea to carry binoculars. And don't forget to scan the trees, many animals spend their days among the branches.
Give Animals Room
Parks provide a unique opportunity to view animals’ natural behavior in the wild. In general, if animals react to your presence, you are too close. Use binoculars or a zoom lens and move back if wildlife approach you. Let wildlife be wild and observe from a distance. Remember to treat wildlife with proper caution and respect.
Do Not Disturb
Leaving wildlife alone can help your viewing experience—plus it’s the law. It’s illegal to feed, touch, tease, frighten, or intentionally disturb wildlife. Remember that wildlife in parks are not pets and can be unpredictable when they are disturbed or surprised. Interacting with wildlife also can cause harm to both people and wildlife.
Keep Your Eyes On The Road
Vehicle strikes are one of the deadliest types of encounters for wildlife in parks. Roads often cut through animal’s habitats or migration routes. Be sure to always follow the speed limits and watch for wildlife that may dart into the road.
Pack In, Pack Out
To an animal, anything that smells like food is treated like food. Access to trash, even crumbs left on picnic tables can attract them. Once they have learned that people are a source of food, wildlife can become aggressive toward people. This puts you at risk of injury and the wildlife at risk of being removed or labeled a nuisance by wildlife managers.
See Something, Say Something
Tell a ranger if you come into physical contact with wildlife. Also, tell a ranger if you see wildlife that are dead or acting strangely. This includes wildlife that approaches you. Leave “orphaned” animals alone. Young animals that appear alone typically have parents waiting nearby. And when you see people who aren’t following these guidelines, contact a ranger.
The safety of these animals, as well as your safety, depends on everyone using good judgment and by setting a good example. By following these simple guidelines, you can help protect Hot Springs National Parks wildlife. Learn even more ways to #RecreateResponsibly.
Hot Springs National Park Species List
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