You’ve probably “Herd” of the elk that have been visiting our City. Due to continued population growth, the wildland-urban interface is shrinking, and some essential habitat for our local wildlife can be found within our City’s parks and public lands. Here are some helpful winter wildlife awareness tips to keep in mind when recreating outdoors this season.
In the wintertime from December to April, elk will move to lower elevations with less snowfall to search for food. While elk are typically not aggressive towards humans, they can be during the rut from mid-September to mid-October when looking for mates. Elk can also be aggressive when people get too close trying to capture that sweet photo causing the elk to feel trapped and when they feel threatened by our canine companions.
As for cougars and coyotes, they find their way to the valley by following deer and elk. These animals are opportunistic and typically not dangerous unless they become habituated to people and lose their fear of humans. To cougars and coyotes, large dogs can be seen as a threat, while small dogs can be seen as food.
How to be Winter Wildlife Aware
When recreating outdoors, we have a responsibility to recognize seasonal changes in wildlife behaviors. By following a few tips you can help protect our wildlife, yourself, and your canine companions when recreating in the winter months.
- Avoid recreating at dawn and dusk in the winter as this is when wildlife are most active.
- Make yourself known! Avoid taking wildlife by surprise by attaching small bells to yourself and your pets to give animals a warning of your presence.
- Keep dogs close and on-leash.
- Do not feed the wildlife. Doing so can cause the animals to become habituated to humans and lead to more aggressive encounters and disease.
- Give wildlife space! If you encounter wildlife, DO NOT APPROACH. Stay calm, keep your pet quiet and under control, and give the animal a clear escape route by backing away slowly without taking your eyes off the animal.
What to do if You Find a Carcass
With wildlife present in the valley, it’s possible you may find carcasses in parks and public lands.
Salt Lake City Public Lands does not remove carcasses from our properties. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) does instead. If you find a carcass, contact DWR at (801) 538-4700.
DWR may or may not choose to come and remove the carcass, depending on the location. In some open spaces, it’s preferable to leave the carcass where it was found in order to keep predators in certain areas.
For more information on wildlife safety, visit wildawareutah.org.