Colorado Life Zones: Seasons, Plants, & Animals
Step 1: Choose One of the Life Zones or Choices Below
CO Life Zone Menu Bar
Colorado Life Zones General information Interactive Life Zone Diagram Colorado Life Zones Maps Semidesert Shrublands Life Zone West CO Shortgrass Prairie or Plains Life Zones Foothills Woodlands and Shrublands Montane Forests Life Zone Subalpine Life Zone Alpine Life Zone Riparian Life Zones
Alpine Life Zone: Seasons, Plants, & Animals
Step 2: Choose a Topic from the Alpine Life Zone & Scroll Down

Alpine Life Zone General Information

General Information

Alpine Life Zone Through the Seasons

Through the Seasons

Altitude Sickness and Sunburns

Altitude Sickness & Sunburns

Alpine Life Zone Awesome Adaptations Awesome Adaptations

Alpine Life Zone Plants

Plants

Alpine Life Zone Mammals

Mammals

Alpine Life Zone Birds

Birds

Reptiles & Amphibians
Mammals of the Alpine Life Zone

    Most animals in the alpine only live there during the short alpine summer.  The alpine grasses and flowers provide abundant food for elk, deer, and other small animals. Their predators, like mountain lions, coyotes, and red foxes, follow them up too.  The cold windy and snowy weather forces them to move down to the lower elevations by September.

    There are only a few animals that can live there most of the year (mountain goats, mountain bighorn sheep, american pika, and yellow-bellied marmot). Even they may need to move down to the subalpine during the hardest part of winter.

Coyote

Nature Works

CO Div of Wildlife

Animal Files

Bear Country USA

Southwest Wildlife

Coyote

Mountain Lion or Cougar

CO Div of Wildlife

Bear Country USA

Animal Files

Southwest_Wildlife

Mountain Lion or Cougar

Short-tailed Weasel or Ermine

CO Div of Wildlife

Blue Planet Biome

Animal Files

Short-tailed Weasel or Ermine

Red Fox

Nature Works

CO Div of Wildlife

Bear Country USA

Animal Files

Red Fox

Snowshoe Hare

MBG net

CO Div of Wildlife

Utah Div of Wildlife

National Geographic

Snowshoe Hare Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel Nature_Works

CO Div of Wildlife

Utah Div of Wildlife

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

Northern Pocket Gopher

CO Div of Wildlife

CSU NDIS

Utah Div of Wildlife

Pocket Gopher

Least Chipmunk

CO Div of Wildlife

CSU NDIS

Utah Div of Wildlife

Least Chipmunk

American Pika

Nature Works

CO Div of Wildlife

Utah Div of Wildlife

American Pika

Voles/

Meadow Mice

CSU NDIS

White-footed Mice

CSU NDIS
Vole

Shrews

CO Div of Wildlife

CSU NDIS

Utah Div of Wildlife

Shrew

Yellow-bellied Marmot

CO Div of Wildlife

Utah Div of Wildlife

Animal Files

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Nature Works

CO Div of Wildlife

Bear Country USA

Defenders of Wildlife

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Mountain Goat

CO Div of Wildlife

Bear Country USA

Blue Planet Biome

Oregon Zoo

Mountain Goat

Elk or Wapiti

CO Div of Wildlife

Bear Country U.S.A.

Elk or Wapiti

Other Summer Visitors

 

 

 

Mule Deer

Porcupine

Pine Marten

American Badger

Grizzly Bear ?

Wolverine ?

Canada Lynx

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Awesome Adaptations: Elk or Wapiti

    There are few things that speak for Colorado's wild Rocky Mountains more than the sound of an elk bugling in the cold crisp fall mountain air. Elk, also called wapiti, are truly amazing animals that are well adapted to living in the rugged Rocky Mountians. Elk are one of the largest members of the deer family. They may get 5 to 6 feet tall at the shoulders, 7 to 9 feet long, and male bull elk may weigh up to 1000 pounds. They have strong hooves and can quickly climb the steep mountains. Elk can run really fast, up to 35 miles per hour. If you have ever hiked high in the mountains, you will gain greater appreciation for their speed when you are slowly making your way up in the thin mountain air.

   Elk are social animals and live in herds. The herd is usually dominated by one strong male elk, called a bull, with lots of female elk, called cows. In the fall, bull elk use their incredibly large antlers to fight other bull elk for females. Bull elk will make loud bugling and grunting sounds that will carry for many miles away. The elk calls say, "I am here to the other bull elk and cow elk, and I am strong and ready for a challenge." Once the rut or fall mating season is over, elk will move down to the montane and foothills life zones to avoid the deep mountain snow. In spring time, the elk return to the high subalpine and alpine life zones.

   What's the difference between an antler and a horn? Bighorn sheep have horns and they keep them their entire life; each year the horns may grow slightly bigger and more curled. Elk have antlers. Each year the elk will lose their antlers in the spring and grow a new set of antlers. There is a fuzzy velvet on the outside of the new antlers that help them grow. In the summer the velvet dies and the antlers become hard and strong. Elk will keep their antlers over winter and shed them in the spring again. So horns stay on the animal for their entire life and antlers are shed and grown new each year.

   Thankfully, elk have made an amazing comeback in Colorado. Elk used to roam in large numbers across the land before settlers came from the eastern United States. Elk even lived on the eastern plains. Settlers started hunting and killing elk and other big game animals in large numbers for their meat, fur, antlers, and sport of hunting. When gold, silver, and other minerals were discovered high in the mountains, thousands of people became miners and created mountain boom towns. They needed a large supply of meat to feed the new miners and would often kill most every living creature around the mining towns, including elk, deer, bighorn sheep and other animals. By the early 1900's, the elk population, along with many other big game animals in the state of Colorado, was in danger of becoming extinct. Thanks to conservation minded people, a small population of elk was taken from Yellowstone National Park and added to the small herds that still lived in Colorado. Over time and with strong hunting regulations, the elk population has come back and are now at healthy numbers in the state.

Sources of information and to find more information: CO Div of Wildlife , Bear Country U.S.A.

Elk or Wapiti Elk or Wapiti
Awesome Adaptations: American Pika

    The American pika has found a way to live in the steep rockpiles high in the mountains. The American pika may look closer to a mouse, but it is more closely related to the rabbit family. It is about 6 to 8 inches long, has round ears, and has no tail. The pika has thick warm fur. Along with the yellow-bellied marmot, the American pika is well known for their shrill chirps from high mountain rocky scree fields. The larger marmots are much easier to spot than the small pikas. When you get close enough to see the squeaking pika, the pika quickly hides in one of the many cracks and holes around the rockpiles. There may be several pika on a mountain-side and they squeak to each other to protect their rockpiles, find a mate, and communicate danger to other pikas. So even though their shrill chirps may attract predators, the pika has adapted by becoming a fast climber and quick hider.

    You will find few animals busier in the summer than the pika. They seem to be constantly running around collecting plants, seeds, and flowers. The pikas hide them all around their rockpile homes. There is a very good reason for this busy habit. Unlike many other animals in the alpine and subalpine, the pika stays active all year round and does not hibernate. The pika lives under the snow in the many holes and cracks in and around the rocks. The snow and warm winter fur shelter them from the strong winds and snowstorms. They eat their stored plants, seeds, and flowers to stay warm and active during the winter.

Sources of information and to find more information: Nature Works, CO Div of Wildlife, Utah Div of Wildlife

American Pika American Pika