Whether you’re looking for birds or wanting to spot large animals, Park City has plenty of wildlife to go around! While some types of wildlife, like deer, are more common to see than say a mountain lion, all different types and sizes of wildlife live in the Park City area and can add some excitement to a hike or bike ride. Here is a breakdown of the different types of animals you’re likely to run across on the trails here in Park City!
The western diamondback comes with a spade-shaped head and a rattler to make it more easily identified in contrast with other snakes. While it’s rare to see rattlesnakes up in the mountains above 8.000ft our guides have spotted them on trails closer to town elevation and down doing the Stewart Falls hike!
Known as good swimmers, minks can dive 16 feet. Often mistaken for a river otter, a main difference is Minks are generally solitary. The mink is very territorial and males will fight other minks that invade their territory. The minks marks its territory with scent. These little guys were brought to Utah and farmed for fur clothing but many escaped and are wild and still can be spotted during our rafting trips!
The most common wildcat in North America, their coats vary in color from shades of beige to brown fur with spotted or lined markings in dark brown or black. Bobcats mainly hunt rabbits and hares. They are also known to eat rodents, birds, bats and adult deer, as well as lambs, poultry and young pigs. Bobcat habitat varies widely from forests and mountainous areas to semi-deserts and brush land. Each bobcat may have several dens, one main den and several auxiliary dens, in its territory.
Elk are most easily identified by their butterscotch rump patch. Elk are brownish tan on the upper half of their body, while the legs and neck are darker brown. Bull elk also grow a dark brown mane around the throat. Elk were once widely distributed throughout North America, but due to habitat loss and unregulated hunting, their range is now limited to the Rocky Mountains. Elk were virtually eliminated from Utah in the late 1800s as they were hunted for their ivory teeth. A nice pair could bring hundreds of dollars and thousands were killed simply for their ivories. These special teeth are evidence of their ancestors what would have had large tusks, Walrus and Elk are the only two north American mammals with ivory. Reintroduction and conservation efforts have helped restore populations to an estimated 60,000 elk in the state. Male mature elk, called bulls, shed their antlers in early to midwinter and begin to grow new antlers in the spring.
Moose are hard to miss. Horse-size, but with longer legs, moose are easily identifiable by their high shoulders, bulbous overhanging muzzle, and large dewlap—a hanging fold of skin under the chin. Moose are a dark chocolate brown in winter, and the antlers on a bull moose are much broader and flatter than those on elk or deer and are often referred to as “Paddles”. Moose are not native to Utah, at least in the modern era, and are relative newcomers to the Park City area. The first moose in Utah was reported about 100 years ago, and as recently as the 1950s the total statewide population was estimated at less than 100 animals. Today, there are an estimated 4,500 moose throughout northern Utah. Like deer and elk, bull moose shed their antlers/paddles in winter and grow new in every spring.
Great Blue Heron
Thanks to specially shaped neck vertebrae, they can curl their neck into an S shape for a more aerodynamic flight profile and to quickly strike prey at a distance. Great Blue Herons can hunt day and night thanks to a high percentage of rod-type photoreceptors in their eyes that improve their night vision. Despite their impressive size, Great Blue Herons weigh only 5 to 6 pounds thanks in part to their hollow bones—a feature all birds share.
Rather than do their own fishing, Bald Eagles often go after other creatures’ catches. A Bald Eagle will harass a hunting Osprey until the smaller raptor drops its prey in midair, where the eagle swoops it up. A Bald Eagle may even snatch a fish directly out of an Osprey’s talons. Immature Bald Eagles spend the first four years of their lives in nomadic exploration of vast territories and can fly hundreds of miles per day. Some young birds from Florida have wandered north as far as Michigan, and birds from California have reached Alaska.