Utah’s mountains offer not only perfect powder and ideal hiking trails, but also a wide variety of wildlife. A snowy adventure often provides opportunities to brag to friends and family members about how many deer you saw while snowshoeing or how many pairs of eagles you counted while driving down the canyon.
During the winter months, most animals move down into the winter range, located in the low to middle elevations on south-facing slopes, where the snow is not as deep and food becomes more plentiful. Their move into lower elevations also increases the chances that people will encounter them in their natural habitats.
Local biology teacher and outdoor enthusiast Mark Elzey recommends bringing binoculars or a spotting scope on your next adventure to get a good look without bothering the animals, and offers these tips for spotting winter wildlife.
* For mule deer, elk moose and even mountain goats, try Hardware Ranch in Blacksmith Fork Canyon or head to the bases of Big and Little Cottonwood canyons.
* For winter birds, like bald eagles and other fowl, look to Farmington and Ogden Bays, as well as open water sources like rivers and reservoirs.
* Antelope Island is a great place for viewing a large variety of wildlife species. Large mammals such as bison, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep can be found grazing on the island, while waterfowl like pelicans and herons can best be seen along the causeway.
* For those who aren’t a fan of being out in the cold, even a drive through canyons offers the opportunity to spot wildlife. Look for canyons that have little to no snow on south-facing slopes, such as Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. Just remember to keep a close eye out for animals near roadways and heed animal-crossing signs.
It’s also key to remember that we’re just visitors to the mountain; it’s the animals’ home, and they depend on it for survival. It’s important to take steps to protect ourselves and the wildlife, so we can all enjoy the spaces we share.
Wild Aware Utah recommends staying aware of your surroundings, especially at dawn and dusk, going out in a least groups of two, and keeping pets and children close by to reduce the chance of surprising wildlife, which can stress them out—lowering their chance of survival—or lash out. Never approach or crowd wildlife, no matter how tempting it is to try to sneak closer for a better look or photo.