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.
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.
The material contained in this album and its attached pages are a compliation of many sources found on the internet as well as the own personal observations and life experiences of this author.
This is a companion article to Predators of the Rocky Mountains.
All of the mammals featured on this page face risks from predators such as Mountain lions, wolves, bobcats, coyotes and golden eagles.
They also face risks from loss of habitat due to human encroachment into their habitat.
Please Attach any images you have of the animals featured on this page.
Please follow links for additional photos!
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep:
Awe inspiring, majestic and incredible are words that come to mind when choosing adjectives to describe the Rocky Mountain Bighorn. With love on their mind and raging testosterone, rams hurl towards each other at over 20 miles per hour creating displays of determination to dominate the opponent by at the least giving each other massive migraines as horns collide with a resounding clash. The clashes occasionally last for up to 20 hours until the victor gets the spoils or in this case the ewe in whom he is trying to win the right to pass on his genes to the next generation. Now that is commitment!
A Rocky Mountain Bighorn ram typically lives 9-12 years, while ewes usually live 10-14 years. Rams can weigh from 160-250 pounds and occasionally weigh up to 300 pounds. Ewes typically weigh 115-200 pounds. Bighorn primarily eat grasses, shrubs, and forbs.
Acute eyesight aids in identifying predators from long distances. More than likely they will see you before you see them. Their eyesight enables them to safely navigate the rocky terrain that is their home.
After breeding season, which occurs in the North between October and January, an ewe gives birth to a single lamb or occasionally twins after a 5-6 month pregnancy. The lambs are born from late February to May and weigh between 8 – 10 pounds. Initially they will remain in steep terrain as a protection from predators.
The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep can be found from Canada to Colorado. Its overall range has been reduced due to human development as well as disease and predation. Protection of habitat is essential to the continued vitality of this species.
Rocky Mountain Elk:Sojourners who visit the Rocky Mountains in the autumn are often fortunate to hear the incredible sound of a bull elk bugle. It will raise the hair on the back of your neck. This vocalization is meant to intimidate other bulls to let them know that he is the biggest and toughest customer in the woods. This is all done in the name of love.
Witnessing a harem of cows and numerous bulls trying to vie for the available cows is an awe inspiring sight that few are privileged to see unless they are perfectly positioned and have a lot of luck.
A mature bull elk is usually 8 to 12 years old and can weigh nearly 1,000 pounds and a mature cow can weigh as much as 600 pounds. When standing on four legs, a bull elk can be as five feet high at the shoulder. Their massive antlers sweep back from their heads and sometimes extend all the way to the rump. It is truly amazing to witness a bull elk run through a stand of timber and efficiently twist his antlers back and forth without hitting a single tree.
When elk actually clash it is an amazing sight. I witnessed one such confrontation in September in the Bridger Mountain is southwest Montana. The herb bull was challenged by an equally impressive satellite bull. When they lock horns pandemonium broke loose. They knocked down trees and the amount of power that they had was enormous. The clash lasted only a half a minute or so and the herb bull remained victorious. His last shot was to stab the challenger in the rear with his dagger like horn.
Cows give birth from late May to early June. Calves work hard at getting enough nourishment to grow and store up energy for the hard times of winter that will soon be here.
Historically elk ranged across the nearly all of the United States and over most of western Canada. Their current range includes the Rocky Mountains and small pockets of habitat where they have successfully been reintroduced, such as Pennsylvania and on the Great Plains in North Dakota and Montana.
Shiras Moose:Shiras Moose are the largest mammals of the Rocky Mountains. Many people underestimate moose and take too many risks while attempting to get the great photo. An encounter with a cow moose and her calf can have dire results. Although moose are not typically found in the high country they frequently are seen of approaches to the summits. Keep your eyes open and you just might see this incredible Rocky Mountain Mammal.
