Look out from the private patio of your tiny home vacation rental, and you might just see deer grazing or a bird swooping down into the canyon far below.
Southern Utah is home to a diverse ecosystem, which includes a wide variety of mammals, reptiles, birds, and other wildlife. Whether you choose to enjoy a staycation in your tiny home or venture into Zion National Park, you’re likely to see at least a few of these animals during your visit.
Get your camera ready, and keep reading to learn more about some of the wildlife you might see during your Southern Utah vacation.
When most visitors think about the most dangerous animals to make their home in Southern Utah, they might think of snakes or big cats. However, while these creatures can be dangerous, another animal causes more injuries each year than any other; rock squirrels.
Rock squirrels may look innocent enough. But these curious creatures have very little fear of humans, likely because they’ve become accustomed to stealing — or being handed — human food for decades. While they won’t do a lot of damage, a bite from a rock squirrel isn’t pleasant. If you see these small creatures in the park, keep your distance, and never feed them.
Rock squirrels can reach a length of 17 to 21 inches, with their tails stretching up to 8 inches long. Grayish brown in color, you’ll spot these small mammals scurrying up trees, along cliffs, and around any trails and picnic areas where they might find food.
Bighorn sheep are often one of the top animals that visitors to Southern Utah hope to see during their stay. While they can be shy, their numbers have grown in recent years throughout Southern Utah, making them a more common sight with each passing year.
There are actually two types of bighorn sheep native to the region; California bighorn sheep and desert bighorn sheep. The latter is more common. Bighorn sheep have adapted to the dry, hot climates here, and their long legs allow them to scale steep cliffs in search of food. They are also well adapted to go long periods without water, allowing them to survive the droughts that frequent Southern Utah.
Luckily for visitors to Zion and other parts of Southern Utah, this next animal is a rare sight. The mountain lion, also called a cougar, is the largest cat species to inhabit Southern Utah. Because they are elusive and solitary, and hunt at night, exactly how many mountain lions live in Zion is unclear.
Sightings are occasionally reported in Kolob Canyon, likely because there are fewer visitors and crowds there. If you do see a mountain lion, never approach them. When you get to a safe place, report your sighting to a park ranger.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, mule deer are a common sight throughout Southern Utah. These animals are highly adaptable and are often seen grazing in neighborhoods, backyards, and alongside roadways.
Mule deer are the smallest of Utah’s deer species. They spend the summers in the high mountain regions and descend to lower elevations in the winter to get away from the deep snow.
Another unique species native to Utah is the desert tortoise. These slow-moving creatures are tough to spot, both because of their small numbers and their great camouflage in the rocky desert.
Desert tortoises are easily identifiable for their large, domed shell, short tails, and small, round heads. They thrive in harsh conditions, including high temperatures and very little water. They can only travel up to 20 feet per minute, which means that they move very slowly across the desert floor. Despite their adaptation to the heat, they spend most of their day in their burrow to avoid the sun and high temperatures.
If you see a small mammal scurrying across the desert floor after the sun has gone down, odds are that it was a kangaroo rat. These tiny rats are very common throughout all of Utah’s deserts. They don’t need much water and instead get their water from the seeds that they scout and eat. Their bodies are specially adapted to operate with little moisture.
These tiny mammals dig burrows that they use to hide out from the heat and predators during the day.
There are hundreds of bird species native to Southern Utah. And dozens that you might spot during your visit. But if you get lucky, and visit Zion at the right time of year, you might get to see this special bird.
The California Condor has a long and complicated — but successful — story of conservation in the region. Today, a small population makes it home in the park. You may see them flying over Angels landing or perched on a cliff.
Wildlife Spotting in Southern Utah
Regardless of what brings you to Southern Utah, you’ll likely see some wildlife during your stay. Take an early morning hike or drive to spot deer, rabbits, and reptiles. A sunset cruise through Zion is a great chance to spot bighorn sheep grazing in the canyon.
Ready to spot some of Utah’s unique and diverse wildlife? Book your next visit to The Dwellings today!