The Wildlife Watcher’s Reading List

by Guest Blog: Erin Brady | December 3, 2020

Spearfish is an excellent destination for wildlife watchers. No matter the season, there is an exciting diversity of wildlife to spot in the city of Spearfish and Spearfish Canyon. You might see mountain goats while you’re driving through the canyon or a family of wood ducks at the fish hatchery in town. Maybe even a Bald Eagle if you keep your eyes peeled!

While sightings depend on a bit of luck, there are some great resources that can be a big help when it comes to finding wildlife, especially when you’re exploring a new area. I’ve also found as a lifelong wildlife enthusiast that learning about the animals I’m hoping to see adds a lot of enjoyment to the experience.

The books below are particularly helpful for wildlife watching in the Spearfish area. Some are focused on the region and others provide interesting information about the wildlife you’re likely to see here.

Watchable Birds of the Black Hills, Badlands, and Northern Great Plains

by Jan L. Wassink

This book is region-specific, so it’s a good resource for learning about local birds without being overwhelmed by a massive number of species. It has great photos, and the comparison shots of similar species are very helpful for identification.


Birds of the Dakotas Field Guide

by Stan Tekiela

This field guide is excellent for the beginning bird watcher and is also focused on the area. The birds are organized by color, which is very user-friendly. It’s compact size also makes it easy to carry along on a hike.


Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America

by Fiona A. Reid

Beyond the larger species like elk and mountain goats, smaller mammals are some of the cutest wildlife to look for in Spearfish. This field guide will help you distinguish weasels from minks and marmots from martens.


Peterson Reference Guide to the Behavior of North American Mammals

by Mark Elbroch and Kurt Rinehart

Understanding animal behavior can be very helpful when it comes to locating wildlife. This book covers the activity, habitat, food preferences, and communication methods of many of the species you might come across in Spearfish. It also includes excellent photography.


Large Mammals of the Rocky Mountains

by Jack Ballard

This book provides a wealth of knowledge about some of the bigger animals you’re likely to see in the Spearfish area, including chapters on mountain goats, elk, mountain lions, pronghorn, and deer.


Mammals (A Golden Guide from St. Martin’s Press)

by Herbert S. Zim and Donald F. Hoffmeister, illustrated by James Gordon Irving

This is a really fun guide that has charming illustrations of many American species of mammals. It’s also a convenient pocket-size and full of interesting facts about many animals found in Spearfish.

Wildlife Hotspots

These are a few spots to get you started on your wildlife watching adventure in Spearfish.

Roughlock Falls

Roughlock Falls Nature Area

This is a good spot for birdwatching. An American dipper might be found in the water near the base of the falls, and American redstarts are often fluttering around in the bushes along the creek.

Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

Osprey, deer, and wild turkeys are a few of the animals you might see while cruising this scenic road, and keep an eye out for bald eagles especially in the late fall and winter. A small herd of mountain goats frequent the area surrounding Bridal Veil Falls, keep a keen eye out for these stars and be sure to drive carefully in case they’re crossing the road.

DC Booth Fish Hatchery

D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery

This picturesque hatchery is located right in town. Be on the look for wood ducks, osprey, belted kingfishers, and muskrats in and around the ponds.

Erin Brady Bio:

Erin has had a lifelong interest in animals and enjoys writing about and photographing wildlife. She received her journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. She has family roots in Spearfish Canyon and spends as much time as she can in the area. You can see more of her wildlife photography on her Instagram account: @aperkatseye


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