I came across these images (below) by photographer Eric D. Brown today, and thought they would help illustrate a common topic of discussion here: wildlife in Zion.
People often ask us, “What sorts of animals will we see in Zion?” I usually respond by highlighting the wonderful diversity of insects, birds, and small reptiles and mammals that are fairly easy to come across while hiking on Zion’s many trails. But typically, people want to know about the bigger, sexier beasts – lions and tigers and bears, oh my! So let’s talk about megafauna for a moment, shall we?
While Zion does host a number of larger mammals, such as coyotes, foxes, beavers, elk, porcupines, mountain lions, ringtail cats, and an occasional visiting black bear, we rarely see these animals. The rare sightings stem from a variety of reasons: many larger mammals stick to remote habitats, some are noctural (active only at night) or crepuscular (dusk & dawn activity), and most prefer to avoid humans. The most common megafauna sightings are probably mule deer and wild turkeys, both of which frequently inhabit Zion Canyon, along the shuttle drive. In fact, mule deer are common visitors to Springdale, bounding regularly across Zion Park Boulevard.
One popular wildlife hope for many visitors, however, is to see a desert bighorn sheep. Once extirpated from Zion, two reintroduction efforts by the Park in the 70′s and 80′s brought the bighorns back and the herd has grown to healthy proportions on Zion’s East Side. While along the winding East Side road or hiking amongst the gorgeous white slickrock canyons on either side, it is fairly common to encounter a small herd of bighorns, from a pair to up to 20 individuals. Though road construction makes stopping along the East Side road tough this summer, keeping your eyes peeled may result in a sheepish treat. This particular bighorn is just a babe, but there are often full-grown males and females hoofing about as well, the former sporting the large, tough, spiraling horns bighorns are famous for.