Willow Mountain —
Critical Habitat Area
Fish and Wildlife
Ptarmigan and spruce grouse are common residents of the area. Spruce grouse favor the mixed forests of the lower elevations while ptarmigan feed on willow on the higher slopes. Frequently seen birds include ravens, magpies, gray jays, rosy finches, boreal and black-capped chickadees, redpolls, white-crowned sparrows, golden-crowned sparrows, Wilson's warblers, Swainson's thrushes and downy woodpeckers. Dippers can be found along the creeks. The abundance of both birds and small mammals attracts raptors such as goshawks, sharp-shinned hawks, merlin, red-tailed hawks and an occasional gyrfalcon during fall and winter.
Moose are the featured attraction along the mid-level slopes of Willow Mountain throughout the summer, fall, and early winter. A combination of high quality willow browse, mixed forest cover, and relatively shallow winter snow pack attract over 1,000 moose to the area from as far as the Deshka River to the west, Wasilla to the south and Brownie Mountain to the north. Beginning in late October every year, particularly large concentrations of moose gather in alpine portions of the critical habitat area for the post-rut period where they remain until increasing snow depths force them to move to lower elevations. In winters with shallow snow, many moose remain in the critical habitat area.
Moose share the higher elevations with small numbers of caribou. The slopes of Willow Mountain also support populations of both brown and black bear with black bear favoring the lower, forested elevations. Red fox, coyote, mink, ermine, and least weasels range throughout the area. Beaver are present along the creeks. Marten and porcupine can be found in the forested portions of the critical habitat area. Arctic ground squirrels inhabit the subalpine shrublands. Lynx and their prey, snowshoe hare, are uncommon and subject to cyclic fluctuations. Wolves are infrequent visitors and wolverines occasionally wander through the area.
Little Willow Creek and Iron Creek support populations of rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic grayling, and whitefish within the critical habitat area. King and coho salmon can be found in portions of these drainages downstream from the critical habitat area.