Posted by: aarontheisen | February 3, 2012

Winter wildlife viewing

Deer browsing amidst the ponderosa pines at Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

Winter snows present a great opportunity to view wildlife movements. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

Winter brings with its cold temperatures and deep snowpack some unique wildlife-viewing opportunities in the region. Migratory birds make stopovers at low-elevation wetlands on their way to warmer climates, and mammals such as white-tailed deer, mule deer and bighorn sheep make their way to lower elevations now that their high-elevation forage is deeply buried. And even if wildlife prove elusive, their tracks are easily spotted in the snow, providing added interest to any skiing or snowshoeing adventure.

Across the Columbia Highlands, winter wildlife-watching opportunities abound. Below are two fun family-friendly options:

Sherman Creek Wildlife Area

Habitat: Over nine-thousand acres of low- and mid-elevation forest, predominately ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir. Aspen groves and meadows filled with nutrient-rich ceanothus shrubs fill openings in the canopy.

Wildlife: Mule and white-tailed deer make use of the open low-elevation forest forage, as do black bears, wild turkeys and other upland bird species.

Driving directionsFrom Colville, drive north on US 395 to intersection with Hwy 20. Turn left onto Hwy 20. The wildlife area headquarters is located a few miles west of the bridge over the Columbia River, on the south side of the highway.

Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge

Habitat: Over forty thousand acres ranging from lowland marshes to subalpine forest–the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge is the only mountainous mixed-conifer refuge in the lower 48 states.

Wildlife: The wildlife refuge provides habitat for 206 species of birds, 58 mammal, 8 reptile, and 6 amphibian species. Wetland areas are a crucial stopover point for migratory songbirds. Low-elevation forests provide critical winter range for white-tailed deer. Subalpine forests host the endangered Canada lynx.

Driving directions: From Main Street (Highway 395) in Colville, follow Third Avenue (Highway 20) east for 6 miles. Just after passing White Mud Lake, make a right turn onto Artman-Gibson Road. Travel 1.7 miles until reaching a 4-way intersection. Turn left onto Kitt-Narcisse Road and follow it for 2.2 miles where the road forks. Take the right fork onto Bear Creek Road, and follow it for 3.3 miles. The Refuge headquarters is a brown log building.



  1. Great photo! She looks like she is doing well this winter. Good point about visiting the wildlife refuges this time of year. Reminds me that I haven’t visited Ninepipes yet this winter.

    • One side effect of the relative lack of lowland snow this winter is the deer are certainly not hurting for food!

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