Mammals

Bat
Townsend Big Ear bat in the Timpanogos Cave

Timpanogos Cave National Monument has approximately 55 species of mammals. Each species of mammal plays an important role in the park’s “circle of life.” Small mammals such as rodents and bats help control the population of insects; larger mammals, like ringtail cats, help control the population of rodents. Plant-eating mammals help distribute seeds. The following are some of the more common mammals found within the Monument:

Ringtail Cat: Although not related to cats, these animals were called miner’s cats (historically appreciated for their mousing abilities.) Like Raccoons, Ringtail Cats are actually in the family Procyonidae and have striped tails and a fur mask around their eyes. A Ringtail cat has a compact and sleek body with an elongated pointed nose. Its fur ranges from a white to a dark brown and the tail of this animal has seven to eight black rings. The ringtail cat is not a large mammal. It grows as long as 24 to 32 inches and weighs from 30 to 39 ounces making it the perfect size to live in rock crevices and tree hollows. The diet of this omnivore includes mice, woodrats, squirrels, rabbits, insects, plants, and nectar. The ringtail cat feeds at night and is not often seen by park visitors.

Colorado Chipmunk: This chipmunk can be distinguished from other chipmunks by a cinnamon-buff rump and 3 black back stripes. It is found foraging in coniferous forests on seeds, fruits, fungi, and insects. This animal can be commonly found on the trail in the mornings and the evenings and will bark if alarmed by visitors.

Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat: This bat is known for its particularly large pink ears. Like many other bats it hunts at night and sleeps in caves. Every winter this bat must hibernate in an undisturbed cave. If disturbed, it will leave the warmth of the cave to battle winter conditions in attempts to find a peaceful, undisturbed home. At this time the Townsend Big-Eared Bat population is declining at a fast rate and is now listed as a threatened species. This bat uses Timpanogos Caves temporarily as a home but do not hibernate in Hansen, Middle or Timpanogos Cave. Click here to read more about bats and white nose syndrome, a disease killing millions of bats across North America.

Bighorn sheep: Frequent sightings of Bighorn sheep thrill visitors in the canyon. Whether on the cave trail or even on the canyon floor, it is exciting to see these magnificent mammals. Both the male and female have horns, although the adult male has the curled-back horns that give this species its name, with shorter horns on the females. With hooves well adapted for climbing the surrounding cliffs, Bighorn sheep are sometimes seen standing looking down at visitors hiking the trail, or sunning themselves on rock below trail overlooks. When looking for these animals, look for the splash of color from its white rump patch, as the brownish body often helps it camouflage with the surrounding rock.

Mountain lion: At the top of the food chain in American Fork Canyon stands the cougar, also known as mountain lion. This elusive creature is rarely seen, but plays a major roll in the discovery of Hansen Cave. In 1887, Martin Hansen followed the tracks of a cougar to the entrance of Hansen Cave, beginning the era of cave discovery on this canyon wall. Often solitary, mountain lion hunt deer, elk, and other big game, but will also hunt and eat other food as it presents itself. These big cats are masters of stealth, sneaking up on their prey to get close before they run and pounce.

Mule deer: Found in many places throughout the western United States, mule deer are sometimes seen in the park near the river or on the lower half of the cave trail. Mule deer get their name from their large mule-like ears. They are predominantly browsers, but will also eat grasses and forbs. Males can be identified by their antlers (which they lose and regrow annually); females do not have antlers of any kind.

Moose: An occassional winter visitor to the park is the Moose. These large members of the deer family sometimes winter in the riparian area near the river, eating the buds of plants. Moose are browsers, eating shrubs, woody plants, and aquatic vegetation. Males are known for their large antlers, and can stand more than 6 feet at the shoulder. Moose are solitary animals, with the exception of when females stay with their young the first year to year-and-a-half of their life.

Last updated: April 23, 2020

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American Fork, UT 84003

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