Shiras moose are the smallest of the subspecies of moose. A Shiras bull will weigh up to 1,000 pounds, while standing 5'6" to 5'9" at the shoulder. It carries a rack that spreads from 40 to 50 inches wide. The Shiras is much lighter in color along its back compared to other species of moose.
Moose will eat about 50 pounds of food a day. Moose feed on leaves, twigs, bark and buds of trees and shrubs. In the summer moose feed heavily on aquatic plants and can often be found with their head under water eating something off the bottom of a pond.
Most calves are born near the end of May. Usually a single calf is born but sometimes in good conditions twins might be born. The calf weighs about 30 pounds and has a reddish-brown coat. The calf will stays with its mother until new calves are born.
Shiras moose are found in western Wyoming, western Montana, northern and central Idaho, southwestern Alberta, southeastern British Columbia, and in isolated areas of Utah, Colorado, and extreme northwestern Washington
Moose can be found in a wide variety of habitat. I have seen them in the lowlands standing in water eating plants and also seen them up high near the tree line during the fall.
Rocky Mountain Goat:
Many visitors who are fortunate enough to visit the home range of the Rocky Mountain goat experience the grace of this animal as it traverses the home range. Many of us are greeted by these High Country Ambassadors as they stroll through alpine meadows that we share on approaches to climbs.
Mountain goats are not true goats—but they are close relatives. Mountain goats are stout-bodied animals with a thick coat of white hairs. Both sexes of Mountain goat have pure black horns. The males (billies) horns are longer than the thin female (nannies) horns. The horns are not dropped each fall like other ungulates and continue to grow through their lifecycle.
A distinguishing feature for the Rocky Mountain goat is the rubber-like base of their hooves that enable them to climb steep rock that even the best free climbers would certainly envy.
The best time for seeing the Rocky Mountain goat is in the late afternoon and early morning. The size of groups that might be seen varies throughout the year. Winter and spring tends to offer larger groups as they seek out good winter range and salt licks in the spring. Generally mature billy goats are solitary in the summer and fall.
Rocky Mountain goats live up to 12 to 15 years in the wild. They would live longer but their teeth wear down and this incapacitates them from eating.
Fights between rival males can be extremely violent and often cause serious injury or even death. The billies thrust their horns at each other’s bodies in an attempt to spear the other and cause injury. As with most mammals the victor is given the right to mate and pass on his genes.
Lambs are born on steep cliffs to protect against predators. Like their neighbors the Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep, the lambs stay with the nannies until the birth of the lambs in the next spring.
The native range for mountain goats is from southeast Alaska to Washington, western Montana, and central Idaho. Mountain goats, Oreamnos americanus, are native to the northern Rocky Mountains. They have also been introduced to parts of South Dakota, Colorado and Washington.
The mule deer is a fascinating animal that was created for living in the western mountains. Imagine a group of seven mule deer bucks silhouetted against a high country western sunset with their massive antlers standing high above their large ears. Their antlers literally look like shrubs standing out against the setting sun. There is not a much better sight that there is to imagine.
Constant vigilance and an intimate knowledge of their surroundings aids in their survival. Right now none of them could care less about the bucks standing around them, but that will change. But at this moment they are focused on building up strength that will enable them to best each other when the breeding season begins.
A Mule Deer stands about 36 inches high at the shoulder. A mature male can weigh up to 330 pounds and have antlers that spread over 30 inches wide at the widest point.
The life span of a healthy Mule Deer in the wild is 10 years.
The bucks shed their antlers before April. They start to grow them again in the spring.
The fawns weigh about 6 pounds and are camouflaged to blend into their habitat by their reddish color mixed with white spots. Mule Deer fawns also have little or no scent which further protects them from predators. A Mule Deer doe will care for its fawns until her next offspring are born.
Mule Deer can be found throughout the western United States and Canada.
Mule Deer can be found anywhere from lower desert areas and lower mountain slopes to the very top of mountains above treeline. They tend to enjoy areas where they can see safely and recognize danger well before actually being threatened. Typically a Mule Deer will quietly sneak out of an area with out being seen.