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Watching Wildlife in Canyonlands National Park

Since the Canyonlands can appear quiet and deserted to the average visitor, it’s often assumed there isn’t much wildlife viewing to take in at the park. That could not be more wrong! A diverse collection of birds, lizards, and some rodents are frequently spotted when traversing the park, dependent upon weather and time of year.

In order to adapt to the desert, most of these animals will be nocturnal, meaning they are only active at night to reserve their hydration levels during the day. Of course, there are a few animals in the park that break that cycle, including rock squirrels, antelope squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, snakes, hawks, and eagles.

Nearly 50 species of mammals are known to live in the Canyonlands, many of which are smaller species due to the lack of water and intense sunlight.

The Canyonland’s Top Animals

  • Kangaroo Rats
    • Uniquely adapted to living in the desert, the kangaroo rat lives its entire life on nothing but plant matter. It produces its own water by metabolizing the food it eats, which means it doesn’t need to find a water source to survive. The rats spend the hottest hours of the day sleeping in their cool underground burrows.
  • Mule Deer
  • Woodrats
  • Ringtails
  • Foxes
  • Bobcats
  • Mountain Lions
  • Bats
  • Owls
  • Desert Bighorn Sheep
    • Yes, there is a variety of bighorn sheep suited just for the desert. These animals roam the talus slopes and the side canyons along the rivers as their water source. Once on the brink of becoming extinct, these sheep have made a big comeback in the Canyonlands.

Viewing Locations

Talus Slopes: Desert bighorn sheep
Side Canyons: Desert bighorn sheep, mule deer
Salt Creek Canyon: Bears
The Needles: Bears

When Should You Go?

During the winter months, the reptiles in the park disappear and hibernate due to the cold temperatures. However, during the brutal summer months between August and early October, visitors are more likely to catch sight of a black bear in the canyons as they descend to enjoy the pear cactus and hackberry trees.

If you are planning to visit the Canyonlands in the summer, pack plenty of water and do your hiking in the early morning or evening hours. As a desert region, it can also get cold enough to snow in winter. Pack accordingly!