Watching Wildlife

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

wildlife coming and going. When you enter an area, you'll probably disturb the animals, so give them 10 to 15 minutes to lose their fear and return to their activities.

Think again about habitats and learn where to look for particular species. Make note of habitat conditions and observe closely. You may even want to keep a journal or create some habitats in your own yard.

A fresh snow in winter can be wonderful for observing wildlife signs. Many mammals, such as bobcat, river otter and beaver are active at night and hard to see, but they leave signs behind, such as tracks in snow or mud. Keep an eye out for scat, fur and gnawed or trampled vegetation.

Visit nearby nature centers or visit with naturalists about wildlife watching. Attend a meeting of the local chapter of the Audubon Society or some other outdoor organization. Most of these groups offer guest speakers, workshops and field trips to view wildlife.


While watching wildlife, try not to interfere with their daily activities. If an animal is jumpy, you're probably getting too close. To keep from disturbing young animals, stay away from nests or dens while animals are rearing their young. If you find young animals alone, the parent is likely nearby and will return. Feeding, handling or chasing wildlife can be harmful to you and the animal.

If you're visiting a public area with marked trails, remain on pathways or in designated areas. Keep a leash on any pets with you or, better yet, leave pets at home. Honor the rights of landowners and ask permission before entering private property.

Watching wildlife can be addictive. The more you go, the more you'll want to learn about animal activities and habitats. Missouri offers a variety of habitats, from big rivers and swamps to prairies and forests. Discover all of these as you enjoy our state's wildlife. triangle

Wildlife Watching Sites

Following are a few places where anyone can go to see wildlife.

image of map showing wildlife watching areas

  • Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Mound City, has fall migrations of snow geese, ducks, hawks and bald eagles, and spring migrations of shorebirds and marsh birds. An auto tour provides views of prairie marsh mammals.
  • Fountain Grove Conservation Area and Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Sumner, have spring and fall migrations of ducks, geese, shorebirds and pelicans. Look for river otter and water mammals year round.
  • August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area, St. Charles, has waterfowl, songbirds, deer and small mammals in all seasons, and wading birds and reptiles in warmer months.
  • Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area and Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, Branson, provide glimpses of Ozark wildlife. Henning has glades of wildflowers in spring, while the fish hatchery's trails help you observe trout, waterfowl and raptors.
  • Prairie State Park, Lamar, is a scenic prairie with a bison herd and prairie chickens. Summer wildflowers, butterflies and songbirds provide color in the grassland.
  • Mingo National Wildlife Refuge and Duck Creek Conservation Area, Puxico, have cypress swamps in which you can see waterfowl, songbirds, fish, river otters and nesting and wintering bald eagles.

Nature Viewing Guide

Send for your copy of the Nature Viewing Guide, which lists 101 of Missouri's most spectacular nature viewing sites. The book's easy-to-read format lets you know at a glance what awaits you at each area -- everything from restroom availability to what animals you may see. Color photographs give you a preview of some of Missouri's most interesting plants and animals. To order, send $3.50, plus $2 for shipping and handling (Missouri residents should add 22 cents for sales tax) to: Missouri Department of Conservation, Fiscal Section, PO Box 180, Jefferson City 65102-0180.

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