San Juan National Forest
Big game animals are abundant with sightings of mule deer, elk, and black bear being common. Sheep Mountain and Cimmarona Peak areas provide winter range for bighorn sheep. Cougar are also reported. Smaller animals and birds such as snowshoe hare, pika, badger, marmot, marten, porcupine, squirrels, blue grouse, ptarmigan and golden eagle may be observed. Hunters stalk mule deer, the majestic elk, bear, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, grouse, turkey and ducks.
Recreation and wildlife both complement good watershed management and water production. This area annually produces an average yield of more than 485,000 acre-feet of water. Domestic sheep are permitted to graze where surveys indicate that grazing is compatible with existing resources.
Wild animals are the true residents of the San Juan National Forest. They thrive in its diverse terrain and vegetation. A visitor is likely to see many of the Forest residents: squirrels and chipmunks in the campgrounds, an occasional furry marmot scurrying along a back road, or deer and elk feeding in a meadow. You might also encounter a skunk or porcupine.
Backcountry visitors in rarely traveled areas may catch a glimpse of bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bear, beaver, river otters, or even mountain lions. For recorded information on Colorado's wildlife, call (303) 291-7518.
Nearly 300 species of birds have been identified in southwestern Colorado. More than 100 are considered common. The bald eagle and peregrine falcon are federal endangered species found here.
Common campground visitors include ravens, flickers, gray jays, mountain bluebirds, and hummingbirds. Owls often pierce the evening's quiet with their eerie hoots. Golden eagles are year-round Forest residents. Bald eagles can be seen near the larger streams during the winter. With a pair of binoculars and a good "bird book," you can easily identify many birds in the Forest. (A bird list, compiled by the Durango Bird Club, is available on request from Forest Service offices.) You might flush a grouse or wild turkey from its hiding place in the underbrush. Or you might discover a dipper bobbing up and down on a rock near a stream, or taking an underwater walk. Listen for woodpeckers in search of insects in the bark of trees. Look for the great blue heron walking slowly through marshy areas and shallows.
As commercial and residential development increases, wildlife habitat in the Forest becomes even more valuable. The Forest Service cooperates with the Colorado Division of Wildlife in managing wildlife and habitat.
Most big-game hunting seasons occur in the fall. Details and license applications are available at Forest Service and Division of Wildlife offices and area sporting goods stores. Call the Division of Wildlife at (303) 291-7529 for recorded information.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication