Ungulate Carnivore Interactions in Zion

Funded: $5,000

Perhaps no animal in Zion is more iconic than the Desert bighorn sheep. On Zion’s rugged east side, large groupings of sheep sit just off the road backed by swirling Navajo sandstone cliffs. Seemingly defying gravity, they effortlessly jump from ledge to ledge, easily navigating the precarious terrain. Seeing bighorns in the park is part of the Zion experience, but understanding them requires your support. 

Zion Forever Project has helped fund wildlife research and care programs for decades. Previous research efforts, using tracking collars, have helped locate and follow roaming bighorn and mule deer throughout the canyons. When the Zion bighorn sheep herd was affected with a terrible respiratory disease (Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae), Forever Project donors provided the equipment needed to capture, diagnose, and manage the herd’s health. 

Working in collaboration with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State University,
this project goes beyond collar tracking. It puts scientists and researchers in the field to better understand the relationship between mule deer, bighorn sheep, and their main predator, the mountain lion. 

An investment into this project unlocks $143,000 in additional funding from the State of Utah, leveraging your gift to solve three years of much-needed park research. 

Funding will see graduate student scientists team up with park researchers in the field to monitor herd behaviors and gather important observational data on reproduction, diet, and disease symptoms. Having boots-on-the-ground means observers can quickly diagnose animal mortalities to understand the underlying causes. The real-world experience prepares the graduate students for their degrees and highlights a future career path rooted in public lands and research. 

The findings from these studies will mean a deeper understanding of how the sizes and locations of mule deer and bighorn sheep affect the mountain lion diet and population status. The team will provide annual reports, update existing park research on disease monitoring, and improve our understanding of all three species. Your support means the continued conservation of one of Zion’s most important resources, its wildlife.