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Deschutes National Forest – 11 Animals We Saw While Exploring on Foot

Exploring the Deschutes National Forest on foot is one of the most rewarding ways to experience the majestic beauty of its forests, rivers and valleys. But it’s also a great way to observe wildlife in their natural habitats. In this article, we share our experience exploring the Deschutes National Forest and the 11 animals we saw along the way!

Black bears 

If you’re lucky enough to spot a black bear while hiking in Deschutes National Forest, it will likely be near one of the many rivers or streams in the area. These bears are most active at dawn and dusk, so keep your eyes peeled during these times of day. If you do see a black bear, don’t approach it and give it plenty of space. Enjoy observing this amazing animal from a distance!

In Deschutes National Forest, black bears are typically found in the eastern and southern portions near the town of LaPine. The forest is home to a variety of habitats including dense forests, meadows, marshes, and alpine areas which provide ample food sources for these omnivores. In addition to berries and nuts, they also feed on insects and occasionally fish or small mammals. 

Black bears are an important part of the ecosystem in Deschutes National Forest as they help disperse seeds from plants they consume and play a role in maintaining healthy forests. 

To ensure the safety of both yourself and the black bears, it is important to never leave food out or approach them when encountered in the wild.

Elk 

Elk are one of the many animals that call Deschutes National Forest home. These majestic creatures can be found throughout the forest, but are most commonly seen in the meadows and along streams. 

While they may seem elusive at first, spending some time in their habitat will increase your chances of seeing them. Here are some tips on where to find elk in Deschutes National Forest and what to know about them.

Elk tend to congregate in meadows and along streams because they rely on these habitats for food and water. Look for signs of elk activity, such as fresh tracks or grazing areas, in these areas. 

Early morning or evening hours are often the best times to see elk since they are more active during these times of the day. If you do see an elk, be sure to give it plenty of space and do not approach it too closely. Elk are wild animals and can be dangerous if they feel threatened.

Now that you know where to find elk in Deschutes National Forest and a little bit about them, go out and enjoy exploring this beautiful forest!

Mule deer 

Mule deer are one of the most popular animals in the Deschutes National Forest. They can be found all over the forest, but are most commonly seen in the meadows and along the edges of forests. Mule deer are easily recognizable with their large ears and long legs. They are also relatively easy to approach, making them a great animal to see while exploring on foot.

In the summer months, mule deer can be found grazing in open meadows and along the banks of streams and rivers. In the winter, they will move to higher elevations in search of food. During this time they tend to form large herds, making them easier to spot. 

It is important to remember that mule deer are wild animals and should be respected. It is illegal to feed or disturb them in any way. If you happen to see a mule deer while out in Deschutes National Forest, keep your distance and enjoy it from afar.

Bighorn sheep

Bighorn sheep are one of the most popular animals to see in the Deschutes National Forest. They are often seen near the Cascade Lakes Highway, in the vicinity of Lava Butte, and along East Rim Drive. While they can be found throughout the forest, these are some of the best places to see them. 

Bighorn sheep are known for their large horns and their ability to climb steep cliffs. They are relatively small animals, standing about 3 feet tall at the shoulder. Bighorn sheep are herbivores and eat a variety of plants. 

If you’re lucky enough to see a bighorn sheep in Deschutes National Forest, be sure to give them plenty of space and respect their wild nature.

Pileated woodpeckers

If you’re lucky enough to spot a pileated woodpecker in Deschutes National Forest, it will likely be near a tree with large, deep cavities. These birds are some of the largest woodpeckers in North America, and they use their powerful beaks to excavate homes in dead or dying trees.

Pileated woodpeckers are most active during the day, so keep your eyes peeled for them as you hike through the forest. If you hear a loud ‘gak-gak-gak’ sound coming from the woods, that’s probably a pileated woodpecker! These birds are also known for their distinctive red crest, so they’re not hard to spot once you know what to look for.

Martens

If you’re hoping to see some martens while exploring the Deschutes National Forest, your best bet is to head to the higher elevations. Martens are relatively small carnivores that look like a cross between a weasel and a squirrel. They’retree-climbing experts, so keep your eyes peeled for them in areas with lots of trees.

