Deep Mountain Snow Spurs Increase In Residential Wildlife Sightings

Feb 25, 2019, 6:20 PM | Updated: 7:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Some of our neighbors on the Wasatch Front have had close encounters with wildlife over the past weekend: moose, mountain goats, and even mountain lions.

Wildlife sightings are common in Utah deep snow. This winter is forcing some animals out of the mountains and into backyards.

“We were just in the kitchen having breakfast,” said Darren Spencer of Bountiful. “When, all of a sudden, here comes a mama moose and her baby walking right past the front of the house.”

That’s how Sunday started for Spencer and his family.

“They tried the gate, and then wandered around the front of the house and tried the other gate and then went back up the canyon this way.”

Spencer thinks the moose were hungry.

“We’ve been here about 20 years, and never seen a moose in the neighborhood,” he said.

Snow-pack above the neighborhood is deeper than average, burying what the moose might otherwise eat.

“They could have been pushed down because of the snow,” said Scott Root, a conservation manager with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Root said moose and elk typically stay higher on the mountain because they are hearty enough. Some winters, like this one, they can’t dig deep enough in the snow for their food.

“They’re trying to forage, and it gets a little more difficult in the higher elevations,” said Root.

KSL-TV’s Andrew Wittenberg caught video last weekend of a moose last weekend as it was running down Big Cottonwood Canyon Road.

“Moose are typically able to spend the winter just fine in the higher elevations,” said Root. “But, with deeper snow, some of those will come down as well.”

In Salt Lake County, three mountain lions were reported close to homes Saturday.

The most alarming of these encounters was for Miles Maxfield in Olympus Cove Saturday. He spotted not one, but three mountain lions right in the backyard of his parents’ home.

“The first time I saw it I was kind of scared because I’ve never seen a mountain lion in the wild before,“ said Miles.

One of the mountain lions even walked right by the window.

“Once I realized that since I was inside I was safe — I just kind of was looking at it and they’re pretty beautiful,” he said.

An image captured in video taken by Miles Maxfield in Olympus Cove of a mountain lion near his home.

An image captured in video taken by Miles Maxfield in Olympus Cove of a mountain lion near his home.

Root said the mountain lions are likely following their favorite food source, the deer, which are looking for vegetation because their forage is buried.

“Most of the time, our mountain lions are staying out of the city. But, if the deer are down in town, there’s probably going to be another sighting or two of a mountain lion.”

A mountain goat even showed up on the streets of Cottonwood Heights.

Root says many of them winter in the rocks above the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

“We have a decent population of mountain goats that actually spend the winter there at the valves of both canyons,” said Root.

As the weather warms..

“Big game species in addition to the mountain lions will probably start heading back up on the mountain,” he said.

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Deep Mountain Snow Spurs Increase In Residential Wildlife Sightings