Wildlife Viewing

 

Antelope

pronghorn antelope

Birds & Raptors

bald eagle

Big Horn Sheep

bighorn sheep

Deer, Elk & Bear

Wapiti (elk)

Hints for viewing wildlife:

The early morning and evening hours are usually the best times to view wildlife. 

Be quiet.  Quick movements and loud noises startle and scare off most wildlife.

Be patient.  Give yourself plenty of time to allow the wildlife to come your way.

Binoculars, monoculars, spotting scopes and a telephoto lens are your best chance of getting a close-up look and a picture of wildlife behaving normally. Getting too close usually causes the animal to stop its natural behavior.

Do not rush or pursue wildlife.  Be considerate and recognize signs of stress.  Play it safe; don't stress wildlife by keeping a safe distance.

 Antelope  

Pronghorn Antelope:  These animals can be found in the desert north and west of Grand Junction.  However, the best chance of seeing pronghorns is along Hwy 50 from Kannah Creek, 10 miles south of Grand Junction, to Delta.  Sometimes the animals will be close to the road, but more often they will look like a buff colored rock further away.  Pull off the road and use a window mounted scope to get an excellent view. 


Birds & Raptors 

Chukar:   More birders come to the Grand Junction area looking for chukar partridge than for any other species of bird.  West central Colorado is probably the eastern most spot in North America where there is a reasonable chance of finding them.  The best places to look are in Coal Canyon north of I-70 from Exit 46; and at the base of the Book Cliffs accessed by driving to the north end of any of the following three roads:  27 1/4 Road, 25 Road, and 21 Road. The key to finding them is in covering a lot of ground, and listening for their "chuhka chuhka chuhka" calls, followed by good binocular work scoping the rocks.

Blue Grouse:   In summer, these birds are found in most habitats above the pinyon pine-juniper zone. They are best found, like chukars, by fast walkers covering a lot of ground. The summer range of deer and elk are good places to look for blue grouse.  In late spring and early summer, the deep pitched "boomp, boomp" of strutting cocks can lead the birder to a rewarding sight.

Flammulated Owls:   Look for these owls in aspen, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine. While the Uncompahgre Plateau (Divide Road off of Hwy 141) is probably the best place to try to call these brown eyed owls, they can also be found on Douglas Pass (35 miles north on Hwy 139, from Exit 15 off I-70). Overuse of the tape recorder, especially at high volume, is not the best technique for finding them.

Gray Flycatchers, Gray Vireos, and Scott's Oriole:   Gray flycatchers can be found in all pinyon pine-juniper woodlands. Gray vireos are rather common in the lowest elevation juniper stands west of Grand Junction and northwest of the town of Gateway.   Scott's orioles are much more local in the scattered junipers of the desert edges west of Grand Junction.   A place to find all three is in the Rabbit Valley area, Exit 2 off I 70. Going either way at this exit leads to juniper woodland that can be searched.

Sage Sparrows:   As the name implies, these birds are in sagebrush and the best place to find them is just past the cattle guard on BS Road, 8.2 miles west of 16.5 Road.   This junction is a half mile north of the Glade Park Store, a well known crossroads south of the Colorado National Monument.   Any other large expanse of low country sagebrush is worth a check for sage sparrows and sage thrashers.

Raptors:  On the second or third weekend of February, each year, the Grand Valley Audubon Society conducts a raptor field trip leaving each morning at 9:00AM from the BLM parking lot.  From 14 to 17 species are seen.  Excellent views of a variety of individual birds and at least 8 species of eagles, hawks and owls as well as shrikes are to be found.  There is no speedier way to learn how to identify raptors than having several experts find plenty of birds for you and discuss the variations in plumages.  Bald and golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, American kestrels, barn owls and  western screech owl are guaranteed.  Ferruginous hawks, prairie falcons, merlins, long-eared owls and great horned owls are expected finds.  On your own, driving west of Loma on Hwy 50 and M.8 Rd (parallel to I-70) to the Utah line is sure to turn up eagles and hawks.  Reliable sites for owls shift and are kept somewhat confidential by birders.  Contacting local birders or the BLM might help gain access to this information. 

 


Desert Big Horn Sheep  

An observable population can be found along Dominguez Canyon where it joins the Gunnison River.  River floaters often see the animals on the cliff ledges and steep hillsides. A hike along the north rim of Dominguez Canyon is a good prospect.  River access is on the Bridgeport Road (unmarked), a gravel route to the west, one mile north of the Mesa Delta County line on US Hwy 50.   Hiking access is through Cactus Park. From the junction of Hwy 50 and Hwy 141 at the town of Whitewater, go southwest on Hwy 141 about 9 miles (called Ninemile Hill) and turn left at the Cactus Park sign.  Travel southeast on the dirt road about 6 miles, following signs to the Dominguez Canyon Trailhead.  Occasionally travelers near the bottom of Ninemile Hill see bighorn sheep from the highway. 

In winter  and spring, many deer and elk can be seen while driving the roads around the town of Mesa, east of Grand Junction.  Drive east on I-70 to Exit 49, and travel up Plateau Creek on Hwy 65 (good in the evening for deer).  By taking any road west, south, or east out of the town of Mesa you are assured wildlife viewing success. East is the best direction for finding elk.

Hwy 139 from the town of Loma (Exit 15 off I-70) goes north 35 miles to Douglas Pass.  On both sides of Douglas Pass, deer and elk may be seen.  The gravel road to the right offers miles of back country deer, elk, and bear habitat. 

The time to look for black bears is from mid August to early October, when they are feeding in the mountain shrub zone.  The best strategy for viewing bears is to get on ridge lines with sweeping views of mountain shrub vegetation.  Binoculars and scopes are helpful.   From I-70 north on Colorado Hwy 139, go 19.6 miles to a dirt road on the left.  This is the Petro Lewis Road and it climbs up to many excellent viewing points.  The first road to the right coming south from Douglas Pass, Lookout Mountain Road, also leads to good viewing points. 

 


Deer, Elk & Bear

In winter  and spring, many deer and elk can be seen while driving the roads around the town of Mesa, east of Grand Junction.  Drive east on I-70 to Exit 49, and travel up Plateau Creek on Hwy 65 (good in the evening for deer).  By taking any road west, south, or east out of the town of Mesa you are assured wildlife viewing success. East is the best direction for finding elk.

Hwy 139 from the town of Loma (Exit 15 off I-70) goes north 35 miles to Douglas Pass.  On both sides of Douglas Pass, deer and elk may be seen.  The gravel road to the right offers miles of back country deer, elk, and bear habitat. 

The time to look for black bears is from mid August to early October, when they are feeding in the mountain shrub zone.  The best strategy for viewing bears is to get on ridge lines with sweeping views of mountain shrub vegetation.  Binoculars and scopes are helpful.   From I-70 north on Colorado Hwy 139, go 19.6 miles to a dirt road on the left.  This is the Petro Lewis Road and it climbs up to many excellent viewing points.  The first road to the right coming south from Douglas Pass, Lookout Mountain Road, also leads to good viewing points. 

 

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