The United States is one of the largest countries in the world. It’s no surprise that it is full of a wonderful variety of landscapes, flora, and fauna. One of the most beautiful of which is the mountains. In this article we won’t actually be talking about the mountains of the U.S. – but animals that live on mountains.
There are several mountain ranges in the US. They are the Appalachian, Rocky, and Sierra Nevada. There are many different types of animals that live on these mountains and many have evolved special adaptations to help them thrive here.
Let’s look a bit closer at some of these animals, and learn what makes them special.
9 unique animals that live on mountains
The below list highlights 9 United States native animals that live on mountains.
Scientific name: Cervus canadensis
Elk are mostly found in the Rocky Mountains from Washington and Oregon as far south as northern Arizona and as far north as Canada.
Elk are one of the largest members of the Cervidae family found in the US. With males weighing up to 900lbs and females weighing 500-600.
For most of the year, elk cows and calves live in large family groups and males live in bachelor herds or alone. However, during the breeding season, males will fight to win harems of females that they will then mate with and protect from predators and other bulls.
Elk are one of the few members of the Cervidae family that have two ivory teeth. These are thought to have evolved from tusks and, like the Elk’s horns, are highly prized by hunters.
2. Bighorn Sheep
Scientific name: Ovis canadensis
Bighorn sheep are found throughout the Rocky Mountains from as far north as Canada to Northern Mexico. In the US they are most prominent in Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Utah, California, and Arizona and are known as the mascot of Rocky Mountain National Park.
These sheep are known for their big horns, which can weigh up to 30 pounds on adult males. The horns are used during the breeding season, also known as “rut”. Males will spar with each other by running at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour before crashing into each other headfirst. The strongest males will then get to breed with females and pass their traits on to the next generation.
Bighorn sheep are exceptionally adapted to life in the mountains. They have 4 stomachs that allow them to quickly graze on a large amount of roughage and then retreat to steep mountains where they can be relatively safe from predation to digest their food.
3. Mountain Goat
Scientific name: Oreamnos americanus
The mountain goat is native to Canada, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. Here it lives in alpine and subalpine areas.
These fleet-footed animals thrive in the steep mountains and cliffs of the region. Feeding on grasses, herbs, trees, lichens, ferns, and shrubs.
These animals are quite large, with males weighing up to 300lbs. Males live alone or in small bachelor groups and females live in large groups of up to 50 individuals.
4. American Pika
Scientific name: Ochotona princeps
Cousins of rabbits and hares, the American Pika makes its home in alpine meadows and fields. Here they feed on and gather grasses and other plants to store in their burrows for winter.
American Pika do not hibernate, but instead, feed on the food stores they gather during the spring, summer, and fall.
One of the biggest threats to the Pika is global warming as they can not tolerate temperatures higher than 77 degrees.
Historically, these animals were found in Canada and most of the Rocky Mountains, including Nevada, Montana, and California, but their range has been slowly getting smaller as temperatures rise.
5. Abert’s Squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus aberti
The Abert’s Squirrel, also known as the tassel-eared squirrel, is found in the pine forests of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and parts of Wyoming.
It feeds primarily on the nuts and seeds from the Ponderosa Pine tree, but will also eat a fungus that grows on the tree’s bark, the bark itself, and buds the tree produces in the spring.
These squirrels are known for their winter coats, but they shed them in late spring and are left with a very short smooth coat in its place.
6. Boreal Owl
Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
The Boreal owl is found throughout Canada, Alaska, and Washington and in parts of Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho.
These owls are found in boreal subalpine forests. Here they feed on small animals and rodents that pass by their chosen tree.
These owls are quite small, weighing only 3-7oz and 8-10 inches and they are monogamous. Forming pairs and mating for life. Often they will make their nests in old woodpecker holes. Here the male will defend the territory and the female will lay 3-7 eggs.
7. Grizzly Bear
Scientific name: Ursus arctos horribilis
Historically, the grizzly bear was found all over Western North America. From Alaska and Canada down to Northern Mexico, even as far east as Kansas.
Unfortunately, over time, their range has dwindled and they are now only found in Alaska, Canada, and parts of Wyoming and Montana.
This reduced range is likely due to human hunting. Grizzly bears can be very territorial and were likely a threat to early settlers in the area.
These bears are true omnivores, eating berries, insects, plants, carrion, fish, rodents, and even human garbage when they find it.
8. Green Salamander
Scientific name: Aneides aeneus
The green salamander is found in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and in very isolated areas of Ohio and northern Mississippi.
In this range, it occupies damp crevices in rock ledges and under the bark of trees.
These unique salamanders have toe pads similar to a tree frog that allow them to live arboreally. They feed mainly on insects such as beetles and ants but will eat any bugs they can catch.
9. Sierra Nevada Red Fox
Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes necator
The Sierra Nevada Red Fox is a genetically different subspecies of the red fox that inhabits most of North America. The Sierra Nevada fox lives exclusively in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.
Sadly, they are critically endangered and it’s estimated there are less than 50 left in the wild.
These foxes weigh between 7-9 pounds and are monogamous breeders. Finding their mate and then hunting and breeding with them for life.
Sierra Nevada Red Foxes are savvy hunters that feed on a wide variety of small animals, including birds, rodents, and reptiles. They are also known to feed on fruits and carrion.