"From the cliffs far above I could hear the clear falling notes of a canyon wren - characteristic song in this land of stone and stillness."
Abbey, Edward, Slickrock, Endangered Canyons of the Southwest, Sierra Club, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1971. p.62.
The diversity of habitat within the Grand Gulch Plateau has significant value for wildlife species. Three threatened species are known to use the area. Bald eagles are winter transients in the area; however, roosting sites have not been located. American peregrine falcons are known to nest in the area. The Mexican spotted owl occurs and may nest in the area.
Other special status species which may occur in the area include the Great Basin Silverspot butterfly, spotted bat, ferruginous hawk, loggerhead shrike, southwest willow flycatcher, northern goshawk, and white-faced ibis. The golden eagle, a federally protected species, is frequently observed in the area.
The most common mammals of the Grand Gulch Plateau are cottontail rabbit, blacktail jackrabbit, whitetail antelope, squirrel, kangaroo rat, pinon mouse, deer mouse, whitethroat woodrat, least chipmunk, coyote, gray fox, and several bat species. Spotted skunk and ringtail cat are found in the more moist canyons, but they are rarely observed due to their nocturnal habits and sparse densities. Bobcat and mountain lion inhabit remote canyons where they are seldom seen. Beavers have moved up from the San Juan River, and now inhabit Fish Creek Canyon and Comb Wash.
Small resident herds of mule deer inhabit some of the canyons; however, the area appears to have more importance for wintering deer. One area on the Grand Gulch Plateau, Harmony Flat, is designated as crucial winter deer habitat.
The area includes historic range for desert bighorn sheep. Investigations of archaeological sites reveal that desert bighorn sheep were present during pre-historic times; however, the sheep experienced a die off prior to settlement of the area. Much of the historic range still holds great potential for desert bighorn sheep if the herd expands again. Reptiles and amphibians are some of the most commonly observed inhabitants of the area. The most common reptile and amphibian species are the side-blotched lizard, northern plateau lizard, northern sagebrush lizard, Great Basin gopher snake, orange-headed spiny lizard, Hopi rattlesnake, Great Basin spadefoot toad, and red-spotted toad. Canyon tree frogs, leopard frogs, and black-necked garter snakes can be found in wetter areas.
The riparian areas in the canyons provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species. The greatest diversity of passerine bird species, including many neo-tropical migrants, is found in the canyons during the spring. Common birds are hairy woodpecker, violet-green swallow, pinon jay, common raven, plain titmouse, rock wren, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, and great horned owl. Flammulated owls are also canyon residents.
Many animal species that the ancient Indians used for food and clothing can still be seen in Grand Gulch. The Anasazi caught cottontail rabbits in nets or snares; rabbit meat added protein to their diets, and they made the pelts into blankets and robes. Infants were often wrapped in rabbit fur blankets for burial. Rock squirrels, too, were probably eaten and their skins used for small items such as medicine bags.
The Anasazi hunted mule deer and desert bighorn sheep for food and clothing and fashioned tools from the bones. Judging from the frequency with which desert bighorn sheep are depicted on rock art panels throughout the canyon, they must have been especially important to the Anasazi.
(Adapted from the Grand Gulch Plateau Cultural and Recreation Area Management Plan)
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