NOW YOU CAN STOP, look and see if you can name that animal in, oh, three guesses.
Deer? No, too big. Elk? No, horns look too much like punch bowls, not tree roots. OK, it's got to be a moose. A winner.And what's that? An eared grebe, and next to it is a Wilson's phalarope, and off to the side is a side-blotched lizard.
Thanks to Jim Cole, wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service and his team of wildlife watchers, it's possible to go wildlife watching and actually see wildlife. Just how good people are at telling horses from moose, coyotes from retrievers, and sea gulls from eagles, is another matter.
Earlier this week, Cole announced that Utah's Wildlife Viewing Guide was on the market.
After a year of looking and watching, the book has come up with the best 92 spots around the state to see wildlife.
There are, after all, 630 species of vertebrates in Utah, and a number of those are big enough that they can't be missed.
According to Cole, sites were solicited from any group or agency with a spot where wildlife might be viewed.
The two most important criteria were:
- Sites with a high possibility of seeing native, free-roaming wildlife.
- Acceptable scenic quality, excluding sewage treatment ponds, dumps, degraded industrial and agricultural lands, etc.
"There were," he said, "over 200 submitted . . . and I went and visited 95 percent of them. Now that was a lot of fun."
At some sites, people can simply drive by and look, never having to set foot on anything but a car mat. Some require a hike, and some call for use of a boat.
"Some are well-known, like Zion National Park, and some not so well-known, like the Strawberry River Wildlife Management Area," he said. "Some are small, a few acres, and some are very large, a few hundred thousand acres."
The book should have wide readership. It is estimated that 80 percent of all Utahns will have a wildlife experience this year. More than 60 percent will be direct - hunting, fishing, bird watching, a Sunday drive to see deer in the foothills. The remaining 20 percent will enjoy a wildlife experience as a result of an unrelated trip, like going on a Sunday drive to see the flowers and seeing deer.
In a 1985 national survey, it was reported that in the U.S. there were 46.4 million people 16 and older who fish; 16.7 million who hunt; and 134.7 million who enjoy wildlife through cameras, binoculars, a trip through a hatchery, or a stroll through the woods.
So when the Defenders of Wildlife came into Utah with the idea, it was no wonder wildlife groups and agencies saw the light flash.
Cole, with the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, authored the book with deep involvement of the Bureau of Land Management, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Parks and Recreation, Zion Natural History Association at Zion National Park, Utah Travel Council, and even the Utah Department of Transportation, caretakers of our highways.
The book gives directions to the 92 locations, an idea about the different animals in the area - carnivores, hoofed mammals, small mammals, freshwater mammals, waterfowl, songbirds, birds of prey, fish, wildflowers, reptiles, shorebirds and wading birds - and viewing information, such as if the moving sights are likely to be seen or only probable.
Also, it gives such information as who owns the land, the closest town, and if camping and recreational opportunities are close by.
At the Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area, near the town of Hooper, for example, there is parking, restrooms, hiking trails and picnic tables, and it is highly probable that people will see a member of the bird family.
On the Lucerne Peninsula, near the town of Manila, it is likely that visitors will see antelope, and along North Skyline Drive, near Fairview, it is highly possible to see deer, elk and moose.
Cost of the 88-page, four-color book is $5.95.
With interest being what it is in Utah, it's likely the book will hit the bestseller list before the summer is over and many of the viewing areas are put out of reach.