Predators of the Rocky Mountains
Any mountain biker venturing into the wilds of the Rocky Mountains needs to be aware of the various predators that call this incredible area their home. In the cycle of life predators and prey play supporting roles to each other. A balance of both populations indicates a healthy ecosystem.
No other place is as harsh as the mountain environment when considering the risks that each animal must take just to survive. Climate, terrain and other factors weigh heavily on each animal and they must learn to mitigate each factor in order to survive.
Young mammals must be quick learners and rely upon instinct to live to an old enough age to pass on their genes and lessons learned to their offspring.
The Rocky Mountains are home to the animals I am familiar with. Much has been written about the uncomparable Rocky Mountains. These pages are not about the mountains where these incredible animals call home. Contained in the space below are the major and minor players in the predator versus prey struggle that occurs on a daily basis in the Rocky Mountains.
North America's Continental Divide travels north to south through the Rocky Mountains. Numerous mountain ranges combine to produce some of the most incredible mountains in the world. Although many others would disagree there are many who agree with this statement.
The Rocky Mountains are home to such jems as Montana's Glacier National Park, Canada's Banff, Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park and The Tetons just to name a few.
All information found and animal photos in this article were gleaned from personal experiences and observations of the writer as well as the internet. The scenery shots are my photos. I have published it here at the request of a collegue from MbPost.
This is not meant to scare anyone from venturing out into the mountains to enjoy the wonderful trails and vista that only those who get out can enjoy.
The goal of this Article is to help mountain bikers be aware of the habits, habitat and description of these animals so they can fully enjoy their trip into the Rocky Mountains.
Please visit the companion page to this article Prey Animals of the Rocky Mountains.
Please add your quality photos to this page.
The Mountain Lion, also known as the Cougar, Panther, Catamount and Panther, is the most widely distributed cat in the Americas. Mountain lions require a lot of room—only a few cats can survive in a 30-square-mile (78-square-kilometer) range. They are solitary and shy animals, seldom seen by humans.
Thus far I have been privileged to see two Mountain Lions in the Rocky Mountains. It is an eerie feeling to walk in an area where Mountain Lion tracks are plentiful and the scat piles are fresh. It will certainly raise the hair on the back of your neck. The scream of a Mountain Lion is certainly unforgettable once heard it will remain in your memory forever.
In the Rocky Mountains, Mountain Lions are expanding their home range. In 2000, a Mountain Lion was spotted on a creek in my housing development in the valley over 10 miles from any mountain.
The Mountain Lion, Puma concolor:
An adult male, called a Tom, Mountain Lion can weigh up to 150 pounds and measure up to 8 feet in length from nose to tail. Mature females, called Queens, will measure 7 feet in length from tail to nose and weigh as much as 90 pounds.
Mountain lions mark out a home area by urinating and defecating on the ground and pulling the material along with leaves into a scrape. By doing this the Mountain Lion leaves a “sign post” about its territory. A typical male is 50-150 square miles in size while a female will have a territory of less than 50 square miles.
With the exception of breeding Mountain Lions are solitary animals. Queens become sexually mature when they are about 2 1/2 years old. The young, called Kittens or Cubs, can be born at any time of the year after a gestation period of 84 to 106 days. Queens can have litters of up to 4 kittens but usually only 1 or 2 will survive. The kittens are born with spots and will learn about life as a Mountain Lion from their mother until they are about a year and a half old. Then they are kicked out and forced to find their own territory and means of survival.
Sibling groups may travel together for months before separating.
Mountain lions were once the most widely distributed land mammal in the western hemisphere, ranging from northern British Columbia to the southern tip of South America. Before European settlement of this country, the mountain lion was distributed throughout nearly every state; but now the mountain lion is restricted to only the western states with a remnant population remaining in Florida.
Mountain Lions can be seen in all habitats of the Rocky Mountains. From the forest floor where they hunt whitetail Deer to the timber line where they will pursue Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep and Rocky Mountain Goats. There is no animal that is safe from a Mountain Lion, including mankind.
