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Around Our Town...Game and Fish

Wildlife Wonder

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06/01/2006 - One of the reasons many people live in Wyoming is because of its wildlife. Few other states have the diversity and abundance of wild animals that we enjoy practically in our own backyards. Nationwide, public interest in wildlife has never been greater. Bird watching alone has attracted nearly 30 million Americans, and every year more than three million people travel to Wyoming to observe and photograph wildlife.

"Casper residents are fortunate that they do not have to travel great distances to see some of the state's incredible wild animals," said Robin Kepple, information specialist for the Casper office of the Game and Fish Department. "In fact, just a short jaunt from town can take you to several different vegetative zones that support a diverse array of wildlife species."

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To help you find these spots, stop by the Game and Fish Department office in Casper and pick up a free copy of the Casper Wildlife Viewing Tours brochure. This brochure will guide you through several wildlife viewing tours from the top of Casper Mountain to the vast sagebrush-grasslands below as well as offering information on some of the species you can expect to see and how to safely and respectfully observe these animals.

Casper Mountain has a rich diversity of wildlife. As you travel up the mountain, note the changes in altitude, temperature and soil. Because thinner air holds less heat and higher altitudes receive more precipitation than the lower slopes, distinct vegetation "zones" are created; sagebrush-grassland on the lowlands; ponderosa pine on the rockier foothill soil; lodgepole-pine on the higher slopes; and Douglas fir and the cold resistant spruce-fir on the north facing slopes are the four major vegetation zones found on Casper Mountain.

Such dramatic changes in a relatively short time create a variety of contrasting habitats and provide "niches" in which each animal species can find its preferred food and cover.

A viewing tour of Casper Mountain may easily be completed in a matter of hours, or individual sites may be selected for a shorter drive.

Lower elevations around Casper are covered by sagebrush-grassland, which is prime habitat for many different species. The plains are dominated by big sagebrush (Artemesia tridentate), a species of evergreen shrub that is the main diet of pronghorn, sage grouse and jackrabbits in winter. These animals are often easily spotted along the sagebrush-grassland tours.

Mornings and evenings are the best time to see wildlife, so plan your trip accordingly. Binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras (200 + mm lenses) work well for birdwatching and photographing wildlife. Most of the lands along these routes are private so one must have permission to access them. Picnicking facilities are available and well marked at many of the sites. For more information contact the Game and Fish office at 473-3409.

Some suggestions for wildlife viewing include:

Confine your movements to designated roads, trails and viewing areas whenever possible. Do not leave trails to observe wildlife.

Never chase or flush wildlife. When on a road or trail, stop and allow the animal to move off at is own pace.

Wild animals can be dangerous. Keep a safe, respectable distance for the animal's sake and your own. Avoid direct movement toward the animal.

Wild animals have their young in spring and summer. If you happen to find a nest or a young animal please leave it alone and leave the area. The mother is generally nearby, knows where its baby is, and will return to it when you leave.

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