The thrill of witnessing wildlife in their natural setting is hard to beat. Unlike the faster-paced outdoor recreations that entice travelers to Utah, catching a glimpse of wild animals requires patience for the opportune moment and, in some cases, a smidge of luck!
Fortunately, the state of Utah is home to more than 600 species of mammals, fishes, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. We are highlighting the top 7 spectacular species that call Park City and the surrounding Wasatch Mountains home.
Awe-inspiring and iconic, a moose sighting can be the icing on the cake of any Park City vacation. While moose are beloved, these half-ton ungulates* are formidable and can cause severe damage. It is advised to keep your distance, especially when encountering a moose and its calf. Ask any Parkite, and they can probably give you a story about a personal moose encounter, many times in unorthodox places!
a hoofed mammal.
Best viewing is year-round!
It is possible to spot a moose year-round in Park City. However, the chance increases in the winter when the cold temperatures and scarcity of food force moose down the mountain into the valleys. Remember to take extra precautions. You could likely come across a moose on Main Street!
Mountain lions roam all corners of Utah, but you will be hard-pressed to see one in the wild. Highly elusive, these big cats are solitary animals who primarily hunt on mule deer during the hours of dusk and dawn. When exploring the outdoors, be sure to keep an eye on cliffs and ledges, as they use these natural features as cover.
Best viewing is unknown.
Your chances of coming across Utahs’ apex predator are slim. Many seasoned outdoorsmen and women go years and never cross paths with a Mountain lion. However, if you do, it is essential to remember to never turn your back to the cat, look them in the eye and try to make yourself larger. These tactics establish to the Mountain Lion that you are not prey. However, if you come across a mother mountain lion and her cubs like this Utah hiker it’s best to immediately cease pursuing the animals.
Nominated as Utah’s State mammal in 1971, the Rocky Mountain Elk is prevalent throughout Park City’s many trails and open spaces. Larger than a mule deer yet smaller and more agile than a moose, once could consider the elk at the goldilocks of ungulates that inhabit Utah. They are distinguished by their tawny body, dark brown head and neck, and a cream-colored rump and are found in herds of 200 plus!
Best viewing in Fall!
The annual rut* occurs in September when the herds migrate from the higher mountain altitudes and mate in the valleys before the start of winter. It’s not uncommon to spot elk off Old Ranch Road or even on the Park City golf course! Head out to Round Valley to catch a picturesque sunset and maybe a glimpse of an elk herd against the backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains.
an annual period of sexual activity in deer and some other mammals, during which the males fight each other for access to the females
The Black Bear is Utah’s largest predator, weighing up to 300 pounds! Black bears are found in a variety of different habitats across North America. However, Utah bears are most likely found in the forested regions across the state. Their numbers are estimated at 4,000, while there are just over 3 million human inhabitants!
Best viewing in spring!
It is common knowledge that bears hibernate in the wintertime, so spotting one on the slopes would be a rare occurrence. Once the snow melts, the bears come out of their dens in search of food for themselves and their cubs. During this time, one needs to be especially careful to follow safe hiking practices while in bear country.
Park City is over a mile in the sky, yet you won’t find these majestic goats wandering the trails or valleys. To see a mountain goat, you need to head to the tallest peaks in the Unita or Wasatch ranges. The goats have adapted to living in such inhospitable environments as a way to protect themselves from predators like mountain lions. One of their miraculous adaptations is their small, cup-like hooves which provide traction on rocky cliffs.
Best viewing in spring!
The best way to see a mountain goat is to lace up your hiking boots and conquer a summit. Not far from Park City, Mount Timpanogos is a brutal, 15-mile hike that offers the incredible opportunity to share the views with the mountain goats that call the summit home.
Those funny-looking gophers are actually marmots! Yellow-bellied marmots spend a good deal of their time below ground where they dig elaborate tunnels in high elevation fields and mountainsides. Marmots live in groups of 20, and much like the meerkats in Africa, one stands guard on its hind legs when the colony feeds. They emit loud chirping noises to signal danger. On a hike, you will likely hear the call before spotting a marmot staring up at you from their burrow.
Best viewing in summer, spring!
Just like Bears, Marmots spend the winter months hibernating underground. Once the snow melts, you are sure to see them popping in and out of their underground burrows, keeping tabs on the world above and below.
Bird lovers rejoice! The elegant and ancient sandhill crane makes a stop in Utah on their annual pilgrimage south. This beloved bird is characterized by their six-foot wingspan and naked red skin at the top of their heads. However, Sandhill Cranes are perhaps better recognized by their rattling mating call that echos across the open flatlands they frequent.
Best viewing in spring!
Many locals consider the sandhill cranes’s annual arrive in Park City as the marker of the spring season. The elegant birds perform the mesmerizing dance that makes them famous for photographing in open meadows and wetlands. The Swaner Preserve is an excellent place to view them in flight!
Tips for safely viewing wildlife
- Give wild animals their distance! Bring a pair of binoculars with you to keep a safe and respectful distance between yourself and the wild animal.
- Do not touch wildlife. You may be tempted, but interfering with wild animals by approaching, feeding, or touching is never a good idea.
- Plan ahead. Being alert and dawn and dusk increases your chance of seeing wildlife when they are most active.
Park City Lodging for Animal Lovers
Now that you’re prepared to spot any one of Park City’s many species, it’s time to choose your lodging! All Seasons Resort Lodging offers a full selection of condos, townhomes, and vacation homes that will offer spectacular shelter from the elements.