Utah Animal Life

The mule deer, ranging principally in forest and mountain areas, is Utah's most numerous big game animal. Named for its mule-like ears, this creature is graceful and elusive, having choice meat and a magnificent head.

The grizzly bear, the "Ole Ephraim" of the mountain men, is apparently extinct in the State. Private arsenals of "killb'ars" seem to have done for this most ferocious western animal. Utah once had a species of grizzly bear ( Ursus utahensis) that has not been found elsewhere. Black bears and their variants, brown and cinnamon bears, are considered pests. Cunning and intelligent enough to merit their place in Indian mythology, they hold their own against traps, poison, and guns, and kill thousands of sheep, calves, and colts each year.

The most numerous fur-bearing animals are weasel, muskrat, beaver, badger, skunk, marten, fox, and ringtail cat. Under strict protection, beaver are on the increase, having been trapped almost to extinction in the early days.
Comparatively plentiful, it measures about one foot long from nose tip to tail tip; it has four narrow white stripes running lengthwise along its back, which are broken across the hips by crossbars of black. Utah has three kinds of foxes, the red, the gray, and the desert swift fox. The gray fox ( Vulpes macroura) was first described in 1852 from specimens taken in the Wasatch Mountains east of Great Salt Lake and purchased by Captain Howard Stansbury; it ranges through the mountains of Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. Sporadic trapping of furbearers is carried on throughout rural sections, but most furs come from fifty fur farms in Utah.

In addition to jack rabbits, cottontails, and snowshoe rabbits at high altitudes, northern Utah is included in the range of the Idaho pygmy rabbit, a peculiar little animal with a small head, short broad ears, and a very short tail. It runs without leaping. The pygmy is seldom seen, since it feeds at night and hides by day. In 1905 the pika or rock rabbit ( Ochotona cimmamonea) was found in the Beaver Mountains at an altitude of 10,000 feet and first described scientifically. This little rodent, only about five inches long, is nearest of kin to the rabbits. Grayish brown in color, it has no tail, and utters a peculiar bleat unlike that of any other animal. Living in the Uinta, Wasatch, La Sal, and Parowan mountains, it cuts and stores "hay" for the winter. Its Asiatic and African counterpart is the little hyrax, of an ancient order of ungulates related to the elephant.

Utah has many other kinds of rodents. The tree squirrel or chickaree is common throughout timbered regions. The flying squirrel, which glides through the air with the help of sailing membranes, inhabits dense coniferous forests of the Uinta and Wasatch ranges. The desert squirrel inhabits the sparsely vegetated Great Salt Lake desert.

Ducks are the most numerous game birds in Utah, coming through the State on migratory bird flyways by the hundreds of thousands. Ten or more species of surface feeding ducks include the mallard, gadwall, baldpate, American pintail, three kinds of teal, the shoveller, and the wood duck. Diving ducks include the redhead, ring-necked, canvasback, greater scaup, American golden eye, Barrow golden eye, and buffle-head.

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