A Brief Guide to Wildlife in Utah
Utah is host to some fantastic wildlife. There’s a diverse amalgamation of climates and environments--the Wasatch and Uinta mountains, the west desert, the eastern edge of the great basin, and the Colorado Plateau--each of which offers a different variety of wildlife. Whether you’ve got your sights set on Utah for the fishing, the hunting, or the wildlife viewing, you won’t miss out on all the natural beauty this state has to offer.
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Wildlife in Utah: Big Game
Utah features a variety of big game. Upwards of 70 percent of the state’s land is open wilderness, giving big game plenty of room to roam. But that also means they can be hard to find. If you’re hoping to find big game in the Utah backcountry, you’ll first need to know where to look. Research their habits and behaviors to get a better idea of where you might find these animals in the wild. Here is a list of some of Utah’s big game and where you might find them:
- Buck Deer: Buck deer is one of the most commonly hunted big game in Utah, and they’re found all over the state. As Utah has a propensity for dry summers and falls, you’ll find the most buck deer wherever there’s water. Look for rivers, creeks, and canyon drainages to find your five-point buck deer.
- Pronghorn: Like deer, pronghorn antelope are widespread throughout most western states. They are herd animals with a wide grazing area. They are known as the fastest land mammal in the world, rivaling the cheetah in longer distance running.
- Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep: In Utah, you’ll find Bighorn sheep all over the Wasatch Front, spanning along the eastern edge of the Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley.
- Elk: In the great blaze of Utah summers, elk retreat to the amply shaded mountains, where aspen and pine provide respite from the oppressive sun.
Exotic Wildlife in Utah
Utah has an abundance of rare wildlife. Hunters might salivate at the opportunity to hunt game like cougars, bison, and moose. But these game are either difficult to find or the hunting permits are difficult to acquire. For casual wildlife viewing, finding these animals can be a magical experience. But keep in mind that many of these animals can be dangerous, and that you need to play safe when you’re tracking them down.
- Black bear: Black bear are found higher up in Utah, generally at elevations where pine thrives. There’s not much foraging to be had below the pine line in Utah.
- Cougar: Cougar can be one of the hardest animals to find in the wild. One cougar has a roaming range of about 25 square miles, meaning it’s very unlikely you’ll run into one. In the Rockies, hunters often use hounds to track down cougars, but many states are beginning to ban that practice. Your best bet for finding cougars is by investing the time into tracking them. And even then your odds aren’t great.
- Bison: Utah is host to one of the country’s largest public bison herds. Located on Antelope Island, north of Salt Lake City, you’ll find anywhere from 500 to 700 bison roaming the foothills. While hunting permits are incredibly tricky to come across for bison in Utah, it’s pretty amazing to drive through the park and see these big beasts.
- Moose: Moose tags are also hard to acquire if you’re looking to hunt. But moose themselves are fairly abundant if you’re searching in the right places. You’ll find moose in the Wasatch and Uinta mountains, as well as parts of northern Utah.