Forest Lakes Owners Association

Flora and Fauna

PLANTS AND ANIMALS OF FOREST LAKES AND VICINITY

PLANTS

Forest Lakes is located in a Ponderosa Pine forest that stretches from the town of Williams east along the Mogollon Plateau into New Mexico.  This is the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in North America.  In addition to the towering pines, this area also supports stands of the white-barked Quaking Aspen, and of the deciduous Gambel's Oak. Several species of live oaks may be seen below the Rim along Highway 260, but none above the Rim. Scattered throughout, especially in the many canyons, are White Firs, often mistaken for Blue Spruces. The real Blue Spruce is found about two thousand feet higher in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. Other plants of interest include stands of the spiny New Mexican Locust, usually found as shrubs but sometimes of tree size, and large Willows in the riparian canyon bottoms. People who know where to look also find raspberries for the picking in September.  The best picking is usually in areas that have burned in recent years.

ANIMALS

 In addition to supporting a thriving community of two-legged Homo sapiens this area is blessed with a variety of four legged mammals and birds.

MAMMALS

The largest animal in the forest is the magnificent Rocky Mountain elk. Males, known popularly as bulls, can attain a standing weight of 1000 pounds; females (cows) are about half that. The bulls, with their spectacular antlers are among the most sought after game animals in Arizona. Spotted elk calves are born from late May into June.  

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Bull elk during September "rut" 

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Whitetail (Coues) buck and doe

Two other members of the deer family also call this area home: mule deer and the diminutive whitetailed (Coues) deer. You are unlikely to see whitetails unless you are near, or hike down into, Chevelon Canyon. Mule deer may be found anywhere in the pine forest. Spotted fawns of both species begin showing up in August.  

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Four Point Mule Deer Buck

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Large Black Bear

Black bears (including a brown or cinnamon phase) are fairly common around Forest Lakes. In fact several usually become nuisances each summer, tipping over garbage cans and scattering thrash . Game and Fish Department personnel frequently have to be called to trap and remove problem animals. Forest Lakes residents can minimize the problem by keeping thrash in tightly closed garbage containers and by not leaving dog food dishes outside where odors will attract the bears.  

The raccoon is another animal that may become a nuisance if food is left outside to attract them.  

You will probably never see one, but there are indeed mountain lions in this area. Lions, also known as cougars or pumas, are one of the shyest animals around. Even lion hunters using hounds to trail them seldom see one until it is treed by the hounds.

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Mountain Lion

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Coyote

Other carnivores include the ubiquitous coyote found from near sea level to spruce forests at over 10,000 feet. Less often seen are the lion's smaller cousin, the bobcat, and the gray fox.  

You might not expect to find the collared peccary, better known as the javelina (have-a-lena), in a pine forest, but these relatives of the domestic pig are here nonetheless despite the absence of their favorite food--the prickly pear cactus.  But, they are anything but common.  I have only seen two in the 18 years my wife and I have spent the summer months at Forest Lakes but other residents have reported them also.  And let's not forget skunks, both striped and hog-nosed skunks may be found in this area.

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Abert squirrel

Smaller mammals include the cottontails, the tassel-eared Abert's squirrel, rock squirrels, golden mantled ground squirrel, often confused with chipmunks, and the real chipmunks. Golden mantled squirrels can be distinguished from chipmunks by their larger size and the fact that the white stripes do not extend on to the face.

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Young golden mantled ground squirrel

BIRDS

A variety of our feathered friends also make their home in and around Forest Lakes. Like human residents, many are here only during the delightful summer season. They nest and bring off a clutch of young and then head south. Some don't stop until they reach their winter quarters in Mexico or Central America; others simply move to lower elevations and winter in Arizona's desert regions--in the same way as many human "snowbirds".

Common summer residents include Robins, Black Phoebes, Say's Phoebes, Violet-Green Swallows, Purple Martins, Band-tailed Pigeons, Mourning Doves, Western Tanagers, Black Headed Grosbeaks, Red Crossbills (scarce in recent years) , Evening Grosbeaks, Chipping Sparrows, Yellow Warblers (and other hard-to-identify warblers,) Pine Siskins and Juncos.

The largest bird of the Ponderosa Pine forest is the turkey.  while turkeys migrate to more temperate climes when snow and cold hit the pine type, they don't move very far, and can be found a couple thousand feet lower down in the Pinon-Pine type throughout the winter months.

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Flock of Arizona turkeys

Probably most interesting to Forest Lakes summer residents are the hummingbirds. We have one very common species, the Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Most of the hummers attracted to hummingbird feeders in Forest Lakes are Broadtails. Less common but easy to identify is the Magnificent Hummingbird.  This is the largest hummingbird in North America. Around the first week in July male Rufous Hummingbirds show up and stay for the rest of the summer. The Rufous is interesting for two reasons: One is that it nests mainly in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, but the males head south as soon as the females are on the nests incubating eggs. The second is that they are the feistiest of all the hummingbirds. Around feeders they spend most of their time chasing away other hummers, even the Magnificent, about twice the size of a Rufous.

There is not much permanent open water around Forest Lakes so you won't see many waterfowl or marsh or shore birds. However, a visit to Hidden Lake on Forest Road 236 or Willow Springs or one of the other Rim lakes may turn up  Mallards, Green Winged Teal, other ducks, Great Blue Herons, Spotted Sandpipers. If you are real lucky you may see an Osprey soaring over the water hoping to catch a fish dinner or, if you are even luckier, a Bald Eagle doing the same or trying to steal a fish from an Osprey.

A surprisingly large number of bird species don't migrate but are year-round residents. They include the Great Horned Owl, Screech Owl, Pygmy Owl, Spotted Owl, Hairy Woodpecker, Flicker, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, White Breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Rock Wren and Canyon Wren (mostly in Chevelon canyon) Townsend's Solitaire, Hermit Thrush , Steller's Jay, Pinyon Jay ( mostly in the pinon-juniper belt north of Forest Lakes), Crow and Raven.  

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Mountain Chickadee

Forest Lakes residents who get interested in bird identification will need a binocular and a good bird guide. Large book stores carry several titles; one of the best is still Roger Tory Peterson's WESTERN BIRDS.

PLANTS AND ANIMALS OF FOREST LAKES AND VICINITY
written by Steve Gallizioli
Wildlife Biologist, retired
Photos courtesy of Steve Gallizioli and Jeannie Van Lew

 

Revised: 26 Sep 2002


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P.O. Box 1513, Forest Lakes, AZ 85931
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