Some of these places might be little-known; others are obvious Utah spots to visit to see animals. All of them are good choices for animal lovers.
1) Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab
Located in Angels Canyon, just a few miles from Kanab, this no-kill animal sanctuary is home to about 2,000 animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, horses, pigs, birds and more. Many of the animals here are ready for new homes. Others have suffered neglect and abuse and are in the process of learning to trust humans again so they’ll be eligible for adoption. Some animals will never be family pets again; they’ll live the rest of their lives at the sanctuary, under the careful love and attention of staff who provide a safe haven. Visit the sanctuary for the day, or spend the night in one of the guest cottages.
2) Tracy Aviary, Salt Lake City
You’ll find 135 bird species at Tracy Aviary on 7.5 acres tucked into Liberty Park. See owls, flamingos, cranes, eagles, macaws and more by touring the aviary. Learn even more about the species by attending a bird show or presentation.
3) Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City
Hogle Zoo is a member of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which has standards for the housing and treatment of animals. Hogle is committed to wildlife conservation, both locally and globally. The zoo provides animal enrichment and works closely with other zoos in a special breeding program to maintain a healthy population of its animals, including species threatened by extinction. If you haven’t been to Hogle Zoo for awhile, stop by for a visit. They’ve added several new animal enclosures over the last few years, which provide larger spaces more similar to the animals’ natural habitat.
4) Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area, Near Hyrum
Hardware Ranch is THE place to see Rocky Mountain Elk during the winter months, when they come down to the ranch to the feeding area. Wagon tours and viewing begins in December. During the summer, check out the visitor center, fish in streams and rivers, and view lots of other wildlife that call the area home.
5) Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Brigham City
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services oversees the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, where you’ll find millions of migrating birds of various species including pelicans, ducks, swans, geese, herons, hawks, eagles and more. Over 270 bird species call the refuge home at some point during the year. See them by taking the 12-mile auto tour, walking around the refuge or visiting the Wildlife Education Center. The refuge offers programs for both visitors and volunteers to learn more about the bird species it houses.
6) Antelope Island State Park
Antelope Island is a favorite spot for Utah’s wildlife photographers and animal lovers alike. Take guided tours of the Fielding Garr Ranch, or just hike around the island, where you might spot bison, eagles, deer, bighorn sheep, antelope and many other species. The annual Bison Roundup takes place every year in October.
7) Wild Horses, State-wide
The Bureau of Land Management oversees several Herd Management Areas where visitors can view wild horses. The Cedar Mountain HMA is located about 50 miles west of Salt Lake City, near Skull Valley. The area encompasses almost 180,000 acres and has been habitat for wild horses since the 1880s. Brown Spring is one of the best places to see the horses, but you’ll be able to drive around the HMA to spot herds. Visit other Utah HMAs, many of which are found in Southern and South-Western Utah.
8) Petting Zoos, State-Wide
Utah is home to several petting zoos where visitors can get up close and personal with animals such as goats, horses, rabbits, chickens, llamas and more. Locations include Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Carver’s Cove in Eden, Gardner Village in West Jordan, Wheeler Farm and This is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake and Fort Zion in Virgin.
Of course, in Utah, it’s possible to see wildlife just about anywhere you look. Do you have a favorite spot where you go to interact with animals? Tell us about it!