7 can't-miss wildlife sightings this fall

Bull elk bugling with cows.

Flickr, .Bo Insogna, TheLightningMan.com

We all know fall offers opportunities to spy gorgeous forest displays as the leaves change color.

Autumn is also the last chance we have to spy creatures of all kinds before they disappear during the quiet of winter.

Here are some wildlife you may want to spy before next spring.

1. Elk. Hurry! The best time to hear these beasts bugle is from mid-September to mid-October, although you can hear them into November in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, where their high pitched cries can be heard amidst the stunning yellow backgrounds. Roosevelt Elk can also be heard singing in Washington’s Olympic National Park, which was originally protected to preserve their habitat. You can hear a sample of their unique sound in the video below:

2. Fish. You can also spy spawning salmon in Olympic in the fall. Fly fishers can enjoy the unique challenges of catching what’s still swimming in cold, shallow streams.

3. Reptiles and amphibians. As temperatures decrease, slitherers become more active during the daytime. Salamanders migrate to breeding ponds and frogs move to new places for winter hibernation so you may be able to spy them in evenings or during rainy days. Virginia’s Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge has guided walks through early October.

4. Birds. Every fall, millions of birds fly south, offering us a chance to see birds that don’t typically reside nearby. You can spy bald eagles at Virginia’s George Washington Birthplace National Monument, prairie falcons at Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park, short-eared owls at Massachusetts’ Cape Cod National Seashore, trumpeter swans at Minnesota and Wisconsin’s Saint Croix National Scenic River, and many more.

Photo: Sandhill cranes in Bosque del Apache NWR. Credit: Flickr, USFWS.

5. Bats. Some of the best places to see bats are at New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Idaho’s Craters of The Moon National Monument and Preserve and Texas’ Big Bend National Park, California’s Pinnacles National Monument or Point Reyes National Seashore and Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park.

Photo: Monarchs in California. Credit: Flickr, lamoustique.

6. Butterflies. Monarchs are legendary for their annual, mysterious journeys of up to three thousand miles to specific destinations where their great-great-grandparents left the previous spring. Those west of the Rocky Mountains travel to the California coast, while those east fly to Mexico. You can catch them at their peak from September to November, depending on your latitude.

7. Rams and wolves and bears, oh my! You may chance upon several other beasts in autumn. Mating bighorn sheep coalesce and engage in battle in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. Bears in Montana’s Glacier National Park forage to prepare for a long winter. Weaned wolf pups increase the size of roaming packs in Yellowstone National Park. Visitors to wild lands may also spy bison, mountain goats, coyotes and beavers as they all get ready for the dormant winter.

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