Wildlife and Fisheries

Species and Habitat Diversity

Two tailed swallowtail butterflyTwo tailed swallowtail butterfly by C.Overby, USFS. (Click image for larger view).

With a wide range of habitats on the Forest, from the only alpine tundra in the state down to lowland desert, the Forest is biologically rich, supporting a diversity of wildlife and fish populations. The Forest is home to over 500 vertebrate species, including at least 300 species of birds, almost 100 species of mammals, a wide variety of herpetefauna (amphibians and reptiles), 16 native fish species, as well as many invertebrates.

The wildlife and fish resources of the Forest are among the most diverse and unique within the Southwestern Region. Here are a few examples:

  • The first bald eagle nest in Arizona was documented at Stoneman Lake in the late 1800’s, and the largest concentration of bald eagles ever counted in Arizona (120 eagles) was documented on the Forest near Mormon Lake.
  • The Forest contains the only stream in Arizona supporting a large assemblage of native fish that is non-native fish-free. Fossil Creek contains eight native fish species as well as the last robust population of lowland leopard frogs on the Forest.
  • The Forest has 208 Mexican spotted owl nesting/roosting areas, called Protected Activity Centers (PACs). Only the Gila National Forest in New Mexico has a greater number of PACs. The central portion of the Forest provides the core of ponderosa pine-Gambel oak habitat within the species’ range.
  • Of the 11 National Forests in the Region, the Coconino has the second greatest acres of lake habitat, and the third most miles of stream habitat.

Special Status Species

The Forest provides habitat for a large number of special status species. There are currently 60 wildlife and fish species listed as threatened, endangered, or sensitive on the Coconino National Forest. In Arizona, only the Coronado National Forest in the southern portion of the state has a greater number of rare species. Of the 60 special status species:

  • Nineteen are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act or are identified as candidate species. See the full list of threatened, endangered, and candidate species.
  • Three other federally-listed species, Mexican Gray wolf, grizzly bear, and jaguar, are historic to the Forest, but have been extirpated, and there are no current plans for recovery on the Forest.
  • One other federally-listed species, the brown pelican, has been noted very rarely as an “accidental” species on the Forest.
  • Forty wildlife and fish species are classified as Sensitive on the Regional Forester’s Sensitive Species list (October 1, 2007). See the Forest’s list of Sensitive species here. See the full list of Sensitive species for the Southwestern Region here.
  • Thanks to the wide range of biotic communities ranging from desert scrub up to alpine tundra, Coconino National Forest contains habitat for 24 of the state’s 28 bat species.

Chub in HandAquatic and riparian species dominate the list of special status species. Seventeen of the 23 federally-listed species (74%) and 25 of the Sensitive species (63%) require aquatic and/or riparian habitats. Of particular note, 15 of 16 native fish species that currently occur and/or historically occurred on the Forest are federally-listed or Forest Service Sensitive species. Trends for many riparian and aquatic native species are not positive. Riparian and aquatic habitats in the Southwest have been dramatically altered or reduced in extent over the Liya frog in the palm of a handlast 100-150 years, with concurrent impacts on native aquatic and riparian species. Serious impacts are occurring due to the introduction and persistence of non-native species in riparian systems, especially to sensitive aquatic fauna such as native fish, leopard frogs, and garter snakes. Non-native fish species prey on and/or compete with native species, and crayfish are a growing concern in aquatic systems, since they can completely alter or destroy aquatic habitats. Interestingly, Arizona is the only state that does not have any native crayfish, and the introduction of nonnative crayfish species is having serious effects on native species.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife viewing is one of the most popular recreational activities on the Forest. Three Wildlife Viewing Areas on Forest lands are identified in Arizona Wildlife Viewing Guide: Mormon Lake-Doug Morrison Overlook, Kendrick Park Watchable Wildlife Trail, and Upper and Lower Lake Mary. Several others occur within the Forest boundary, but are on non- Forest Service land.

Several areas on the Forest have been recognized for their diversity of bird species. The National Audubon Society recognizes Anderson Mesa as a global Important Bird Area (IBA), Lower Oak Creek as a state IBA, and Mogollon Rim Snowmelt Draws as an identified, but not yet designated IBA. Northern Arizona Audubon Society has designated several Bird Sanctuaries and is evaluating other potential areas on the Forest.

The Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience is a community partnership committed to connecting people with Arizona's natural environment and promoting its conservation. See www.azwatchwildlife.com for more information.

Hunting and Fishing

People enjoy hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing on the Coconino. The Forest provides ample and high quality opportunities to hunt and fish. Nine of the 10 big game species in the state occur on the Forest, including black bear, bighorn sheep, elk, javelina, turkey, mountain lion, mule deer and whit-tailed deer. Buffalo is the only big game species that is not on the Forest. Seven of the nine small game species have abundant habitat on the Forest, and there are also opportunities to hunt waterfowl, predators, and furbearers. All or portions of Game Management Units 5A, 5B, 6A, 6B, 7E, 7W, 8, and 11 are on the Forest. You can find more information on hunting opportunities and species on the Arizona Game and Fish Department website http://www.azgfd.gov/h_f/hunting.shtml

Fishing opportunities are abundant as well. The Arizona Game and Fish Department manages about 27 sport fish species in the state. The Coconino provides angling opportunities for most of those species in stream and lake habitats. Of the 27 sport fish species, most have been introduced to the state from elsewhere, but Apache trout, desert sucker, and roundtail chub are native sport fish. Gila trout were native to the Verde watershed on the Forest, but have been extirpated. Efforts are underway to restore stream habitat for potential re-introduction of Gila trout. The Forest provides a unique opportunity to fish for native roundtail chub in Fossil Creek. You can find more information on fishing opportunities at http://www.azgfd.gov/h_f/fishing.shtml