The many open spaces around Park City provide shelter and food for a wide variety of wildlife. Perhaps the most recognizable animal living around Park City are deer, which are common around Utah. They are often seen around Park City, traveling in easily-spotted herds and eating grass and sagebrush. The males shed their antlers every winter, often found by hikers.
Elk, the deer’s larger cousins, also travel through the area. Depending on the time of year, they can be seen living in small families, herds of a couple dozen, or on their lonesome.[i] Male elk, called bulls, have a distinctive bugling call that they use to attract the females, called cows, during the elk’s mating season.
Moose are also sighted in the vicinity of Park City. Northern Utah is one of the few areas in the contiguous United States that moose can still be found. Despite their herbivorous diet, these massive, typically solitary animals – some of which weigh more than one thousand pounds – pose a significant danger to any humans which stumble upon them, thanks to their size and surprising speed.[ii] Moose have become a symbol of Park City – their image is used by many local businesses.
Moose aren’t the only dangerous animals Parkites might encounter. Black bears, which also eat vegetation like berries and nuts, are known for occasionally wandering into inhabited areas in search of food, sometimes provoking relocation efforts on the part of Utah’s ecological authorities.[iii] There are a few thousand black bears in Utah, and they’re particularly concentrated around the Wasatch Mountains, the backside of which Park City sits on.[iv]
Living alongside the black bears found near Park City are cougars, though these stealthy big cats usually evade human detection. Cougars often stash the corpses of larger animals which they’ve killed, hiding them in the landscape, so that they be returned to and fed on multiple times—because of this feeding habit, hikers are usually advised to leave the area if they stumble on a hidden, half-eaten prey animal.[v] Smaller predators can also be found around Park City, including bobcats, coyotes, and foxes.
Park City’s biodiversity extends far beyond these large mammals, as well. Many different species of bird dwell in the area. Red-tailed hawks can be seen year-round, and sandhill cranes live in Summit County’s marshier habitats (like the land protected by the Swaner Nature Preserve) during the summer months before migrating south for winter. Robins, magpies, bluebirds, finches, and starlings are among the many small birds which can be sighted in the mountains.
On the ground, rattlesnakes and garter snakes slither among the bushes, and amphibians like frogs and tiger salamanders can be found near bodies of water. A wide variety of small mammals inhabit the area, as well. Badgers, skunks, marmots, and jackrabbits all reside in Utah’s mountains, and one can still find beavers and their telltale dams in the state’s waterways.
Silver-haired bats can also be glimpsed in the sky, hunting insects. The many bugs that make their homes in Summit County include the water boatmen darting about on nearby ponds, the grasshoppers which cover the ground during the summer, and spiders like the hobo spider and black widow, which sometimes make their way into homes. Under the water, cutthroat and brown trout can be found, swimming with less famous fish, like the Utah sucker and the speckled dace.
The Park City Museum is hosting a lecture on western wildlife given by curator Lee Silliman on November 8 via Zoom from 5 to 6 p.m. Register for the link here. The lecture also coincides with the Museum’s latest traveling exhibit, titled Denizens: Wildlife on the Western Frontier, which opens November 4.
[i] “Elk,” Be Aware, Wild Aware Utah, accessed October 14, 2023, https://www.wildawareutah.org/wildlife/elk/.
[ii] “Moose,” Be Aware, Wild Aware Utah, accessed October 14, 2023, https://www.wildawareutah.org/wildlife/moose/.
[iii] Angelique McNaughton, “As Bear Runs, a Community Gives Chase,” Park Record, May 9, 2015, 1, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6tt8dkv/22624456.
[iv] Mary Brown Malouf, “Mountain Lions & Black Bears, Oh My!” Salt Lake Magazine, July 15, 2020, https://www.saltlakemagazine.com/black-bear/.
[v] “What to Do if You Encounter a Mountain Lion in Utah,” News, Utah Division of Wildlife, last modified May 8, 2023, https://wildlife.utah.gov/news/utah-wildlife-news/1641-what-to-do-if-you-encounter-a-mountain-lion.html.