The flora and fauna of Wayne County add to the natural geological beauty of this land. Watching for the different native animals can provide additional entertainment for both adults and children. On your next road trip to Capitol Reef, we at the Lodge challenge you to watch for these animals – see how many you can spot.
Black Billed Magpie – Magpies are common birds in Wayne County and Capitol Reef. They are distinguished by their black and white coloring. Magpies are carrion birds, and will often be seen near the roads picking at carcasses.
Black Bears – Black Bears are found in forty-one states, including this one. But you will have to be lucky to see one in Wayne County. They can be found in the upper regions of Boulder Mountain and in Fishlake National Forest.
Falcons and Other Birds of Prey – Watch the skies and the power lines for eagles (both golden and bald,) peregrine falcons, harris hawks, red-tailed hawks, and kestrels.
Kangaroo Rat – Kangaroo Rats are small, nocturnal rodents. They have large hind legs, (the similarity to the hind legs of the Red Kangaroo has in fact lent this species its name) large ears and a long tail. They are pale in color. There is usually a white band of fur that crosses the hips from the base of the tail. Look for these creatures at the Capitol Reef campground.
Marmots – Marmots are the largest ground-dwelling squirrels in the region. They are yellowish brown with yellowish bellies. These burrowing animals sometimes spend as much as eight months of the year underground and begin hibernation as early as September. Marmots are social creatures. When danger approaches, the marmots let out high-pitched chirps so the group can scurry to safety – giving them the nickname “whistle pigs.”
Pinion Jay – While you are out exploring the area, you are likely to encounter the Pinion Jay. This bird has gray-blue plumage, and a long slender bill. These birds search mainly for pinion or pine nuts and seeds, as well as insects and berries. Watch for these birds in the higher altitudes in the county.
Pronghorns – These are the fastest mammals in the Western Hemisphere. They are similar in appearance to the antelope of Africa, and are thus mistakenly called by that name. Watch for pronghorn in the sagebrush plains, or in the San Rafael Swell.
Utah Prairie Dog – is one of the most iconic animals of the west. They can be seen during spring, summer and fall, particularly at higher elevations in Wayne County. Look for the obvious mound and tunnel systems. You may have to be patient to see one stick its head outside.
(We extend our thanks to the Capitol Reef National Park Society for their help in compiling this list.)