Where and when to see wildlife in Utah

Where and when to see wildlife in Utah

(Phil Tuttle, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, File)

Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has a thriving population of wild animals and a multitude of locations to see them in, but many people don’t know where to look or when to find different species of animals in their natural habitats.

Utah is not only a birder’s paradise, it's also home to moose, elk, coyotes, mountain lions, mountain goats, foxes, and much more. Learn more about where and when to see these different animals in the wild:


When: Spring and fall, according to Visit Utah. Utah’s bird population increases greatly during annual migrations.

Owl; KSL File Photo
Owl; KSL File Photo

Time of Day: There’s no bad time for bird watching, but early morning and late evening seem to be the best, according to birding resource The Backyard Chipper.

Where: A perk of living in Utah, which boasts more than 430 species of bird life, is that it’s possible to go birding just about anywhere, especially during migration seasons. That said, there are some locations that might give birders better luck than others:

For more great birding locations, take a look at Visit Utah’s aggregated list.


When: Late spring and early summer, when young bison are being born, and fall are the best time to see these beasts.

Time of Day: Bison are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, according to The Rove. During the warmest hours of the day, they can be found resting, chewing cud or wallowing in the dirt.



Moose; Becky Bohrer, AP Photo, File
Moose; Becky Bohrer, AP Photo, File

When: Moose are residents of Utah all year round, including during the cold winter months. That said, they are most active in spring, summer and fall.

Time of day: They are often seen at any time of day, but they are most commonly out and about in the mornings and evenings when temperatures are a bit cooler, according to the National Park Service.



When: Elk can be found in Utah year round, but they are located in different locations depending on the season, according to Wild Aware Utah. During hot summers, Elk often live between 6,000-10,000 feet in elevation. In the fall they migrate toward lower elevations and then spend winters in valley bottoms and on south-facing slopes

Time of Day: Elk are most active at dawn and dusk, according to Wild Aware Utah.


Mountain Goats

When: Mountain goats stay in Utah year-round but change between subalpine and alpine environments between winter and summer, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. They can be found as high as 13,000 feet in the summer and up to 12,000 feet in the winter. They will nearly always be found in mountains and around or on cliff faces.

Time of day: Mountain goats are varyingly active during both days and nights, according to Defenders of Wildlife.


Desert Bighorn Sheep

Desert Bighorn Sheep; Paul Tessier, Shutterstock
Desert Bighorn Sheep; Paul Tessier, Shutterstock

When: Bighorn sheep can be found all throughout the state in some of Utah’s most remote regions throughout the year, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Time of day: They are most active during the day all year-round. During the hottest months of the year, they are more active in the morning and late afternoon/evening when temperatures are a bit cooler, according to Where to See Wildlife.


Red Foxes

When: Red fox are active in Utah all year, although the best time to see them is in spring and summer when their babies have been born.

Time of day: They can be seen at any time of day, but are most often out at dawn and dusk, according to Wild Aware Utah.


Wildlife viewing ethics

When engaging in wildlife viewing, it’s important to respect the space of animals in their natural habitats. Give them their space and avoid disturbing any nests or dens. If parents are spooked away, their young will be left to fend for themselves.

Leave sick or orphaned animals alone. Oftentimes parents are hidden close by waiting for humans to leave, and the animal is better off left in nature where it can be taken care of by its parent.

Keep any pets under control and do not feed the wildlife.

Want to learn more about wildlife in Utah, or more about their habitats and when to go look for them? Look into one of these resources:

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Outdoors & RecUtah
Cara MacDonald enjoys both engaging in outdoor recreation and writing about it. Born and raised in Utah, Cara enjoys skiing, rock climbing, hiking and camping. She is passionate about both learning about and experiencing the outdoors, and helping others to learn about and explore nature. She primarily writes Outdoors articles centering around wildlife and nature, highlighting adventure opportunities, and sharing tips and tricks for outdoor recreation.


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