The Ultimate Predator:
A Mountain Lion is the top predator in a healthy ecosystem. They play a crucial role in helping balance the ecosystem by culling out the weak and inferior animals.
The predatory behavior of a Mountain Lion is much like a domestic cat. The Mountain Lion will generally conceal itself and relies on a surprise attack to gain the upper-hand in struggle between life and death. A twitching tail and upright ears will be seen on a Mountain Lion that is stalking its prey. An agitated Mountain Lion will lay back its ears and snarl loudly.
Throughout the Rocky Mountains, mountain lions rely on the deer and elk as prey but it is an opportunistic feeder and will just as easily eat mice, rabbits, beaver, grouse, coyotes, raccoons, porcupine and occasionally livestock.
The size to strength ratio of a Mountain Lion is incredible. It is able to take down animals many times its own size. A 400 pound animal is no match against a Mountain Lion. When it kills an elk the Mountain Lion will land on its neck and pull the elk's head back with its front legs with a force strong enough to break the neck. They typically will hide or bury the carcass and feed on it for several days before moving on for the next meal.
Threats from Mankind:
Mountain lions are prized by hunters and hated by ranchers when their livestock was destroyed. As a result, they were virtually eliminated from most of their natural range in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. prior to the start of conservation efforts in the mid-20th century. Today only the endangered Florida panther survives along with the Mountain Lion of the West.
Conflicts are increasing due to increasing populations of Mountain Lions and the growing trend towards building housing developments in the Mountain Lions habitat. As a result, conflicts between Mountain Lions and humans are increasing. Most of these conflicts occur over food sources of some type such as garbage, pet foods or even the pets themselves. Many of these interactions involve younger Mountain Lions that are focusing on developing their own home range. In the last 100 years in North America, there have been 50 recorded attacks on humans with 10 fatalities. 9 out of 10 of those fatalities were children. In the last 20 years there have been 80 attacks. Most of these attacks are from young animals, disease has not been a predisposing factor in lion attacks.
Safety in Mountain Lion Country:
Dogs are not a deterrent to attack from Mountain Lions. Dogs may actually serve as a decoy, luring the attacking Mountain Lion to the human.
How to reduce the chances of an encounter with a Mountain Lion:
• Don’t bike or hike alone, especially at dawn or dusk
• Make a lot of noise.
• Keep close track of young children.
• Talk loudly and carry a BIG stick.
How to reduce the chances of an attack when encountering a Mountain Lion:
• Give them a way to escape.
• Don’t turn your back on them, you will appear weak.
• Stay calm and face the lion.
• Look directly at it.
• Try to intimidate the animal by yelling and raising your arms.
• Do not run, this may trigger the lion's instinct to attack.
• Pick up small children so they don't panic and run.
• Avoid bending over or crouching.
• If the lion acts aggressively, throw rocks, branches, or whatever can be obtained without turning your back or bending over.
• Fight back if attacked. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.
In most western U.S. states and Canadian provinces, populations are considered sustainable enough to allow managed sport hunting.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) currently lists the cougar as a "near threatened" species.
Biologists predict that Mountain Lions could possibly begin to spread back into their former home ranges. There have been sightings in Missouri and Arkansas. How will mankind respond to the Ultimate North American Predator invading urban America? It is possible, if humans allow it.
The Grizzly BearIntroduction:
Anyone who frequents the Rocky Mountains will more than likely see a Grizzly. Perhaps no animal instills more fear in the Rocky Mountains than the Ursus arctos horribilis. The Latin name itself references an animal that is horrible. Many of us have stories to share. Most of them end with a great memory, some of them don’t. It is the stories of the ones who are injured by Grizzlies that creates the image of a horrible blood thirsty killer. In actuality, Grizzly Bears are like any animal and would generally prefer to avoid human contact. Grizzlies, like most other animals, will only attack when they feel threatened or cornered.
