Cool Facts About Zion National Park Wildlife
Did you know that Zion National Park is home to hundreds of animal species? Thanks to its elevation range (3,800 feet to 8,800 feet), Zion National Park has various microclimates and habitats that support 78 species of mammals, 291 species of birds, 44 species of reptiles and amphibians, and eight species of fish. You’ll find animals everywhere you look: slithering across the desert floor, scampering across the ground, climbing cliffs, and soaring overhead. Here are 10 cool facts to keep in mind next time you’re observing Zion National Park wildlife.
1. All of Zion’s animals are protected by its National Park designation, whether they are endangered or not.
2. Several rare and protected bird species call Zion home.
Zion National Park birdwatchers may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of rare and endangered birds such as California condor, Peregrine falcon, and bald eagles. Once down to a population of just 27, today California condor live and breed in Zion National Park. Bald eagles can be seen soaring overhead in winter months, and Peregrine falcons have also found sanctuary in Zion’s protected high cliffs. Zion is also a critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl.
3. Let’s talk turkey.
On the flip side of the rare and endangered bird coin, there’s an abundance of wild turkeys in and around Zion National Park, especially in spring. Wild turkeys were once native to Zion, and then disappeared for dozens of years. After numerous reintroduction efforts, the turkey population finally re-established itself in the 1980s. Today there are an estimated 20,000 wild turkeys contributing to Zion National Park wildlife.
4. Sheep can fly.
Not really. But in 2014, Zion’s bighorn sheep population was so abundant they airlifted 26 of them (14 ewes, six rams and six lambs) from Zion’s desert to Knock Eye Dome in the South San Juan area to help reduce the population.
5. Tarantula are the largest spiders in the southwest—and they live in Zion.
Fortunately for the faint of heart, these hairy, scary, creepy crawlers are rarely seen during the day in Zion. And if you do see them? Don’t bother them, and they won’t bother you.
6. Lizards can be found at every elevation in Zion National Park, year round.
The Chuckwalla lizard is the largest of Zion’s 16 species of lizards, and can grow up to 20 inches long.
7. The desert tortoise can live 80 to 100 years.
If you see a desert tortoise, consider yourself lucky, but enjoy these federally protected animals from a distance.
8. The western rattlesnake is Zion’s only venomous snake.
This snake is well adapted to desert conditions, and can go for months without water, getting most of its hydration from its food.
9. Deer are the most commonly sighted animals in Zion.
Visitors often see deer grazing in meadows, on the side of the scenic road, and they may even visit your campsite. As gentles as these creatures seem, they are still wild animals, so don’t startle or feed them.
10. Cougars are one of the most rarely spotted mammals in Zion.
Fearful of humans, these ghost creatures typically stay in the wilderness areas. While an attack is unlikely, never hike alone or approach a mountain lion if you do see one.
Zion National Park visitors are often treated to wildlife sightings, whether actively seeking them or by chance. When visiting Zion National Park, always remember that YOU are a guest in the home of these beautiful creatures and treat them, and their habitats, with respect. To keep the Zion National Park wildlife experience safe for both animals and humans, keep your distance and never feed or touch the animals.