There are thousands of species of wildlife that live within the Rogue Basin. From the smallest mites, spiders, and insects to black bears and Roosevelt elk, a healthy watershed provides a wide range of habitats and sources of food for all of these animals.
The health of these species is an indicator of the health of the streams, streamside areas, and wetlands of the watershed. From thick, dense stands of shrubs and small trees to exposed boulder fields along a stream’s edge, healthy streams and riparian areas maintain a wide variety of conditions on which some animal or group of animals depend. Restoration actions re-engage “natural processes” by creating and maintaining healthy conditions for a wide range of native animals.
Species you might find in the Rogue River watershed include:
Western pearlshell mussel
Rarely seen except by experts specifically on the lookout for these critters, freshwater mussels are a sure sign that a stream is in good health. Mussels require clean beds of rocks of a fairly uniform (and specific) size to thrive. Large wood structures within a stream channel form and sustain gravel bars with rocks of just the right size for these animals. Wide bands of forest along streams help keep fine sediments like clay and silt from making it to the stream where it has the potential to suffocate the mussels.
You can find four different species of garter snakes in the Rogue (Common, Northwestern, Pacific Coast Aquatic, and Western Terrestrial). All four are commonly found near water, and they all prey on fish, amphibians, and other snakes (among other small animals).
Of the group, Pacific Coast Aquatic Garter Snakes are the most closely tied to streams. They can be found basking on large boulders on the edge or in the stream channel, usually near well-vegetated riparian areas. The placement of large wood structures helps to create the boulder fields and riparian restoration projects provide the near stream cover these snakes need to feel secure while warming in the sun and looking for food.
Garter snake in Elk Creek – August 2020
Coastal Giant Salamander
Common, though rarely seen, Coastal Giant Salamanders are the largest salamander of the Pacific Northwest. They are most likely to be found in well-shaded streams with a wide range of habitat types including deep pools (formed by large wood structures). While most Coastal Giant Salamanders are aquatic as larvae and become terrestrial when they mature, some retain their aquatic lifestyle into adulthood.
This long-distance migrant spends summers in the United States and northern Mexico and winters in southern Mexico and “Central America.” You can hear its complex series of hoots, whistles, clicks, and gurgles in dense thickets of shrubs and small trees in streamside (or “riparian”) forests. Our efforts to restore streamside forests create excellent breeding and feeding habitat for many riparian bird species like the Yellow-breasted Chat.
One of just a few animals that can “make” their own preferred habitat, American Beaver are tireless architects of stream and wetlands. Beavers benefit from log structures, which provide the animals with a place to hide while they build a den and if needed, a dam. Streamside forest restoration, complete with lots of willow, cottonwood, and alder, helps to provide a steady source of food for American Beaver.