I have been fortunate to see many Grizzlies in my numerous trips into Glacier National Park in Northwestern Montana. Allow me to share to of my Grizzly encounter stories:
In the early 1980’s my hiking companions and I were shadowed by a Grizzly for about a quarter mile while walking on a trail from Red Eagle Lake in Glacier. We could hear the bear and eventually it came onto the trail then stood up on its hind legs and then continued on its way after a brief look. This was an incredible experience that I will never forget.
On another occasion, my wife and I were hiking on the Highline Trail from Granite Park Chalet to Logan Pass and we passed within 10 yards of a grizzly as it fed below the trail. Unbeknownst to us the bear was there but trees block our view until after we passed and looked back on the trail. The Grizzly was focused on digging for ground squirrels and did not care about us in the slightest. This was certainly a close encounter that we were glad to look back on and breathed a sigh of relief.
In both cases we were exercising caution and using good manners while traveling in Grizzly Country.
Grizzly Bear, Ursus arctos horribilis:
The Grizzly can vary in color from very light cream to black. The long guard hairs on their backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a "grizzled" appearance, hence the name "grizzly."
The correct scientific name for the species is “brown bear”, but only coastal bears in Alaska and Canada are referred to as such, while inland bears and those found in the lower 48 states are called Grizzly Bears.
In the Rocky Mountains, Grizzly males, called Boars, will weigh between 400 to 600 pounds and females, called Sows, will weigh 250 to 350 pounds. Grizzly bears are long lived mammals and generally live to be around 25 years old. Grizzlies can run up to 30 miles per hour.
An interesting fact is that in the fall when Grizzlies switch their diet to berries they have been known to eat more than 200,000 berries in one day. To find Grizzlies while they feed on berries focus on areas where there are buffalo berries. These berries are located in Lodge pole pine forests in drier areas of the Rocky Mountains. Where there is more moisture look for them as they feed on huckleberries along the Westside of the Continental Divide.
Grizzly bears need a great deal of space to provide for their habitat needs. In order to access seasonally abundant and widely dispersed foods, grizzly bears must travel great distances.
Distinguishing between a Black Bear and Grizzly is relatively easy when the following guidelines are considered. For more information go to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Bear Identification page.
1) Black Bears have a straight facial profile as compared to a dish-shaped face on a Grizzly.
2) Grizzlies have a pronounced hump on their shoulders, Black Bears do not.
3) Black Bear claws are sharply curved and seldom over 1½ inches in length compared to a longer (2-4 inches) and less curved claw of a Grizzly.
4) Black Bear ears are longer and pointy, Grizzly ears appear to be short and rounded.
5) Lastly a Grizzly rear molar is never less than 1 ¼ inches in length whereas a Black Bear rear molar is never more than 1 ¼ inches in length.
Sows become sexually mature when they reach the age of 3 to 5 years of age. The breeding season occurs in June or July and the Sow will frequently mate with one or more Boars. The cubs are born after about 220 days of pregnancy. The cubs are born hairless and blind. They will weigh about 8.5-11.5 ounces and are about the size of a chipmunk. They get their nourishment from their mother rich milk and quickly put on weight and they are ready to leave the den with their mother in April or early May. The cubs will remain with their mother for a full year and will be unceremoniously sent off by their mother when she is ready to mate again.
Grizzly Bears dig dens for winter hibernation, often holing up in a suitable-looking hillside. Prior to entering their dens Grizzlies focus on putting on as much weight as possible to support their incredible weight loss during hibernation. Grizzly Bears do not actually hibernate all winter. They have times when they stir for brief moments. Studies indicate that during the winter their body temperatures drop as does the metabolic rate. They also do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate.
Grizzlies once lived in much of North America and even roamed the Great Plains. Lewis and Clark mentioned them in the journals while they were traveling in the Great Plains. As the settlement of North America increased the Grizzly was eliminated from much of its home range and was forced into isolated areas of habitat. It is estimated that today there are only about 1,000 to 1,200 Grizzlies in the United States. Although there is much debate about this estimate and the numbers may be higher. In Canada and Alaska there are higher population numbers.
Grizzlies can be found in the area in and near Yellowstone National Park, in the mountain ranges in Western Montana, Northern Idaho, the Cascades in Washington and in southeast British Columbia.
