The Middle Fork of the Salmon River hosts an array of wildlife in a natural, protected wilderness area. This area of Idaho is home to many different species of fish, birds, and mammals that have flourished here for centuries. The Native Americans in the area were even named “Salmon Eaters” and “Sheep Eaters” displaying there dependance on the local wildlife for survival.
Land and water mammals both thrive in this wilderness setting. It’s common to see Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer or big horn sheep. There are also mountain goats throughout the canyon, but during the summer they head to higher elevations to graze in cool mountain meadows.
River otters will entertain everyone with their playful antics as they swim, dive and splash before heading out of the river to sun themselves on rocks. These otters dine on the abundance of fish in the Middle Fork and have webbed toes, short legs and strong tails allowing them to glide gracefully underwater. However, they live in dens on land and will also eat water birds, small mammals or frogs.
Gray wolves have rebounded in the area, and were removed from the endangered species list in 2011. They are currently under management by the state of Idaho as a big game animal and current estimates peg the population at around 1000.
The canyon surrounding the Middle Fork supports a wide variety of bird life including eagles, osprey, hawks, mergansers and water ouzels. Grouse are also prevalent in the area. These game birds build ground nests often concealed by shrubs or logs.
Bald eagles are probably the most fantastic bird sighting with their distinctive appearance and a wingspan of up to 7 ft. These majestic birds now have a stable population after being listed since 1967 as an endangered species. They were officially removed from the list in 2007. Spawning trout and salmon provide the bulk of the bald eagles’ diet, which they snatch in their huge yellow talons from lakes, streams or rivers, like the Middle Fork.
Another awesome sight in this region is the osprey, which has a wingspan of up to 6 ft. This impressive fish-eater sights prey from up to 130 ft. above before diving down to snatch the fish in its talons, and they can also dive to a depth of 3 ft. in pursuit of a tasty trout or salmon.