Flora and Fauna
PLANTS AND ANIMALS OF
FOREST LAKES AND VICINITY
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
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
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
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.
| 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.
Bull elk during September "rut"
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.
Four Point Mule Deer Buck
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
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
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.
Smaller mammals include the
cottontails, the tassel-eared Abert's
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
Young golden mantled ground
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
Tanagers, Black Headed
Grosbeaks, Red Crossbills (scarce in recent years) ,
Chipping Sparrows, Yellow Warblers (and other hard-to-identify
warblers,) Pine Siskins and
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.
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
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
Teal, other ducks, Great Blue
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
|A surprisingly large number of bird
species don't migrate but are year-round residents. They include the
Great Horned Owl, Screech
Nuthatch, White Breasted
Brown Creeper, Rock Wren and
Canyon Wren (mostly in Chevelon canyon)
Townsend's Solitaire, Hermit Thrush ,
Jay, Pinyon Jay ( mostly
in the pinon-juniper belt north of Forest Lakes), Crow and
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