Wildlife In Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon is known for its incredible geology and sweeping vistas, but equally impressive are the plants and animals that make the uplifted plateaus of Utah such a unique environment. Surrounded by deserts, these highlands get much more rain than the lowlands below and stay cooler during hot summers. The relatively lush ecosystems that result are like fertile islands towering above a vast arid landscape.
To see animals of the Bryce Canyon Area, Click Here!
What is a mammal? Webster’s Dictionary defines a mammal as…”any of a class of higher vertebrates comprising man and all other animals that nourish their young with milk secreted by the mammary glands and have the skin usually more or less covered with hair.”
What mammals can be seen in Bryce Canyon National Park? We have chipmunks, squirrels, prairie dogs, mountain lions, pronghorn sheep, coyotes, gray foxes, bats, mice, and many more animals classified as mammals.
The three most common birds found in the park are the Peregrine Falcon, California Condor and the Clark’s Nutcracker.
Ants are some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. Something like ten thousand trillion ants control vast stretches of territory on planet earth. Their success lies in cooperation. They are a social insect, living in often enormous colonies, coordinating their activities to an exceptional degree to achieve domination.
These are aggressive and capable critters, ones whose existence is characterized by continuous work and conflict. In many places they are the dominate insect, and usually displace solitary insects (those that live and forage alone and not in social groups) to less favorable habitat or eat them.
Trees – Conifers
What are conifers?…The name “conifer” is derived from the Latin word which means “to bear cones.” Cones, the fruiting body which produces the seeds of the tree, are common features of most conifers, with the exception of junipers and yews which produce berry-like fruit.
How do I identify a conifer?…The best way is to look at the leaves. Does the tree have linear, needle-like or scale-like leaves? Conifers are usually evergreens although they still shed their older foliage on various annual cycles. The larch and cypress are deciduous, shedding their leaves annually in the fall.
Are there many conifer species (types)?…More than 500 conifer species have been identified worldwide.
Do all conifers look about the same? Are they the same size and color?…Among the conifers can be found some of the largest, smallest and oldest living woody plants known to mankind. There is an astounding amount of diversity in the conifer world. Some conifers grow into huge forests which are harvested for their timber and others are admired for their adaptability and color variations for the household garden. Overall, they vary in textures from soft and fluffy to rigid or majestic. The wide range of greens, blues and golden yellows paint a colorful landscape wherever conifers grow.
What are the names of the different conifers found in Bryce Canyon National Park?…In the Park you can find pines, junipers, firs, spruces, cedars and Douglas fir.
Biological soil crusts, or more commonly called Cryptobiotic soil or Cryptogamic soil, occur on every continent and in nearly every environment. However, they are most commonly found in arid or desert environments. In the high deserts of the Colorado plateau (i.e. the Four Corners region), biological soil crusts can cover up to 70-80% of the ground cover.
Health & Safety
Every time you go to a National Park, you probably hear the same thing: “Don’t feed the animals.” Why do we say that? What harm could a pretzel or apple slice do to a deer or a chipmunk? Too often, it is not an apple slice, but salted peanuts or chips whose high sodium content is poisonous to an animal’s system. Those kinds of food are not healthy for people, how much less for an animal whose diet is supposed to consist of berries, flowers, and insects? Also, the animals become dependent on people as a food source and lose their ability to successfully forage when they have been raised begging for human food.
Although human food can and does harm the animals for a variety of reasons, the reason we ask you not to feed them is for the safety of humans as much as of the animals. In Bryce Canyon, there are two major hazards to humans associated with feeding the animals, specifically ground squirrels, chipmunks, and prairie dogs. First, the animals frequently bite people when they are hand feeding them, or especially when they try to touch the animal without food in their hand. Hantavirus is a disease which has received considerable publicity in southern Utah because several people have died from it recently. One of the ways it is transmitted is through the infected animal’s saliva–by being bitten. It is also transmitted by inhaling or touching dust in which infected animals have urinated or defecated, as the virus is viable in that matter for about three days. Since that dust could be on the animal’s fur, touching the animal is another potential way to obtain the disease. Currently there is no cure for Hantavirus, but if extreme flu like symptoms develop after association with these animals, contact a physician for the available treatment.
Rabies is another disease which is transmitted through an animal bite, which many more animals than just small rodents could carry. Beware of any ringtail cat, rodents, foxes, or other animals who appear extremely sluggish or have strange secretions from their mouth or eyes. Report any abnormal behavior to a ranger.
Secondly, there is a threat of disease to people who are obeying the rules and not feeding the animals when other people have fed them. Bubonic Plague, or as some know it, the Black Plague, has been known to infect our prairie dog population from time to time. A type of flea that lives on small rodents (i.e. prairie dogs, ground squirrels, chipmunks) transmits this disease. When people have fed the animals and taught them that people are their food source, that it is all right to crawl on a person’s leg because they will be rewarded with food, those people might actually be responsible for killing another person down the road. It is common for people to be mobbed by ground squirrels hoping to be fed when they go to a view point, even if the person has no intention of feeding them. If those animals have the fleas infected with Bubonic Plague, the fleas could potentially jump on the person and give them the disease. Fortunately, Bubonic Plague can be cured if caught soon enough, but it is a painful experience.
Even with the potential for all these diseases, you can still come to Bryce Canyon and enjoy a safe visit. The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” should be remembered. You can prevent coming in contact with diseases if you do not feed or touch the animals, and make sure that your children stay away from them also. If the animals approach you begging for food, simply ignore them, or chase them off if they get too close. Remember, the animals would never beg for people food if people did not teach them to. So please do your part to ensure the health of the animals, yourself, and other visitors down the road by not feeding the animals.