Glacier National Park Wildlife come in many sizes and shapes. This post talks about some the the large wildlife that live in and around Glacier National Park.
One of the most sought out but also feared Glacier National Park wildlife is the Grizzly Bear. The Grizzly Bear is a subspecies of the Brown Bear. They originated in Europe and Asia but are also now found in western United States and Canada. The main identifying feature of the Grizzly Bear is the hump on their shoulders. This hump is a mass of muscle which gives them their digging strength. They have very long claws on their front feet to assist digging for food and making their winter dens.
Grizzlies prefer to live along rivers and streams in forests, alpine meadows, and prairies. They range in color from light tan to black. The Grizzly Bear received it’s name because they usually have white tips on their brown fir which gives them a “grizzled” look. They typically weight 350-500 pounds and stand 3-4 feet on all fours and up to 8 ft on their hind feet. Boars (males) can weigh up to 1,700 pounds and sows (females) can weight up to 800 pounds.
Grizzly Bears are omnivores meaning they eat both meat and plants. Even though they are a very large animal, 75% of they diet consists of berries. They typically prey on fish, rodents like ground squirrels, and hoofed animals like moose, elk, and deer. In the fall when they are preparing to hibernate, they will eat up to 25 fish and put on 3 pounds a day. They will hibernate from 5 to 8 months.
Grizzly Bears are excellent swimmers and fast runners – they can run up to 30 mph. They have perfect eye sight and have an excellent sense of smell. Although cubs have the ability to climb trees, as they become older and their long claws develop they loose that ability. Grizzly Bears typically live about 25 years in the wild. A recent DNA study determined there are more than 600 Grizzly Bears in Glacier National Park.
Black Bear also range in color from black to light tan. Many of them will have a light patch on their chest with a light colored pointed nose. They can live nearly everywhere but prefer forested areas and are found in Alaska, all of Canada and the US, and even in northern Mexico.
The Black Bear mates in May or June and once the sow (female) becomes pregnant, she has delayed implantation until she hibernates in her den for the winter. The cubs are born in the den – usually twins – and will typically stay with the sow for 1 ½ years before they separate.
Unlike the Grizzly, the Black Bear has shorter claws and are very good tree climbers. They usually live about 20 years.
Mountain Goats have woolly white double coats to protect them from the elements of their high elevation environment. They can withstand temperatures down to -50°F and winds up to 100 mph. They molt the outer coat each spring by rubbing against rocks and trees. Both billies (males) and nannies (females) have long black horns, short tails, and beards although the billy’s horns and beards with be longer. Mountain Goats will typically weigh
Most of the time, nannies live in herds of up to 20 with their kids. Billies usually live alone. The Mountain Goat’s diet consists of grasses, sedges, herbs, shrubs, ferns mosses and lichen. They will also eat twigs and leaves from the low-growing shrubs and conifers. They mate in November or December with the birth of the “kids” in May or June. Typically, they are single births with twins very rare. The kids will stay with the nanny until the next mating season. Mountain Goats usually live 12-15 years in the wild.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep live in social groups with rams living in bachelor groups and ewes live in herds with other ewes and young rams. Their diet consists of available grasses, seeds, and plants. They move to lower elevation pastures in the winter. Mating occurs in November or December with the lambs being born in May or June on high secluded ledges. It is usually a single birth with twins being rare. The life span of a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is 9-14 years. Of all the bighorn sheep, the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is the largest and most majestic.
Even though bulls (males) and cows (females) are nearly the same height, bulls will weigh 800 to 1300 pounds while cows will weigh 600 to 875 pounds. The knees in their thin legs are double jointed and when they run they appear quite uncoordinated. But they are actually very agile both on land and in water. They can run up to 35 miles per hours and can swim 6 miles per hour for 2 hours.
Moose are solitary animals and only socialize during mating season. Cows give birth to one calf which is able to stand up on it’s own in the first day. Calves will stay with the cows for one year until she give birth to another calf. Calves reach adulthood in 4-6 years. Only 50% of the calves reach adulthood due to bear and wolf attacks. Once they reach adulthood, typical life span for a Moose is 12-20 years.
Rocky Mountain Elk
Rocky Mountain Elk are herbivores eating mostly grasses in the summer and adding sprouts and branches of shrubs and trees in the fall and winter. They are mostly found in the productive grassland regions of the Rocky Mountains. Introductions to other areas of the US has made it possible for them to be found in many other states.
Cows give birth to to one calf in late May or early June. They will leave the herd just before they give birth to protect the calf from predators. Calves are born spotted and scentless to camouflage them from predators. Once they can run effectively to out run predators – at about 2 weeks of age – they will re-join the herd. They stay with their mother for about 1 ½ years. Rocky Mountain Elk will live in the wild to be 12-20 years old.
Bucks (males) have antlers which may or may not be symmetrical. Their antlers grow points off a main stem. Typically the size and number of points indicates the maturity of the buck but it is possible for a yearling buck to have large antlers if they have a good source of food. It is also possible for a mature buck to have just a spike.
Whitetail deer are herbivores. Their diet changes depending on its habitat and the season. It eats green plants in the spring and summer. In the fall, it eats corn, acorns and other nuts. In the winter, it eats the buds and twigs of woody plants. They like to live in small openings and on edges of forested areas or in fields with broad-leaf trees for cover.
During the summer, Whitetail Deer live in family groups of related females, fawns (babies), and yearlings. Bucks live solitary or in small bachelor groups. The bucks and does come together during the rut (mating season) in the fall. Bucks will mate with as many does as they have stamina for. They will compete for the does and will fight off other does with their hooves or antlers. After the rut, males will loose their antlers which they will regrow each spring.
Mule Deer are tannish brown in the summer and turn to grayish brown in the winter. They have a black forehead with a light gray face. Their range is mostly west of the Missouri River especially in the Rocky Mountains. Mule Deer live in higher elevations during the summer and move to lower elevations during the winter months where more food sources are available. Mule Deer are herbivores eating mostly weeds and leaves and twigs of woody shrubs.
When Mule Deer are alarmed, they don’t run, they use a motion called slotting. Slotting is when they bound, pushing off the ground with all 4 hooves at the same time. With each bound, they can jump as high as 2 feet and as far as 15 feet. Mule Deer are not a fast as Whitetail Deer but they are more effective with their escape in rugged terrain. The life span of a Mule Deer is 9-11 years.
Smoky Bear Ranch