While the Zoo provides opportunities to see wildlife from far off locals, and works to preserve them, we also recognize that conservation really begins at home. Utah and the surrounding states are home to some incredible wildlife and wild places. Learn more about what we are doing to help protect Utah’s heritage.
Amphibians of Utah
Click here to learn about the amphibians found in Utah
Be Wild Aware
Predators like black bear, coyote and rattlesnake play important roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems. But sometimes humans have conflicts with these animals in the wild or in their own backyards. Download these helpful brochures and learn all about key predator species in Utah, how to identify them, and tips on how to avoid conflicts.
Often conservation just begins with education. That is why the Zoo, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State University have teamed together to develop a proactive program to discuss how to live and recreate safely in urban and wild areas. Learn more about the program, schedule a presentation and down load information at wildawareutah.org.
Greater Sage Grouse in Western Wyoming
The greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) isn’t listed as an endangered species, but it’s on the waiting list. Sage grouse populations face many challenges, such as loss of habitat as well as collisions with fences. As their name suggests, sage grouse are dependent on their landscape — sagebrush. Native to the western United States, they depend on the sagebrush for protection — they are perfectly camouflaged — and for their food. The leaves of the plant are often their only food source in the winter months. Sage grouse can be found in Wyoming as well as 10 other states and southern Canada.
Recently there have been increasing numbers of reports of greater sage grouse being killed by flying into barbed wire range fences in western Wyoming. Just north of Rock Springs, is located a large sage grouse population.
A project has developed between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Wyoming Fish and Game Department (WFGD) and the Zoo to develop methods to reduce the number of losses. Fortunately, a solution is to simply attach reflectors to the barbed wire – an inexpensive method wildlife officials say can decrease collisions by 70%. Empirical evidence has shown that the placement of fence markers increases the fence visibility to the grouse, thereby reducing the number of strikes.
Since its inception, Zoo staff and volunteers have put conservation in to action. We have placed thousands of markers on fences, as well as participating in spring lek (a gathering of male grouse courting females) surveys and surveying the fences. This project and partnership has resulted in a wonderful opportunity for our staff and volunteers to become more acquainted with some of the conservation challenges in our region and to connect to the wilderness around us.
Restoring Beavers in Utah
In 2010 Utah adopted is first beaver (Castor Canadensis) management plan, an essential start to bringing back beaver to their historical habitat! Beavers are natural water conservationists; their dams change everything, a critical issue for our state.
Healthy beaver populations are critical to our forests’ health! Beavers provide: ponds and wetlands, restore groundwater rather than become runoff, reduce erosion, and create wetland ecosystems, habitat for a variety of native wildlife. The Zoo staff and volunteers have been working with the Grand Canyon Trust
to assess potential beaver habitat in Utah’s forests as well as engage communities in beaver restoration. Learn about “Leave it to Beavers Days” held in Escalante, Utah. For more details, click here
We are fortunate to live in one of the world’s most active” highways in the sky”. Thousands of raptors migrate through Utah or consider our state a year-round-home. Having a better understanding of their movements and their behaviors is necessary to help conserve them. In addition to being a very beneficial species (a farmers best form of pest control) birds are often considered great indicators of overall environmental health. The Zoo has been working with HawkWatch International
to monitor winter populations, participate in fall migration counts and track flammuated owl populations.
Amphibian Conservation Research in Utah
Frogs and other amphibians are facing a worldwide decline in wild populations, and they need our help. Although loss of habitat and water pollution have long been the main factors in the decline of frog populations, recently, the greatest threat seems to be due to the amphibian chytrid fungus. Infections from the fungus seem to
suppress the immune system, often causing the fatal disease chytridiomycosis. The rapid spread of this fungus has lead to extinction of some amphibians and the rapid decline in other wild populations. Teaming up with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, many Zoo staff and volunteers assist with hands-on conservation work. Utah is home to the Columbia spotted frog and boreal toad, and both species have seen a rapid decline in the Wasatch Front and around Utah. According to Chris Crockett, native aquatics biologist of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), there has been a 50% decline in populations of both species in this region within the last five years. Chris said, “Boreal toads were abundant along the Wasatch Front five years ago with populations existing in both Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. A total of five toads were counted in the last survey, which indicates they have been virtually eliminated from this area. Creating easements for these species to protect their habitat is the biggest priority in conserving these species. Consequently, the survey work is an important part of gathering data on different populations. Zoo staff and volunteers joined UDWR to help with this fieldwork. At these sites, our frog crews count, measure, swab for chytrid and look for other indicators on how the frogs and toads are doing.