Flora and Fauna
The soil in Rock Canyon supports a diverse floral community that includes some indigenous species. The King woody aster and the Wasatch jamesia are among the extremely rare plants found in the canyon. The diversity stems from the variety of soils, altitudes, and climates present throughout the canyon. However, moisture is the key determinant in community variation. Boundaries between plant communities are difficult to define because overlap occurs, thus some plant species are found in more than one community.
Rock Canyon and the surrounding canyons also support a wide variety of wildlife. These animals are closely linked with their surroundings. In a very real way, Rock Canyon’s floral communities determine the type of animal life present within a community.
Small mammals are prevalent throughout the canyon. The rabbit is very abundant in Rock Canyon. The rabbit lives in holes and burrows that have been dug under logs or rocks, and often times they occupy holes that have been abandoned by other animals. There are also many species of squirrels and chipmunks found in the canyon. They live in trees, and like the rabbit, will often times occupy abandoned burrows. These animals feed on seeds, pine cones, and other plants. These small mammals serve as the food source for predatory animals such as the fox, owl, and hawk.
The canyon is also home to many predatory and non-predatory birds. Among the non-predatory birds are the robin and the grouse. The robin nests in trees and feeds primarily on the ground. The grouse is also very plentiful in the canyon. It may be seen feeding on a variety of insects, buds, seeds, and fruits. Among the predatory birds are the hawk, falcon, golden eagle, and the owl. Interestingly enough, Rock Canyon historically housed peregrine falcons. Most recently, Slate Canyon was a nesting site for a pair of Peregrines in both 1988 and 1989. It is hoped that peregrines will naturally reclaim Rock Canyon as a nesting ground. Studies have shown that peregrine falcons often return to their historical nesting grounds.
Reptiles have also found Rock Canyon to be very suitable for life. Many species of snake call the canyon home. The western rattler is one of the species which calls Rock Canyon home, so be careful! Though most snakes in the canyon, with the exception of the rattler, are considered harmless, it is best to leave all snakes alone, even if you are certain of your identification skills. Like snakes, lizards are cold-blooded, so very hot temperatures cause them to seek shelter. Lizards are often seen scurrying under rocks or bushes in search of shade or food such as ants, insects, snakes, and even other lizards.
Larger mammals, such as cougars, foxes, black bears, elk and deer, roam the higher, more remote areas. These mammals are usually active at night. Historically, the cougar population in the area was much higher. However, due to the ever increasing population in the valley these animals have been "forced" further away from the neighboring canyons. Brigham Young University, which can be seen from the mouth of Rock Canyon, maintains the cougar as its mascot.
Elk and deer are fairly prevalent throughout the canyon. These animals feed mainly on grass, leaves, buds, and twigs of thick bushes. The mule deer and white deer have highly populated Rock Canyon and neighboring canyons. Most deer are distinguished from other hoofed animals by their antlers among the males. The canyon is a well suited habitat for these members of the deer family due to the ample food supply, water, and space.