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Gunnison Sage-grouse Viewing
Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site: General Public Users

Directions to the Waunita Lek:
Gunnison Sage-grouse predictably use the Waunita Lek, located 19 miles east of Gunnison just north of Hwy 50. Turn north on County Road 887 (Waunita Hot Springs Road) and go 0.6 miles to a small pull-off on the right where you can view the birds. A viewing trailer, just north of the parking lot, is available by reservation only or Sisk-a-dee tours, free to the public.  The lek is located to the east of the road in the open meadow (see map). This observation point offers a good view of the birds through binoculars and spotting scopes and is far enough away from the lek to minimize disturbance to the birds. The lek is located on private property, but the pull-off is a Colorado Parks and Wildlife managed Watchable Wildlife site.  The site is open April 1st through May 15th. 

Where to see the birds:
The Waunita Lek extends from the pull-off to the top of the eastern ridge and from the willows on the left (north) to two cottonwood trees to the south.  There is a fence brace about halfway to the ridge and almost directly west from the pull-off.  The birds are most commonly seen just north of the fence brace, displaying on either side of the fence. (see map).

A viewing trailer is also available at the Waunita Site. This trailer can be reserved for you or for a group. Contact Sisk-a-dee at 970-641-3959 for more information.

When to see Gunnison Sage-grouse displays:
The best time to view the elaborate and bizarre breeding dance of the Gunnison Sage-grouse is from 1 April to early-May. Gunnison Sage-grouse wake up early and arrive on the leks (breeding grounds) before dawn.  Therefore, to minimize impacts on birds, visitors must arrive AT LEAST one hour before OFFICIAL sunrise and remain at the lek until breeding displays have ended.  Visitors should leave Gunnison at least 1 hour 45 minutes before sunrise.  Displays may continue for a couple hours after sunrise. For sunrise information please refer to the sunrise table at the bottom of this page.

Gunnison Sage-grouse Lek Viewing Protocol

The Gunnison Sage-grouse is a seriously imperiled species and highly vulnerable to human disturbance.  Sisk-a-dee, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Western State Colorado University are actively managing the Waunita Watchable Wildlife site to minimize the impacts of viewing the birds.  Please help us make this viewing experience quality for you and other birders by following the protocol below.  Thank you for your efforts and enjoy the rare and beautiful dance of the Gunnison Sage-grouse!  If you do not wish to view the sage-grouse from your car, you may reserve the viewing trailer (www.siskadee.org for more information) for a fee, or you may attend one of the free tours led by Sisk-a-dee.  

  • Arrive at the Waunita Watchable Wildlife site at least 1 hour before sunrise.  You should leave Gunnison at least 1 hour 45 minutes before sunrise.  See the table below for this year’s sunrise times.
  • If you are the first vehicle, pull up into the semi-circular drive behind the rock wall as far north as you can.  Subsequent vehicles parallel park behind the first car.  Please pull up as close as possible to the vehicle in front.
  • When you arrive at the Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site a volunteer will greet you.  They can help answer questions and will be monitoring your activities through the morning.  Please do not leave your vehicle.
  • Turn off vehicle engine when you arrive and do not start up engine until you leave.  You must remain in your car until all birds have flushed from the lek. 
  • Please remain in your vehicle and set up a spotting scope.  Remain as quiet as possible: NO radios, cell phones, horn honking, car door slamming or other automobile noises. 
  • An outhouse is available at the site.  After the grouse have flushed you are welcome to leave your vehicle, use the outhouse, and read the interpretive literature.
  • Remain very quiet; if you do talk keep your voices to a whisper.
  • Do not leave the site and remain in your vehicle until the birds have ended their displays and have departed from the lek.  A volunteer will indicate when it is appropriate to leave.

Site Management:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife owns and manages the pull off. Protocols are enforced by them.  Any person deviating from these protocols is suspect to a wildlife violation and fine.  Sisk-a-dee provides educational programs and viewings for the public and holds the permit to coordinate the commercial use of the Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  Contact Sisk-a-dee for more information (siskadee.org).  Western State Colorado University (WSCU) provides volunteers to monitor the bird population and human disturbances at the site.

  • Contact  Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 970-641-7060, or Sisk-a-dee at 970-641-3959 for more information.

Lek Viewing Area
Gunnison Sunrises 2014
Times are adjusted for daylight savings.

Month 
APRIL
Date 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
Time 
6:53
6:52
6:50
6:49
6:47
6:46
6:44
6:43
6:41
6:40
6:38
6:37
6:35
6:34
6:32
6:31
6:29
6:28
6:27
6:25
6:24
6:23

Month 
APRIL
MAY
Date 
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
Time 
6:21
6:20
6:19
6:17
6:16
6:15
6:14
6:13
6:11
6:10
6:09
6:08
6:06
6:05
6:04
6:03
6:02
6:01
6:00
5:59
5:57
5:56
5:55

If you are interested in information on local accommodations, please contact the Gunnison Country Chamber of Commerce: 500 East Tomichi, Gunnison, CO 970-641-1501. The Waterwheel Inn offers discount rates for birders and grouse viewers (970-641-1650).  Waunita Hot Springs Ranch, 8 miles northeast of the lek, also offers lodging (970-641-1266, http://www.waunita.com).

If you want to know more about Gunnison Sage-grouse contact Sisk-a-dee at 970-641-3959 or the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) at 970-641-7060.

Check out Waunita Sage-grouse Blog for daily updates of the Gunnison Sage-grouse activity at the Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site.

Habitat Stamp:  Visitors of Colorado State Wildlife Areas may purchase a Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  Proceeds go to protecting wildlife habitat.  Stamps may be purchased online at:
http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/HabitatStamp/Pages/HabitatStamp.aspx.


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