Wildlife and Vegetation
Elkhead reservoir is a 900 acre reservoir with riparian habitat above and around the lake. It is located in the sagebrush-shrub community and is surrounded by agriculture fields and grassland. Sandstone cliffs and rocky outcrops are prominent to the north. The lake itself provides habitat for many different species of birds and mammals. The area is relatively flat, with rolling hills and a few higher bluffs. All species, large or small, seem to be more visible during the early or late hours of the day.
Large ungulates can be seen all year in the sagebrush and agriculture fields surrounding the reservoir. Mule deer can be seen throughout the year. They use the sagebrush primarily for cover and feed in the alfalfa fields adjacent to the reservoir. Pronghorn Antelope are more common Spring through Fall and are usually found in the agricultural fields adjacent to the area. Elk use the area in very late fall and through the Winter. They can be seen in the sage and in the stubble fields that surround the reservoir.
A variety of raptors including Bald and Golden Eagles frequent the riparian areas above and around the lake. Hawks, such as Red-Tailed, Swainsons and Rough-legged are prevalent around the rock cliffs on the West side and also to the North. You can see American Kestrels perched along the roads or on telephone poles around the lake.
A mix of shorebirds and wading birds use the mudflats to the north of the lake as well as the reservoir shore and wetlands on the east side. Great Blue Herons, Sandhill Cranes, Sandpipers and an occasional American Avocet can be seen in the area. American White Pelicans and Western Grebes are often found on the reservoir during the summer. Forster's Terns are sometimes observed during the summer as well. Waterfowl use the reservoir primarily in the Fall. Bufflehead, Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck and Mallard are just a few of the more common duck species seen in the area this time of year. Canada and Snow Geese use the lake and the surrounding fields in late Fall and early Winter. A variety of Passerines (perching birds) use the area year-round including Sparrows, Wrens, Warblers and Swallows. Horned Larks are commonly seen, and Cliff Swallows nest in colonies near the dam in the summer. An occasional Greater Sage Grouse has been observed in the area also.
A number of small mammals can be seen around the area. Badgers, skunks, raccoons and an occasional porcupine can also be observed. The area is heavily inhabited by various ground squirrels and chipmunks; this is probably the reason we see so many raptors and small carnivores. Coyote and fox are both a common sight. A rare sighting would be an elusive mountain lion or black bear. Don't overlook the reptiles that can be found around the reservoir, including the occasional rattlesnake.