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How To Be Prepared for Wildlife Encounters in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Written by our Communications Manager, Ellie Harrigan.

There are endless ways to enjoy the summers up in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Escaping the heat and taking in the breathtaking views of wildflowers and endless peaks, Alta soon becomes home to avid hikers, bikers, birdwatchers, and rock climbers. While we are all up here enjoying the cool mountain air and awe inspiring views, we are not the only ones occupying these spaces. Wildlife is abundant in Little Cottonwood Canyon, seeing a moose grazing in the willows or a red-tailed hawk soaring overhead can turn an outdoor outing into one adventure you’ll never forget. Although these close-up encounters can be memorable, it is best to view the stunning wildlife from a safe distance. The good news is, wildlife encounters should not be a reason to avoid the outdoors. Being prepared for encountering wildlife should be a part of everyones knowledge when recreating outdoors, below is some information on what you need to know about wildlife encounters and how to respond if you do have an unexpected run-in.

PC: John Frawley

Wildlife Safety Tips

  • Make noise. Remember, wildlife does not want to be surprised by you as much as you do not want to be surprised by them. Talking, singing, thumping your trekking poles together can help to let animals know you are nearby so you don’t startle them.

  • Keep a safe distance. Although the trails can feel like some peoples second home, we are in these animals territory. Keeping a safe distance away can reduce potentially dangerous encounters. Approaching wildlife can stress them out, forcing them to waste valuable energy that could be used storing food and grazing to fatten up before winter. The National Park Service advises to keep a 100 yards distance from bears and wolves and 25 yards away from all other wildlife (moose, ermines, marmots, pika, and snakes). Remember, if they move when you move then you are too close.

  • Follow Leave No Trace principles. Always be mindful of your trash and waste. Carry out all your garbage and use public restrooms provided around Alta.

  • Never provoke, scare, or sneak up on animals. Although some critters around Alta can look harmless, some will do whatever it takes to protect themselves and their young. It is best to remember these are still wild animals, marmots and deer may look friendly but they are unpredictable and provoking or sneaking up on animals can lead to an unwanted encounter.

  • Keep odors away from your campsite. Cook and wash your dishes away from your camp. Don’t keep scented items in your tent and always store your food in tightly sealed canisters that are kept a few yards away from your campsite. This will avoid unwanted visitors in the night from stealing your food while you sleep.

PC: Joe Crilly

What to Do if You Encounter a Moose

Moose are commonly seen around Alta in the summers and fall. Make sure to give them space, remember to keep at least 25 yards of distance between you and the moose and watch for warning signs of distress. This includes tossing their head, smacking their lips, laying their ears back, or urinating. If you see these it is a very good indication you are too close and the moose is irritated. Although unlikely, if a moose does charge it is advised to run. Do not stand your ground, try and put an object (like a tree or rock) between you and the moose. Summer is the most common time you will see a mother with her calf or calves. They can be more protective during this time of year so it is best to remember the principles of keeping a safe distance, making noise when recreating, travel in groups, and if you run into a moose on the trail, retreat and let the moose move along.

Wildlife encounters shouldn’t be a reason to avoid the outdoors. Being knowledgeable of the area you will be recreating in and being prepared are some ways to minimize encounters and still enjoy viewing some of the incredible wildlife that inhabits Little Cottonwood Canyon in the summers.

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