Park City is home to diverse species like deer, elk, moose, coyotes, foxes, osprey, eagles. In the spring, you’ll even find nesting Sandhill Cranes nesting, having made the long trek northward from the Rio Grande and Mexico! Whether you want to see wildlife up close on the trail or from a distance, always remember to give animals plenty of room and never feed or touch wildlife.
To see wildlife from a distance, the Swaner Preserve is the perfect place to go, with its wide-open meadows making wildlife-spotting easier. If you plan to be on the trail, Wild Aware Utah has a complete guide on human-wildlife interactions and how to manage them.
Remember, most animals avoid contact with people and will only act aggressively if they feel startled, threatened or trapped. Here’s some common-sense strategies to follow that will keep you and Park City’s wildlife safe and happy on the trail.
The more noise you make, the less likely you are to startle any wildlife in the area. You don’t need to be shouting or clapping the entire time, but it’s a good idea to keep talking, laughing, or even singing while you’re on the trail. If you’re worried about being too quiet on the trail, buy a bear bell and attach it to your backpack.
Always pay attention to your surroundings, both while driving in Summit County and hiking. Make sure to keep an eye out for any animals that may cross the road and listen to what’s going on around you on the trail. You may be alerted to an animal's presence by seeing eyes reflected on the side of the road, hearing a snake's rattle, or a bear rummaging through the forest. Avoid hiking with headphones turned on and, if you must, stick to just one ear so that you can hear these important sounds that animals give off.
When you hike in a group, you’re more likely to make plenty of noise to scare wildlife away, will look more intimidating during a potential wildlife conflict, and allow for someone to contact help if needed. There’s no magic number of people, except that heading out solo is usually not recommended.
Snacking on the trail is sometimes the only way to make it through the tough miles of a hike, but use caution with your food. Spilling food and crumbs along the trail is an easy way to attract animals to the trail. While you probably won’t attract any critters Hansel and Grettel style, if animals always find food on the trail, they will always go looking for food on the trail. For both the protection of the animals and the hikers, we want animals to avoid the trail as much as possible.
If you have an encounter with aggressive wildlife, please report it to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. If the encounter or sighting occurs after hours or on the weekend, call the Park City police department who can contact a conservation officer to handle the situation.
The more you understand about the wildlife you may encounter on the trail, the better prepared you’ll be to respond, enjoy and stay safe during these remarkable encounters.
Moose are the largest member of the deer family found in Utah. Generally living near streams and ponds, moose love to munch on twigs and small branches. Although they often appear very docile and calm, do not be fooled - moose injure more people every year than bears do! Imagine a moose as a giant, angry horse that will stomp and kick you if you make it mad.
If You Encounter a Moose
If You are Attacked
Black bears are currently the only bear species in Utah. Bears generally prefer rugged terrain and forested areas, but will travel long distances and outside of their usual wild habitats to find food. Black bears usually avoid contact with people, but encounters in Utah’s woods and mountains are not uncommon. Bears also have an amazing sense of smell, and they have no problem eating the same type of foods that people eat. As a result, many of the conflicts between people and bears happen because the bears start scavenging for food that humans are eating and cooking in the bear’s natural habitat.
If You Encounter a Bear
If a Bear Attacks
Cougars (also commonly known as mountain lions or pumas), can be found throughout Utah, usually in the foothill and canyon areas. They can sometimes also be found in the valleys — especially during the winter months when they follow deer searching for food in lower elevations. Cougars prefer pinyon-juniper and pine-oak brush areas with rocky cliffs, ledges and tall trees or brush that can be used for cover.
If You Encounter a Cougar
If a Cougar Attacks
Bobcats have short tufts on the tips of their ears and “bob” tails, giving them their name. Adults may weigh 12 to 30 pounds. Bobcats are solitary and mainly active at dawn and dusk but can sometimes be seen during the day. Bobcats have adapted to living in close proximity to humans and can be found near urban areas, however they’re very elusive and are seldom seen. Conflicts with humans are not common, but they will sometimes prey on poultry and small pets.
Generally, pets may be perceived as food for coyotes and large dogs may be seen as a threat or competition. Coyotes have taken pets in backyards, open areas and right off a leash. Protect your pets and keep them current on vaccinations. Here are some tips to help reduce the risks to your pets outside.
If You Encounter a Coyote
Did you know that one bat could eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour? Here’s how to enjoy this free, natural pest control and simultaneously prevent conflicts with bats.
Conflicts with bats usually occur when bats use human dwellings as roost sites. Although only a small percentage of bats carry rabies, it’s important to exercise caution around bats - any bat that behaves strangely or can be easily caught should be suspected of being ill and should be avoided.
If You Encounter a Bat
Never attempt to touch bats with your bare hands. If a person or pet is bitten by a bat, they should get medical treatment immediately. The wound should be washed with soap and water, and your doctor and the health department should be contacted. Rabies occurs in less than 1% of bats, but if contracted and not treated, it can be fatal.
Utah is home to five rattlesnake species, the most common is the Great Basin rattler. This venomous snake has a broad triangular head with heat-sensing pits between their nostrils and eyes. The diamond shape pattern along their body which helps them blend in with the ground. The most distinctive feature is the rattle which they use to warn off potential predators.
Snakes are cold-blooded, they move in and out of sunlight to regulate their body temperature. On hot days they are most active during dawn and dusk. Keep your eyes on the trail and if you hear a rattle, stand still, identify the location of the rattle and slowly move away. Rattlesnakes tend not to attack unless provoked so do not attempt to shoosh them away or throw things at them to make them move.
If You Encounter a Rattlesnake
If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, remain as calm as you can while proceeding directly to the hospital as quickly as possible to receive antivenom. Do not attempt to cut or suck out the venom.
If you’re not from an area that’s very wooded, you may not be very familiar with ticks - ticks are small arachnids that will latch into your skin and drink blood. Most of the time, you won’t even know that you have been bitten by a tick until after the tick has fallen off their skin and all that remains is a small red spot. Ticks carry many different diseases, the most common of which is Lyme Disease.
To avoid getting a tick while hiking, cover up as much of your skin as possible, long pants are especially helpful. After each hike, do a quick tick check and look for any ticks on your skin, taking extra care to examine warm damp areas like armpits, around the ears, and around the ankles and toes.
If You Encounter a Tick
If you do find a tick on your skin, use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Carefully pull the tick straight upward without twisting or crushing it until the tick releases itself from your skin. Here is a guide on properly removing ticks.