Zion National Park Wildlife: Ultimate Spotting Guide

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Zion National Park, in the heart of Southern Utah in the United States, offers a fantastic opportunity for families to connect with nature and observe an incredible variety of wildlife.

From the majestic mountain lions to the iconic California condor and other species of birds, this park is a haven for a diverse array of animal species.

In this guide, we’ll explore the best times and places to spot these remarkable animals during your family trip to Zion National Park.

three kids next to the Zion National Park Kolob Canyon sign in UtahPin
Zion NP is one of our family’s favorite US national parks

The Rich Tapestry of Zion National Park Wildlife

Meet the Diverse Wildlife

Before we embark on our wildlife adventure, let’s get to know the incredible diversity of wildlife that calls Zion home.

From large species of mammals to elusive species of reptiles, here are some of the species you might encounter:

  1. Mule Deer: These graceful animals are a common sight in Zion Canyon, so there’s a good chance you’ll spot them during dawn and dusk.
  2. Golden Eagles: Look to the skies for these magnificent raptors, known for their impressive wingspans.
  3. Foxes: Keep an eye out for the swift and elusive gray fox. You might spot them in the evening.
  4. Bats: Zion is home to 17 different bat species, vital for maintaining the park’s dark skies. Listen for their nighttime calls.
  5. Bighorn Sheep: These surefooted creatures are best spotted between the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and the East Entrance.
  6. California Condor: Keep your eyes peeled for the critically endangered California condor, one of the most iconic bird species in the area.
  7. Desert Tortoise: This threatened species is adapted to the arid landscapes of Zion, particularly in lower elevations.
  8. Rock Squirrels: These charming rodents can be found near Riverside Walk, but remember not to feed them.
  9. Coyotes: Known for their haunting calls, coyotes are active in the evening and early morning.
  10. Bobcats: Rarely seen but always intriguing, bobcats occasionally make appearances within the park.
  11. Mountain Lions: Extremely elusive, mountain lions prefer the more remote areas of Zion, making sightings a rare treat.
  12. Gila Monsters: These venomous reptiles are a rare but fascinating find in the desert terrain.
  13. Peregrine Falcon: Look for these fast-flying raptors nesting on the high cliffs of Zion’s canyon walls.
  14. Ringtail Cat: Also known as the “mining cat,” this nocturnal mammal can sometimes be spotted in Zion’s rocky terrain.

Be sure to print some of our free Zion National Park Wildlife Bingo Cards so your family can play while you search and spot animals during your trip. Now that we’re acquainted with the cast of characters, let’s explore when and where to spot these incredible creatures.

Where and When to Encounter Wildlife

Daytime

Mule Deer

Your best chance to spot mule deer is during the day when they graze in the campgrounds, near Zion Lodge, along Angel’s Landing Trails, and along the Virgin River at the bottom of Zion Canyon. Keep your camera ready for these magnificent creatures.

YouTube video
sweet little mule deer fawn we saw at the Springdale visitor center – the baby was camped out in the parking lot area waiting for mama to come back
Rock Squirrels

These curious little fellows often scamper around the Riverside Walk area during the daytime. While they might look friendly, remember not to feed them and keep a safe distance.

Rock Squirrels can be pretty bold because they’ve grown accustomed to handouts from well-meaning, but poorly educated park visitors. One problem with that is that these guys can carry diseases that none of us want to get…like bubonic plague, for one!

sign in Bryce Canyon National Park warning visitors that rodents can carry plague, so stay away from them!Pin
Sign at nearby Bryce Canyon National Park (another Utah Mighty Five) warning that rock squirrels and other seemingly-friendly rodents in the area can carry bubonic plague, so stay away!
Foxes

Although mostly nocturnal, you might encounter gray foxes near the quieter areas of the park during the day. They are known to be active in the early morning and late afternoon.

Golden Eagles

Scan the skies above the high cliffs for these majestic birds of prey. They are most active during the day.

California Condor

With the help of park officials and conservation efforts, the California condor population is slowly rebounding. Look to the skies for these critically endangered birds while exploring the park’s high elevations.

california condor perched on a cliffside in Zion National ParkPin

Nighttime

Bats

Zion’s dark skies offer a haven for bats. You can listen for their intriguing echolocation calls, and if you’re lucky, you might see them in action as they hunt insects.

Coyotes

These cunning canines are most active during the night. Listen for their distinctive calls and keep an eye out for their gleaming eyes in the dark.