Martens are shy animals, so you might not see them even if they’re nearby. But if you do spot one, it’s sure to be a memorable experience!

In Deschutes National Forest, you can find martens in areas of old-growth forest, as well as near rocky slopes or talus areas. These areas provide the perfect habitat for these animals to climb and hide. If you’re visiting during winter months, look for tracks in the snow to help you identify where they may have been.

The best time of year to spot martens is typically from May through October. During this time, they’re most active and more likely to be visible. Be sure to bring binoculars so that you can get a closer look!

Mink

Mink is one of the most interesting animals in Deschutes National Forest. They are small, active predators that live in and around water. Mink are good swimmers and climbers, and they have a thick coat of fur that helps them survive in cold weather. 

If you’re lucky enough to see a mink in the wild, it’s likely that you’ll spot one near a river or stream. Mink prefer to live in areas with lots of vegetation, so you may also find them near forests or wetlands. Keep your eyes peeled for these playful little creatures the next time you’re exploring Deschutes National Forest!

River otters

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Deschutes National Forest, keep your eyes peeled for river otters! These playful creatures can be found near rivers and streams throughout the forest. Here are some tips on where to find them and what to expect:

 River otters tend to be most active in the early morning or evening hours. If you’re out exploring during these times, keep your eyes peeled for movement along the water’s edge.

River otters are excellent swimmers and often dive underwater in pursuit of fish. If you see an otter swimming back and forth across a stretch of river, it’s likely that there are fish nearby. Watch for a while and you may even see the otter catch its dinner!

River otters are very curious creatures and have been known to approach humans who they perceive as harmless. If you see an otter while hiking or fishing, resist the urge to chase it away – instead, enjoy the rare opportunity to observe this amazing animal up close!

Bobcats

The Deschutes National Forest is home to a variety of wildlife, including bobcats. Bobcats are shy, solitary animals that are most active at night. They can be found in a variety of habitats throughout the forest, but are most commonly seen in brushy areas or near rocky outcrops.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a bobcat while exploring the Deschutes National Forest, keep your distance and enjoy the sighting from afar. These majestic animals are an important part of the ecosystem and play a vital role in controlling populations of small mammals.

When searching for bobcats in the Deschutes National Forest, you may want to look for tracks or scat near rock outcrops and brushy areas. These animals are also known to hunt along streams, so keep an eye out while hiking through creekside trails.

Coyotes

If you’re hiking or camping in Deschutes National Forest, you may be lucky enough to spot a coyote. These cunning canids are often seen alone or in pairs but sometimes travel in packs. Coyotes are most active at dawn and dusk, but can also be seen during the day. They inhabit all areas of the forest, from the high alpine to the desert floor. 

Coyotes are opportunistic eaters and will prey on small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even fruit. In the winter months, they often hunt deer and elk. 

You can help keep coyotes wild by not feeding them and keeping your campsite clean. If you do encounter a coyote while recreating in the forest, please maintain a safe distance and do not approach or attempt to feed it.

Cougars (Mountain lions)

There are plenty of cougars (mountain lions) in Deschutes National Forest. They tend to stay hidden in dense forests and mountainous terrain but can be seen occasionally along roads and trails. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, be sure to give it a wide berth – these powerful predators can be dangerous to humans.

The best places to look for cougars in Deschutes National Forest are along the Middle Fork of the Deschutes River, deep within the Cascade Range or along ridgelines. In winter months, snow can provide a good opportunity to track them from their tracks and scat.

It’s also important to note that cougars are active year-round, so be sure to take extra precautions when heading out into the backcountry in this area. Always keep an eye out for their tracks and be aware of your surroundings at all times. And if you do happen to spot one, don’t approach it – just enjoy the sighting from afar!

Conclusion

Exploring Deschutes National Forest on foot is a great way to get an up-close and personal view of the animals that live in this unique ecosystem. We were fortunate enough to see 11 different species during our journey, from beautiful birds like Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks to more elusive critters like Pika, Coyotes, and Mule Deer. 

Not only was it a great experience for us, but also for the wild creatures we encountered along the way. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful hike or just want to observe wildlife in its natural habitat, Deschutes National Forest has plenty of opportunities for both!

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