Spring Critters Checklist

By Christy Walcott

There’s no denying it’s spring in Gaylord, Michigan! After a mild winter, we’re now basking in longer days and warmer weather. To say we’re fortunate would be an understatement, given our desire to simply sit outside in our own backyards or wander along quiet pathways in the towering forests surrounding us.

Whether you spend your time outside riding bikes, looking for the first buds of wildflowers or sunning yourself on the patio, springtime never disappoints. But one of our favorite things to look forward to during this season is wildlife viewing!

There’s joy in spotting a newborn fawn or hearing the first robin sing, and spring is bustling with critters! From the vantage point on your back porch to one of those wooded trails we mentioned earlier, creatures are once again on the move and seeing how many you can track down might just help summer get here quicker.

Here’s a quick checklist for an All Outdoors wildlife safari you can experience from anywhere:

Bugs (No Joke!)

Let’s start small. We wouldn’t usually admit it, but there’s excitement to seeing the first bugs emerge in the spring. Of course, we’re referring to “cute” bugs such as butterflies, bumblebees, and maybe even a grasshopper or two. 


You don’t need legs to be “on the move.” Walking along the shoreline or kayaking your favorite lake can give you a glimpse into the underwater wildlife world without getting wet. Be on the lookout for spawning beds with small clusters of fish in late spring. Or better yet, drop a line during any season and see what you come up with!  

Photo by Cindy Patterson-Nerowski

Pond Dwellers

Along with lakes, ponds are excellent places to pass time looking for critters. Most of us would be lying if we said we’ve never cupped our hands in the water to see how many tadpoles we could catch. Frogs and turtles are favorite pond-dwellers, but count yourself lucky if you happen to encounter something fuzzy like a muskrat or beaver.


While bird watching is a favorite year-round hobby for many, springtime is especially interesting as you await the arrival of new species to your feeder. Do a little tweaking and you can entice specific types of birds right to your backyard. The Michigan DNR has some great hints on feeding and identifying our flying friends.


We take our Michigan whitetails for granted sometimes because they are so abundant. But your first fawn sighting of the season always stops you in your tracks (often because they are crossing the road in front of you). Those white spots grab your attention and the involuntary “Awww…” often follows.


Maybe not everyone is as fortunate as we are in Gaylord, Michigan when it comes to elk, but we simply can’t leave them off our list. Our free-roaming elk herd graces the Pigeon River Country State Forest with its presence, while the City of Gaylord maintains an elk enclosure just a few blocks from downtown. If you don’t have an elk herd in your line of vision, we’ll share ours with you in the video below.

We understand if the great outdoors just isn’t your thing, so we’ve even put a wildlife viewing backup plan in place! Gaylord’s iconic Call of the Wild Museum offers a glimpse into the lives of the animals around us (and a few that, fortunately, are NOT around us – no one wants to run into a polar bear!). Take a virtual tour of the plentiful animals calling this popular museum home in the video below. The best part? There are no bugs.