Peregrine falcons nest in Zion National Park, occupying high cliffs that often share space with the park’s more popular hiking routes, such as the Angel’s Landing trail. Naturally, preservation trumps recreation, forcing these trails to close while the falcons tend to their young.
The fuss about these falcons is well warranted. Habitat reduction and food-chain poisoning from pesticides like DDT once pushed the peregrine’s worldwide population so low that it nearly became extinct. Its restoration is one of the great victories of the modern conservation movement, in which Zion has played an important role. In addition to the peregrine falcon, several once-endangered or currently endangered species of bird, such as the bald eagle and the California condor, call the park home.
Ringtail cats aren’t really cats — they’re actually closely related to raccoons. Found all over the American Southwest, these nocturnal omnivores thrive in rocky territory close to water. Since they keep late-night hours, these animals can be tough to spot, but visitors can look for them in riparian (riverside) areas in Zion National Park. Ringtails were once domesticated and kept as pets by Western miners and homesteaders. The animals’ nocturnal habits meant that they stayed out of the way during daylight hours, emerging at night to hunt mice in their keepers’ cabins. If you encounter a ringtail cat in Zion National Park, don’t pet, feed or harass it, even if it approaches you (which it very well might).
Although their range isn’t limited to the deserts of the Southwest, long-eared mule deer are specially adapted to hot climates. Their ears, which can reach up to nine inches long, help keep the deer cool by conveniently dissipating heat. Mule deer are a common sight on the floor of Zion Canyon, where they can be seen grazing on shrubs. White-spotted fawns, which appear in spring, are a favorite op for visiting amateur photographers. Just make sure to keep your distance when snapping photos.