Perhaps your idea of a dream vacation is leaving humans behind, and getting out to where the really wild things are. In settings ranging from scorching deserts to snowy alpine forests, the public lands shelter a huge variety of magnificent animal species.
Autumn visitors to the Ely Elk Viewing Area won’t soon forget the sight (or sounds!) of Nevada’s largest native animals during their annual rutting season, when mature bulls bugle their mating songs to court the assembled females. North America’s biggest wintering herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep caper effortlessly from cliff to crag at Wyoming’s Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep Area, the clatter of their hooves echoing against the rock faces. In fact, many public lands sites have been designated as “Watchable Wildlife Sites,” locations so rich in unique viewing opportunities that they have been formally recognized by the Watchable Wildlife Program, a nationwide network of designated wildlife viewing sites dedicated to promoting wildlife-related recreation, education, and conservation. Distinctive white-on-brown “binoculars” signs on interstate highways and other roads help to identify routes to these preferred wildlife viewing sites.
And if you’re after a glimpse of more familiar faces, keep an eye out for the bands of rugged wild horses and burros that roam freely over the western rangelands, particularly in Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Oregon. Under Federal law, some of these feral descendants of once-domestic livestock may be offered for “adoption” each year. Visitors to Oklahoma’s Pauls Valley Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Center may see as many as 500 animals galloping across 200 lush acres of fenced pasturelands as these “living symbols of the American West” await new homes.
• Respect wildlife. “Do not disturb” is the rule, especially at sensitive times and in fragile habitats.
• Learn through quiet observation, from afar. Back away if animals react to your presence.
• Never feed wild animals.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Watchable Wildlife, Inc.: www.watchablewildlife.org