The Grizzly as a Predator:
My first exposure to Grizzlies was in the mid-1970s when my Grandfather homesteaded on a mountain in Northwestern Montana. During one summer night a sow Grizzly and her two cubs killed two of my Grandfather’s sheep. I was amazed that an animal like that would kill my Grandfather’s sheep. As I learned more about them I began to understand that the sow was merely doing what she needed to do to survive.
Grizzly bears are powerful predators and must be considered the top-of-the-food-chain wherever they exist. Although they are frequently depicted as being a carnivorous eating machine most of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots.
In certain seasons Grizzlies will be more apt to eat carrion and prey on animals. Bears will focus on easy meals such as winter killed animals in early spring and easy prey such as ground squirrels are sought out in September when they are fat and slow. Grizzlies can frequently be seen digging for them on side hills. They will also feed on moose, caribou and elk calves when the opportunity arises.
Safety in Grizzly Bear Country:
From The US National Forest Service
Stay informed about recent bear activity in the area.
• Leave a travel plan with a friend, and sign in and out at the trailhead so that someone will know when to expect your return.
• If camping use Bear Proof Food Containers.
• Avoid sudden encounters and destruction of habitat. Stay on trails.
• Ride in groups to avoid surprising bears.
• Ride in daylight hours only.
• Make human sounds by talking, singing, or clapping your hands. Avoid high-pitched voices.
• Stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings. The potential for a bear encounter always exists. Look for paw prints, droppings, fresh diggings, torn-apart logs, and rocks that have been turned over. These may signal that a bear is active in the area.
• It is easy to become absorbed in photography, bird watching, or sightseeing. Stay alert.
• Bear food supplies such as berry fields, fish spawning areas, and animal carcasses should be recognized and avoided.
• Watch for noisy streams and wind directions that may mask your sound and scent.
• All bears have the ability to climb trees, some better than others.
• Just because you don't see a bear doesn’t mean they are not around. Grizzly bears hide or make daybeds in thick brush, often near trails.
• Always carry a used bandana, shirt, or parka that you can drop easily. Avoid dropping food, this will only encourage the bear's aggressiveness toward other hikers.
IF YOU ENCOUNTER A BEAR:
• Carry Bear Deterrent Spray and know how to use it.
• If you see a bear, stay calm and give it plenty of room. Do not startle it; detour slowly, keeping upwind so it will get your scent and know you are there. If you can't detour wait until it moves away from your route before proceeding.
• When a bear first detects you, it may stand upright and use all of its senses to determine what and where you are. Once it identifies you it may ignore you, move slowly away, run, or it may charge. A wild bear rarely attacks unless it feels threatened or provoked.
• On four legs, a bear may show agitation by swaying its head from side to side, making huffing noises and clacking its teeth.
• A charge or retreat may follow. Flattened ears and raised hair on the back of the neck indicate aggressive intent. If a bear runs with a stiff, bouncing gait, it may be a false charge.
• Never run, and do not try to climb a tree unless you are sure you have time to climb at least 10 feet before the bear reaches you. Bears can run very fast.
• If attacked by a bear, do not run. Bears can easily outrun you. Try playing dead. Lie flat on your stomach, or lie on your side with your legs drawn up to your chest. Clasp your hands over the back of your neck. Bears have passed by people in these positions without harming them.
Threats from Mankind:
The biggest threat to Grizzly Bear survival in the lower 48 is human-caused mortality. Bears come into conflict with humans when they are attracted by garbage, pet foods and bird food.
In addition, some Grizzlies are accidentally killed as hunters mistake them for black bears, which are legal to hunt.
Poaching (illegal hunting) of Grizzlies also poses a threat.
In 1975, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the grizzly bear as a threatened species in the Lower 48 states, under the Endangered Species Act.
Conservation efforts have focused on securing habitat, increasing cooperation at all government levels for research and management. In 1982 an interagency Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan was completed which sets guidelines for further conservation efforts.
The conservation effort for Grizzly Bears is being effective. The Yellowstone population of grizzly bears was declared recovered and removed from the 'Threatened' species list in April of 2007. There is hope for this species.
