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.
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