The best time to view wildlife, be it as large as a moose or small as a bird, is when the temperatures have dropped and snow covers the ground. This time of year wild animals gather together and hang out in areas where they can be seen.

It is a fact that more people will spend time searching out wildlife over the course of a year than will bike, hike, camp or fish, according to one report by the Outdoor Industry Foundation. So, where are some of the better viewing sites here in Utah?

Farmington Bay

The Farmington Bay shoreline refuge offers prime habitat for a number of raptors, including northern harriers, peregrine falcons and bald eagles. Approximately 500 bald eagles winter on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, making it one of the top 10 winter habitat areas for eagles in the lower 48 states.

Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Utah winters are good for eagles because of the comparatively mild temperatures and the abundance of prey, such as carp and ducks on the marshes along the lake, and rabbits. The road into the refuge takes viewers to areas where eagles are feeding and resting. On one visit, more than 30 eagles were seen perched in an old tree, and many more were flying about. Hundreds of pure white tundra swans are also making their migration through northern Utah during the winter and use the bay on occasion.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will hold a number of Watchable Wildlife events at Farmington Bay. Main entrance is south and west of Farmington at 1325 W. Glover Lane. Take Exit 322 off I-15, drive south on frontage road to Glover, then west on Glover.

Hardware Ranch

Winter is about the only time people can get close to elk. In this case, elk come to Hardware Ranch to feed in the winter and in payment for the food, make themselves available to up-close encounters. Every winter, the DWR offers sleigh rides into the midst of the elk herd, which typically number in the hundreds and include several large bulls. In addition to the sleigh rides, the ranch operates a visitors center, which has interactive wildlife displays and staff who can answer questions.

The Hardware Ranch Elk Festival will be Dec. 17, and the ranch is 17 miles east of Hyrum.

Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Antelope Island

The main player on the island is the buffalo. There are more than 500 on the island at this time of year, and typically are held in areas that make them easily seen from the road. On occasion, they can be found only a few feet off the paved road. Along with the buffalo, it's also possible to see deer, antelope and coyotes. There are also bighorn sheep on the island, but they typically stay in the high country and are difficult to spot.

Antelope Island is located seven miles west of I-15 off exit 332. Entrance fee is required.

Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.


Every winter, thousands of snow-white lesser snow geese fly in to rest and feed on and around Gunnison Bend Reservoir near Delta. The town of Delta and the DWR hold a Snow Goose Festival each year, with the 2012 event to take place Feb. 24-25. Activities include free waterfowl workshops, a 10K race, photography contest and quilt show.

For information visit — and click on Snow Goose Festival.

Photo by Lynn Chamberlain, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Occasionally, during the early winter and spring, it’s possible to stop near the mouth of the canyon and see Rocky Mountain goats negotiating the steep rock outcroppings. The problem is the goats are white, which can make them difficult to see when there’s snow on the ground.

Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The areas listed are by no means the only viewing sites for wildlife but are areas where wildlife watchers are certain to catch a glimpse of some of the more majestic birds and animals. Deer, for example, can be seen in many of the lower mountain locations. Utah's waterfowl management areas, such as Farmington, Salt Creek and Ogden Bay, along with other like Cutler Marsh near Logan, hold some very interesting bird life.

There's no question—winter offers some of the best times to get out the spotting scopes, binoculars and cameras and spend time watching wildlife.

Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Check out the Utah Wildlife Viewing Guide by Jim Cole, which lists 92 of the best and most accessible viewing locations and was published in 1990. There are several sites on-line offering new and used books.

For more wildlife information visit the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.