The Black BearIntroduction:
The Rocky Mountains are home to the Black Bear. This opportunist is amazingly adaptable and can be seen in many different habitats, from the valleys to the upper reaches of the timber. The public perception of the Black Bear is one of Smokey the Bear from the National Forest Service encouraging us to “Stomp out forest fires.” The Black Bear appears to be cute and cuddly and is portrayed as unintelligent. This could not be any further from the truth. The Black Bear is a highly developed master of his domain who knows how to survive in all seasons and will be able to adapt to seasons of plenty and seasons of little food.
In the fall, Black Bears can frequently be seen as they are focused on storing up food for their upcoming hibernation. Look for Black Bears as they feed on open hillsides near the edges of timber and along creek bottoms where they might be feeding on berries.
Black Bear, Ursus americanus:
As the smallest bear in North America the Black Bear is an adaptive opportunistic feeder that has a range throughout North America. Interestingly enough not all Black Bears are black. Black bears come in color phases including: black, brown, cinnamon, blonde and even a white-bluish color known as a glacier bear.
A typical male Black Bear, called a boar, will measure about 3 feet high at the shoulders, be about 6 feet in length and could weigh up to 400 pounds. Females, called sows, are smaller. Black Bears live up to 25 years in the wild but a normal lifespan is about 10 years of age.
Black Bears have an outstanding sense of smell; their hearing and vision is not outstanding.
Black bears are extremely adaptable and show a great variation in habitat types. They will eat pretty much anything that they find in their habitat. In the spring their diet is rich in new vegetation which helps get their digestive system going again after a lengthy hiatus due to hibernation. Bear will also feed on winter-killed animals. In the summer berries are another crucial food source. Insect larva, such as ants, hornets, wasps and bees, are also a source of protein for the Black Bear.
Black bears are loners except in the case of a sow with cubs.
Black Bears do not actually hibernate all winter. They have times when they stir for brief moments. Studies indicate that during the winter their body temperatures drop as does the metabolic rate. They also do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate.
Black Bears reach sexual maturity between 3 to 6 years of age depending upon habitat and other environmental factors. The breeding season for Black Bears occurs in June and July. The young are born in January or February after a 7 month gestation. They are born blind, almost hairless, and weigh less than 1 pound. The sow has rich milk that help the cubs grow rapidly.
By May, the cubs will weigh about 5 pounds and will have grown a nice coat of soft fur. They will remain under their mother’s care and tutelage until they are 1 ½ to 2 ½ years old.
The cubs are totally dependent on their mother for protection and education about their environment. Cubs quickly climb trees when their mother warns them of danger.
There are at least 600,000 Black Bears in North America. The Black Bear can be located in 41 of 50 other states in the United States. It is also widely distributed in Canada. There are a few scattered populations in Mexico as well.
Black Bears live in many different habitats. I have seen them on the ocean as well as near the tree line in the Rocky Mountains.
The Black Bear as a Predator:
Black Bears are omnivorous. The will kills small animals and any of the ungulates, mostly the young. They have been credited with killing young elk and moose calves, whitetail deer fawns as well as their own species. This is generally true of most bears as boars are a threat to the cubs.
In the spring, Black Bears occasionally prey on cattle, sheep, pigs and goats. This is usually a result of a poor supply of natural food sources. Livestock depredations by black bears occur mostly in spring. They can also damage trees and also wreck destruction on honey bee hives. They are incredibly intelligent and can avoid many traps that bee keepers set to foil the bear’s attempt to get the bee larva.
They normally kill by biting the neck and shoulders, though they may break the neck or back of prey with blows from the paws.
Black Bears seldom attack humans unless cornered, threatened, or wounded. In North American, 14 people have been killed by Black Bears since the year 2000, it is estimated that there have been only 56 documented killings of humans by black bears in North America in the past 100 years.
The Black Bear is an extremely powerful animal and is potentially dangerous to humans. If they are encountered with young or a source of food they can become aggressive and will defend their space. Use caution when you see a Black Bear. Sows with cubs must always be respected. A rule of thumb is never to come between or near a mother bear and her young.
