Posts Tagged ‘capitol reef wildlife’

Bicknell Bottoms Wildlife Refuge

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Looking for a quiet place to do a little bird-watching?  Head to Bicknell Bottoms, where 670 acres of wetlands meets open waters and surrounding farmlands for one of the best natural marshes—and birding sites—in Utah.    This Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a great place for waterfowl and bird watching, hunting, and trout fishing along the Fremont River and Pine Creek.

wildlife bird viewing

Bicknell Bottoms Wildlife Refuge is easily accessible from Scenic Byway 24.

Bicknell Bottoms was once the site of Red Lake, a shallow bed now filled with silt, reeds, hardstem bulrush, saltgrass and cattails.  Shallow open waters provide an excellent home for waterfowl and upland game birds.   On a regular basis, this marshy habitat is home to the Great Egret, Northern Harrier, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Blue-winged Teal, marsh wren, puddle ducks, geese and a variety of other waterfowl.

bicknell bottoms

Bicknell Bottoms Wildlife Refuge near Capitol Reef

Visit Bicknell Bottoms in spring or fall and you’re sure see migrating birds taking a break in the marshlands during their long commute. You may even catch a glimpse of a rare protected species such as the Bald Eagle and American White Pelican.  Birding is mostly done from the road and occasionally by canoe.  Don’t forget your spotting scope and camera!

Pine Creek and the Fremont River flow through part of Bicknell Bottoms, and are stocked with rainbow and brown trout.  Fishing is allowed in the WMA, but take care when wading through the soft mud and dense, marshy vegetation. There are some good-sized fish here, but fishing is more common a bit downstream.

Geese Utah Wildlife

Geese find a place for rest and a meal in this ideal spot.

Originally used for irrigation and livestock grazing by private farmers, the lands that make up Bicknell Bottoms were purchased by the UDWR to provide a habitat for waterfowl, upland game birds and fisheries, with public access.  The J. Perry Egan fish hatchery located in Bicknell Bottoms is one of the most important sport fish stockeries in the state.  Nearby, a colony of the protected Utah Prairie Dog has also found refuge here.

Over the years, steps have been taken to improve both the habitat and sport fishing.  In 2008, the Bicknell Bottoms WMA was designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) in accordance with the National Audubon Society.

This birding hotspot is located west of Torrey, just a couple of miles south of the small town of Bicknell.  Take Posey Lake Road to the paved road that leads to the J. Perry Egan fish hatchery, where you can get walk-in access to the managed lands.  The surrounding areas are mostly privately owned, but you can also gain access from Bicknell by traveling south on 400 West for two miles to the Fremont River.

Click to learn more about Bicknell, Utah

Learn about other wildlife viewing opportunities in Capitol Reef Country.

Wildlife In & Around Capitol Reef

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The region that includes Capitol Reef National Park’s diverse landscape is a natural home to a variety of wildlife habitats.  Along the Waterpocket Fold and throughout the park, pinyon and juniper forests, rock cliffs, biological soil crusts, dry washes and perennial waterways provide homes for dozens of mammal, reptile and amphibian species, and more than 230 species of birds.

Large Mammals

Pronghorn Antelope Utah

Pronghorn antelope roam the upper ranges west of Capitol Reef National Park

About 60 species of mammals inhabit the Capitol Reef area, and one of the first questions many people ask when visiting a national park is, “Do bears live here?” In Capitol Reef, the answer is yes—but encounters are rare, usually occurring near food and water sources. Mountain lions are another rarely seen species but they are active year round, and primarily feed on the park’s mammal population. Coyotes and foxes are also common predators.

Utah Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep love to roam the rocky regions in and around Capitol Reef.

The most commonly sighted large mammal herds are desert bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn antelope (sometimes alone) and mule deer. Mule deer can adapt to a variety of habitats, from high mountains to lower meadows, as long as there are shrubs, woods and grasses to feed on, and are commonly found in the Fruita area of Capitol Reef.  Bighorn sheep also tend to gather in Fruita, as well as at the rocky terrain at the park’s southern tip.

Smaller Mammals
Capitol Reef National Park’s smaller mammal species include the endangered prairie dog, raccoons, porcupine, beavers, squirrels, marmots, mice, woodrats, chipmunks and sixteen species of bats. Kangaroo rats typically appear at night in search of seeds, leaving a trail of “hopping” tracks.

Utah Squirrels and Chipmunks

Chipmunks and squirrels are found throughout this region.

Marmots, commonly referred to as “whistle pigs” because of their high-pitched squeal, are the largest ground squirrels in the Capitol Reef area, weighing up to ten pounds and growing up to two feet long. Porcupines are the largest rodent in Utah. Bats are nocturnal, and typically hibernate during cold weather. The canyon bat is commonly sighted early in the evening in Fruita.

Utah Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, and many other large birds are regular visitors to this region.

Capitol Reef’s bird population includes year-round residents, seasonal dwellers and migrating visitors. The raven is one of the most commonly sighted large birds in Capitol Reef. More rare sightings include the golden eagle and the endangered peregrine falcon. These large and beautiful creatures typically feast on small mammals. Owls, orioles, canyon and rock wren, chukars, pinyon jays and black-billed magpies are bird-watcher favorites in Capitol Reef. The Fremont River Trail near Fruita is one of the most popular bird-watching areas in the park.

Snakes and lizards are common inhabitants of most desert ecosystems, and they are no stranger to Capitol Reef. The park’s most frequently sighted snakes include the gopher snake (often mistaken for a rattlesnake because of the way it hisses and shakes its tail), striped whipsnake, terrestrial garter snake and common kingsnake.

Utah Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes are rarely seen but are found in this region.

The common kingsnake is one of the few that will prey upon rattlesnakes. Midget faded rattlesnakes are usually found on the ground in Capitol Reef National Park, and prey on birds, small mammals and lizards. Most lizards in the park thrive on a diet of insects, spiders, shrubs and plants. Different species inhabit a variety of ecosystems, including sparsely vegetated areas, pinyon and juniper forests, burrows, rocks and canyons, and even higher grasslands. Capitol Reef’s lizard population includes the Great Basin collared lizard, common sagebrush lizard, desert spiny lizard, tree lizards and western whiptails.

Capitol Reef National Park’s perennial waterways and its unique ecosystems along the Waterpocket Fold are ideal habitats for amphibians such as the Great Basin spadefoot, woodhouse and red-spotted toads. The canyon tree frog is also a popular dweller along the Waterpocket Fold. Northern leopard frogs thrive near the Fremont River.  Read more about Utah wildlife here.

Click here for bear safety tips.    Click here for big cat safety tips.