Animals of Zion
When hiking along the trails of Zion National Park, visitors will often stop to marvel at the panoramic landscape. The red rock terrain and incredible geological formations create one of the most picturesque views in the country. While the scenic views are quite impressive, hikers should be sure to look among the trails, on rocks, and in trees to see a part of Zion that is more fascinating than the landscape.
Scurrying along the ground, hopping across tree branches, and flying through the skies are the captivating animals of Zion. The wildlife in Zion, one of the nation’s most popular parks, delights and surprises every guest who is fortunate enough to encounter any of the park’s many animals. Zion wouldn’t be the same without the mammals, birds, and reptiles that call this park home.
Incredible Mammals of Zion
Mammals are what most people think of when they hear the word animals. Zion is home to many different species of mammals, from small rodents to huge predators. Guests can look for these mammals throughout the park, but should be sure to only observe them, not disturb them, in their natural habitat.
This relative to the raccoon is one of the most commonly seen mammals in Zion. It has a long, bushy tail with black and white rings. It looks very similar to a common raccoon and behaves in similar ways, as well. Visitors may see them stalking around at dusk or glimpse their glowing eyes as they search the trash for food at night.
Like the squirrels found in other areas, rock squirrels tend to spend their time looking for food and readying themselves for winter. They’re light brown, small, and have bushy tails. Rock squirrels can be fun to watch, especially when they are with other squirrels. They may also become curious and hang around tourist locations, hoping to be fed by visitors, however, feeding the wildlife is detrimental to their health and isn’t allowed in the park.
Usually seen on the east side of Zion, bighorn sheep spend their days on the rocky, steep cliffs. They have tan bodies and, as their name suggests, big horns that protrude from the tops of their heads. Visitors can marvel at the daring bighorn sheep as they use their unique hooves to walk as they graze along the steep hillsides with ease.
Some other incredible mammals of Zion are:
Amazing Birds of Zion
Many people travel to the southern Utah area to birdwatch, and for a very good reason. Zion and the surrounding areas are home to many rare and interesting bird species. Whether they are flying overhead or nesting on the cliffs, seeing these birds in their natural habitat will be an unforgettable experience.
All but extinct just a few decades ago, the California condor is making a comeback, thanks to human intervention, and they have now been reported in Zion National Park. These massive birds have dark feathers on their bodies, bald heads, and a very large wingspan. Lucky guests may see a California condor perched high above the trails or soaring effortlessly through the blue sky.
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Mexican Spotted Owl
Unfortunately, Zion National Park is one of the few places left where visitors can observe this threatened species. The Mexican spotted owl has a white and brown spotted body, a light-colored face, and large eyes. They nest in the cool slot canyons of the park, waiting until nighttime to hunt for small rodents and other animals.
Reaching speeds of up to 200 mph while swooping for prey, the peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth. They are dark grey with white bellies and are about the size of a common crow. The unique shape of their wings as they glide through the air makes them easy to identify, even for inexperienced birdwatchers. They can be seen nesting at high altitudes or patrolling through the skies looking for prey.
Some other amazing birds of Zion are:
Peculiar Reptiles of Zion
Seeing a reptile slither or scamper across a path can be a bit startling. Many people, especially those who aren’t used to seeing them, may be afraid of lizards, snakes, and other reptiles. The truth is, these animals do all they can to remain unseen and undisturbed, so seeing a basking lizard or a slow-moving turtle in Zion should be considered a real treat.
Great Basin Collared Lizard
This unusual lizard is hard to spot among the red rock, but a watchful eye may see one running along the terrain. Collared lizards are varying shades of orange, red, and brown, which allows them to blend into the landscape. This lizard grows to around 14 inches and is known to stand on its hind legs to run toward prey or escape predators.
California King Snake
Many hikers are fearful when they encounter a king snake, but this reptile would much rather run from people than attack them. This snake grows to around four feet and has a dark body with thin white rings. They are not venomous, so they use their body to constrict and kill their prey before eating it. Hikers may see them slithering along the rocks at low elevations and basking in the sun for warmth.
Zion’s only venomous snake, the western rattlesnake is a rare, but serious, sighting. With it’s rattling tail, distinct tan and brown body, and arrow-shaped head, a rattlesnake is fairly easy to identify. Hikers who happen upon a western rattlesnake, especially if it’s in striking position, should back away slowly without antagonizing or harming the snake.
It’s said that the Desert Tortoise is not native to Southern Utah, but was brought many years ago as a pet from other nearby desert areas like Las Vegas or the California. Tortoises, unlike turtles, have a dome shaped shell and are not amphibious. An in interesting fact about tortoises is that they can live to 5o years or more! Remember, when you see a desert tortoise in the park, do not pick it up, unless it is on the road in danger of being hit by cars.
Some other peculiar reptiles of Zion are:
Canyon Tree Frog
Enjoy and Respect the Animals of Zion
The animals of Zion make hiking and sightseeing in the park an even more exciting adventure. Every creature, from small mammals to massive birds, has its own special place in the Zion ecosystem. Visitors have the immense privilege to be able to be a part of these incredible animal’s habitat during their adventures in Zion.
While visiting, it’s important for visitors to respect the wildlife by observing, not disturbing, and alerting park officials if dangerous animals, like mountain lions or other large predators, are seen near heavily trafficked areas. By respecting the wildlife, visitors can enjoy the many incredible animals inside Zion National Park for years to come.