Usually the bear will give a snort and leave the area, but sometimes they attack without provocation. Several people have been victims of these unprovoked attacks.
Threats from Mankind:
The main threats to the Black Bear are habitat loss, destruction of range land, human encroachment, road-kills, poaching and depredation kills. Once again humans are encroaching on the Black Bear’s habitat by building homes in the prime areas where the bears live.
Selective harvesting is also seen as threat by some and others consider it necessary for managing the population.
Black bears are so common and widely distributed that they often cause damage at homesteads, construction camps, or even in towns and are destroyed as nuisance animals. These depredation kills can be minimized or eliminated if garbage and other food items which attract bears to camps or residences are eliminated.
American black bears are listed as a threatened subspecies in Louisiana, eastern Texas and Although there were probably once as many as two million black bears in North America long before European colonization, the population declined to a low of 200,000 as a result of habitat destruction and unrestricted hunting. By current estimates, more than 800,000 are living today on the continent.
In four states Black Bears are state-listed as rare, threatened or endangered (Lousiana, Florida and within the historic range of black bears in southern Mississippi and eastern Texas). The Florida black bear subspecies is listed as threatened by the state of Florida. In most of the remaining states, black bears are classified as a game animal. In Canada the bears are classified as a pest species in the agricultural areas of Manitoba, while they are classified as a game animal and/or furbearer in the rest of Canada. In Mexico, the black bear is listed as Endangered by Mexican wildlife authorities.
The future for Black Bears seems bright in the Rocky Mountains. Thus far the habitat has been preserved and the species is more than holding its own against other predators.
Black Bears in other parts of the county appear to not be fairing as well. Hopefully, current conservation efforts will prove affective and successful and these at-risk populations will also be saved. We all can help by asking our local legislators to set aside funding to help secure habitat and work together at increasing secure zones where Black Bears can thrive.
The Gray Wolf
The Gray Wolf, Canis lupus:
The wolf is back in the contiguous United States with Federal support in most areas. One exception to this is the packs found in Northwestern Montana near Glacier National Park. Most of the packs there have decended from a pack called "The Magic Pack" from the early 1980s that made its way South from British Columbia along the North Fork of the Flathead River.
The Gray Wolf can be found in isolated pockets in the Rocky Mountains such as Northwestern Montana and the Great Yellowstone Ecosystem. They are also common in Canadian Rockies. The species has been re-introduced back into part of its range with mixed reviews depending upon which side of the wolf debate one’s opinion lands. The estimated 5,000 wolves in the United States have enjoyed Federal Protection but that protection has been lifted in certain areas due to pressure from ranchers where wolves are preying upon their livestock.
An adult wolf will weigh 55 to 130 pounds and is 4.5 to 6.5 feet in length. They will stand a little less than 3 feet high at the shoulders. Wolves, like black bears, come in many different color phases. The color range can vary from black to gray to almost pure white.
Wolves mostly prey on elk and deer but will also eat smaller game if they have difficulty finding larger game. Wolves are opportunistic feeders and will also eat carrion.
Wolves live most of their lives in family packs. Hear in a wolf howl is an amazing experience. Their communication is complex and consists of barks and whines to growls and howls. Wolves mate in January or February and give birth to a litter of 4 to 7 pups after 63 days of gestation. The pups mature in about 10 months.
Threats to Population:
The biggest threat to wolves is conflict with people over livestock losses.
The Wolverine, Gulo gulo:
If you have seen a wolverine you are indeed fortunate. I was able to see one in the summer of 2007 in Glacier National Park after spending a lot of time in the mountains. The wolverine is also known as devil bear, carcajou, or woods devil and its Latin name is Gulo gulo, meaning “glutton.” There are not many wolverines in each area as they all require a large amount of land to survive.
They are solitary creatures throughout most of the year. Wolverines are active at any time of day, year round. They have tremendous physical endurance and can travel up to 40 miles a day in search of food.