Bobcats

While bobcats are rarely seen, they are more likely to emerge under the cover of night. Keep your flashlight handy, and you might get a glimpse of these elusive felines.

bobcat lying on a red rockPin
Mountain Lions

The elusive mountain lions are also active at night. Although sightings are rare, their presence adds an air of mystery to the Zion wilderness. Nighttime ranger talks might offer insights into their behavior.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine falcons are known for their nocturnal hunting habits. Watch for them during the evening hours as they swoop down on prey.

Desert Tortoise

While primarily diurnal, desert tortoises might venture out during the cooler evening hours. Keep a lookout in lower elevations.

desert tortoisePin
Ringtail Cat

These secretive creatures are mostly active at night. If you’re exploring the park after dark, you might be lucky enough to spot one.

ringtail cat perched in a treePin

Wildlife Safety

Remember, the safety of both you and the wildlife is paramount. Here are some important guidelines to follow during your wildlife viewing:

  • Do not approach or attempt to feed any wildlife. Maintain a safe distance of at least 25 feet.
  • Be cautious around squirrels and other rodents, as they can carry diseases.
  • If you encounter a fawn alone, it’s likely not abandoned. Leave it be; the mother will return.
  • If you see a sick or injured animal, report it to park personnel. Do not touch or move the animal.

Fun Facts about Zion National Park Wildlife

The Return of the California Condor

The California condor is a symbol of conservation success in recent years. Here are some fascinating facts about this iconic bird:

  • With only 27 individuals remaining in the 1980s due to habitat loss and human activity, a captive breeding program was initiated to save the species from extinction.
  • Today, there are over 400 California condors, thanks to intensive conservation efforts.
  • These large birds can soar at altitudes of over 15,000 feet and travel up to 150 miles in a day in search of food.
california on the side of a cliff in Grand Canyon National ParkPin
This California Condor is in Grand Canyon, but great shot to appreciate how colorful these guys are!

Desert Bighorn Sheep: Masters of the Canyons

Zion’s desert bighorn sheep are perfectly adapted to the challenging canyon environment:

  • Their large ears help dissipate heat, a vital adaptation for desert life.
  • These sheep can survive for days without drinking water by metabolizing moisture from the vegetation they eat.
  • Mating season, or the rut, takes place from July to October, with impressive battles between male sheep.

Though their numbers now in the park are in the hundreds, bighorn sheep were locally extinct as of the mid-1900’s. The national park service worked to reintroduce a small herd of these animals which are native to the region back in 1978.

YouTube video
We were so excited to see these bighorn sheep during our visit!

Gila Monsters: Colorful and Venomous

Encountering a Gila monster is a rare treat:

  • These venomous lizards are one of only two venomous species of lizards in North America.
  • Their striking orange and black coloration serves as a warning to potential predators.
  • Despite their venom, Gila monsters are generally slow-moving and pose little threat to humans if left undisturbed.
gila monster on the groundPin

Zion National Park offers a unique opportunity to witness a rich tapestry of wildlife in their natural habitat.

Whether you’re admiring the grace of mule deer, gazing at the skies for golden eagles and California condors, or venturing out after dark to catch a glimpse of mountain lions and peregrine falcons, each encounter leaves a lasting impression.

Remember to explore safely, respect the park’s guidelines, and cherish the moments when you share the wilderness with these incredible creatures.

As you embark on your family adventure through Zion’s landscapes, keep your eyes peeled, and you might just witness some of nature’s most remarkable performances.

Grab a free printable Zion National Park Wildlife Bingo Card so you and your family can play while spotting animals! And enjoy the journey!

Pin this Zion National Park wildlife information for later! And if you found this article helpful, leave a comment on the pin. That helps others decide whether to use this information, too!

grid with 8 different animals whose home is in Zion: "Zion national park wildlife: what to know before you go"Pin
happy trails, heatherPin
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About Heather Thibodeau

Heather Thibodeau is the founder and mom behind nationalparksmom.com.

She and her husband Dave (AKA Tib) are on a mission to travel to as many US national parks with their three kids in tow as they possibly can, doing their best to keep the little ones out in nature and off of screens in an increasingly digital world.

Heather has earned degrees in biology & chemistry from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies), and holds master's and doctorate degrees in physical therapy from Duke University (Go Blue Devils).

Heather is also the creative force behind The Heathered Nest where she shares her love of all things DIY and home decor.

Her work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, This Old House, Today.com, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, and more.

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