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Siskiyou Wild Rivers: Wildlife

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Pacific Fisher

The forested peaks, roadless wildlands and pristine mountain rivers of the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area provide refuge for a remarkable variety of wildlife species. It’s easy to see why. The area contains over 250,000 acres of Wilderness, and the largest remaining complex of unprotected wilderness between Canada and Baja California, and is also home to five Wild and Scenic Rivers with the potential for many more.

The east-west ridgelines of the western Siskiyou Mountains form a vitally important wildlife corridor, linking the Cascades and the Coast Ranges and increasing the wildlife diversity in the area. Complex geology and a wide variety of micro-climates create a series of niches that meet the needs of an impressive number of species – a factor that will only become more important for species survival in the face of impending climate change.

Mammals are abundant in the region. River otters frolic in the region’s many rivers, and black bear find solstice in the vast open spaces. Some are lucky to catch a glimpse of seldom-seen species like a pine marten or pacific fisher which prefer to hide out deep in old-growth forests.

Bald Eagle

Approximately 200 bird species have been found in the area: riparian residents like osprey and American dipper, old-growth denizens like marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl, and raptors of the high peaks like peregrine falcon and northern goshawks.

The region’s aquatic richness provides ideal conditions for majestic birds of prey and large wading birds (such as the Great Blue Heron and great Egret) that make their homes along the area’s rivers and streams. Bald Eagles can be seen skimming the water surface and snatching fish in flight, while Osprey and Kingfisher dive headfirst into the river then retreat to the treetops for their feast.

The Siskiyou Wild Rivers region is a critical link between the coastal and interior mountain bird communities. With varied climatic regimes and vegetation types, the region provides suitable habitat for many bird species whose principal range lies to the south or east.

Del Norte Salamander

Reptile and amphibian diversity are exceptionally high with up to eighteen different species each, higher than anywhere in the Northwest. Several species of amphibians require streams with cool, flowing waters. Retention of riparian zones and adjacent forests in older stages are critical to the survival of aquatic species. Over 60% of the 153 species of terrestrial and freshwater mollusks are found here and nowhere else.


  • The Siskiyou Wild Rivers area is home to one of the most diverse salamander populations in North America.
  • Roughly one third of the bird species listed in the American Bird Conservancy’s 2007 Oregon watch list of imperiled and at risk birds can be found in the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area.
  • The rivers and streams of the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area support viable populations of naturally reproducing coho salmon, fall Chinook salmon, winter steelhead, coastal cutthroat trout, green sturgeon and Pacific lamprey. 

River Otter

The Siskiyou Wild Rivers area is a wildlife stronghold today, but the area faces serious threats which must be addressed if the biological diversity of the region is to remain intact. Old-growth logging continues in the area, impacting rare and sensitive species like red tree voles, marbled murrelets and spotted owls. Logging and road building activities pose a major threat to salmon and steelhead habitat in the tributaries that feed the five main rivers. And mining interests have suction-dredge operations at the headwaters of one of the most pristine salmon-bearing streams in the Pacific Northwest – the Wild and Scenic Chetco River.