Wolverines will rarely attack any predator larger than itself, like a wolf or a bear. Instead, they will try to avoid these animals. Wolverines will fiercely defend a food source or its territory against other wolverines or smaller predators.
The wolverine at one time called most of the cooler climates of North America its home. They are no longer found in the eastern United States and Canada. There are many wolverines in Alaska. The Rocky Mountains continue to be one of the last bastions of range for this incredible animal.
A male wolverine’s home range can cover as much as 240 square miles, while females have ranges that cover 50 to 100 square miles.
The wolverine will weigh a maximum of 45 pounds and are dark in color with a lighter colored strip running down its back from the ears to the tail. The flat head contains bone crushing jaws as well as sharp teeth for tearing meat. It has short thick legs and a thick body. Its non-retractile claws are long and curved like those of a grizzly bear.
The wolverine has a powerful jaw and large neck muscles allowing it to crush and utilize bones and frozen flesh. The will eat almost anything they can find. They rely on feeding on the remains of kills that other animals or humans have left. They will also eat small game. They are poor hunters of large game but there are recorded instances where this has occurred.
Wolverines generally first mate in their second year of life. There is a long breeding season from May to August. The female wolverine is able to delay the onset of pregnancy until food supplies are at a peak and she will have her kits sometime between January and April. The female digs out a system of snow caves to have her young. The kits grow rapidly and are on their own at the age of 6 months.
Threats to Population:
Loss of wilderness habitat threatens the wolverine. Preservation of stable ecosystem is crucial to their survival. Protection of wilderness designation is needed in areas where land is at risk for being broken up into smaller portions due to human development.
The Coyote - Canis latrans:
The Coyote is perhaps recognized in the United States as the constant opponent of the Road Runner in the cartoons. It is an unfortunate depiction of a truly amazing animal. A coyote is cunning and intelligent and its ability to survive has been challenged throughout the West due to constant conflicts with ranchers.
Coyotes are found throughout the continental United States, Mexico, Central America as well as most of Canada. They thrive in a number of habitats such as the grassy plains, forested areas as well as in the mountains. It is also not unusual to see them in the urban areas of our country.
The coyote is the size of a large domestic dog. It generally has brown/gray to yellow/brown fur with a lighter underbelly. The black nose and pointy ears are effectively used to find its next meal. A coyote runs with its tail straight down.
Coyotes hunt at night and generally prefer to hunt alone. The diet is made up of small mammals, birds and even an occasional snake for fun. They have been observed eating fruits, berries and vegetables when other food is not as readily available. Coyotes will hunt in cooperative packs when hunting large game like deer.
Coyotes mates from February through April. Two months later the pups will be born. The average litter size is 6 pups. Male pups will be weaned and leave the pack when they are between six and nine months of age. Female pups remain with their mother’s pack.
Threats to Population:
Threats mostly occur from mankind and disease.
The Red Fox
The Red Fox, Vulpes vulpess:
Truly a master of adaptation the fox can be found in almost every environ on the planet earth. I would be surprised if we don't find them on Mars. The fox has an the ability to manipulate the environment they are in to make the best of any situation. We all could learn a lot from a fox.
Red foxes live through the Rocky Mountain Range. They adapt here just like they adapt in any other part of the world. The diverse habitat includes the high desert, forest floors and subalpine areas of the Rockies. Like the coyote the red fox also can assimilate into the urban environment and it is well know for its ability to evade and escape many threatening situations.
Red fox can weigh up to 30 pounds and its total body length could be a little less than 3 feet from nose to tail. Foxes also signal each other by making scent posts—urinating on trees or rocks to announce their presence
Red foxes are omnivorous and would prefer to eat small rodents, rabbits, chipmunks and even frogs. They will add berries and other plants if needed. In residential setting foxes will also eat pet food and garbage.
In winter, foxes meet to mate. The vixen has a typical litter of 2 to 12 pups. Both parents care for their young through the summer before they are able to strike out on their own in the fall.
Threats to Population:
In the Rocky Mountains most foxes are killed as destructive pests or frequent carriers of rabies.