MOUNTAINS

Mountain ranges are located all around the globe. They are the result of plate movements below the planet's crust. Mountains vary in height from small hills to Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Animals that inhabit mountainous regions must withstand dramatic temperature changes and lower oxygen levels.

The two main types of mountain ranges are temperate mountains and tropical mountains.

Temperate mountains are often cold all year and more seasonal than tropical mountains. They are found in North and South America, Europe and Central Asia. During spring and summer months a burst of plant life at high altitude occurs, encouraging herbivores up the mountain.

Tropical mountains feature warmer climates with plants adapted to high altitudes. They are located in South America, Africa and south-east Asia.

Mountain wildlife are adapted to high altitudes and changing temperatures. The higher up a mountain, the lower the temperature. Plants are usually seasonal in mountains. Those that do occur year round, such as conifers, are adapted to handling the cold temperatures.

Hoofed and herbivorous mammals, including deer, goats, llamas and sheep, are common in mountains. They are well suited to the terrain and graze on ledges and cliff faces. During the spring and summer, they move up the mountains when plants are plentiful. In the fall, they move back down the mountains in cooler weather when food is more scarce. Large predators also inhabit mountain regions, including bears and mountain lions, who prey on the herbivores. Some animal species do not live on the mountains, but inside of them. Caves provide habitat for amphibians, insects and bats.

Threats to mountain habitats include deforestation, quarrying and development. Changes in climate also affects the growth of plants at higher altitudes.

 

MOUNTAIN FACTS

MOUNTAINS: THE LAST FRONTIER FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES

The threats faced by wildlife around the world continue to increase. Each year, thousands of animal species are lost to extinction. Mountain areas provide one of the last safe havens for endangered plant and animal species. But even these last safe havens are now under threat by irresponsible human activities. A large number of mammals have taken up homes in mountainous areas.

WHY MOUNTAINS MATTER

Mountains have the power to move us. They have always been a source of wonder and inspiration for humans. Their majesty impresses us, their wildlife captivate us, and their tranquil ecosystems bring us peace. Millions of people visit mountains every year to take in their stunning scenery and relaxing atmospheres.

MOUNTAIN SHAPES

People commonly perceive mountains as pyramid-shaped masses that steadily narrow as they slope upward. But researchers have found they actually have four principal shapes. Not only are pyramid-shaped mountains in the minority, but most ranges increase in area at higher elevations. Besides reshaping the mountains in our mind's eye, these findings could lead scientists to reconsider conservation strategies for mountain species.

MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL

Hundreds of mountain peaks in Appalachia have been destroyed through the practice of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. Trees are clearcut, and explosives and massive machines are used to remove earth and access coal seams from the top down. Mining waste, or “spoil,” is dumped into valleys. The landscape is altered forever in one of the nation’s main hotspots of biological diversity.

AN UPHILL CLIMB FOR MOUNTAIN SPECIES

Mountains cover about 27 percent of Earth's surface. They inspire awe and cultural lore, and directly influence the patterns of settlement and movement by humans and wildlife. Despite some degree of protection due to their inherent inaccessibility, mountain regions are still fragile ecosystems threatened by human-related impacts such as animal agriculture, logging and erosion, acid deposition, and climate change.

PANDAS IN PERIL

Like most endangered creatures, the giant panda has had to bear the brunt of man's frantic quest for development. No place embodies this phenomena more starkly than China, of which this furry animal is a native. The panda population in the plains of China have completely vanished over the millennia, and the only giant pandas remaining are those found in the Qinling Mountains of the Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces of Central China. These rain-soaked forests are at elevations from 5,000 to 8,000 feet and are generally covered in clouds and mist.

SAVING GORILLAS FROM EXTINCTION

Descendants of monkeys found in Africa and Arabia, gorillas are herbivorous apes found only in the African continent. There are two broad species of this African animal. One is the Eastern gorilla and the other the Western gorilla. The Eastern gorilla has two subspecies. The Western gorilla also has two subspecies. All gorilla species are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Gorilla populations have been greatly reduced by habitat loss, disease and poaching.

WOLF

The wolf is the largest wild member of the canine family. On average, wolves stand 26 to 32 inches at the shoulder and weigh 55 to 115 pounds. Females are usually slightly smaller than males. They range in color from grizzled gray or black to all white. Wolves are built for stamina, possessing features tailored for long distance travel. Narrow chests and powerful backs and legs contribute to the wolf's proficiency for efficient locomotion. They are capable of covering several miles trotting at about a 6 mph pace, though they have been known to reach speeds approaching 40 mph during a chase.

BROWN BEAR

The brown bear (known as the grizzly in the Lower 48 states) is a large predator distinguished from black bears by a distinctive hump on the shoulders, a dished profile to the face, and long claws about the length of a human finger. Coloration is usually darkish brown but can vary from very light cream to black. The long guard hairs on their back and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a "grizzled" appearance, hence the name "grizzly."

MOUNTAIN LION

The cougar (Puma concolor), also commonly known as the mountain lion, puma, or catamount, is a large felid of the subfamily Felinae native to the Americas. Its range, from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes of South America, is the greatest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in most American habitat types. It is the second heaviest cat in the New World, after the jaguar. The cougar is more closely related to smaller felines, including the domestic cat, than to any subspecies of lion, of which only the jaguar is native to the Western Hemisphere.

FOX

A fox is a member of any of 27 species of small omnivorous canids. The animal most commonly called a fox in the Western world is the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), although different species of foxes can be found on almost every continent. With most species roughly the size of a domestic cat, foxes are smaller than other members of the family Canidae, such as wolves, jackals, and domestic dogs. Recognizable characteristics also include pointed muzzles and bushy tails. Other physical characteristics vary according to their habitat.

BLACK BEAR

The American black bear (Ursus americanus), also known as the cinnamon bear, is the most common bear species native to North America. The black bear occurs throughout much of the continent, from northern Canada and Alaska south into Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This includes 39 of the 50 U.S. states and all Canadian provinces. Populations in east-central and the southern United States remain in the protected mountains and woodlands of parks and preserves, though bears will occasionally wander outside the parks' boundaries and have setup new territories in recent years in this manner.

MOOSE

Moose, the largest member of the deer family, are found in the northern parts of Eurasia and North America. The Eurasian species, A. alces, is known in Europe as the elk, a name which in North America is applied to another large deer, the wapiti. The Eurasian and the American moose are quite similar, but the American moose is somewhat larger and is considered by some to be a separate species, A. americana. It inhabits the coniferous forests of Canada and the northern United States. The Eurasian moose is found from Scandinavia to E Siberia.

DEER

Deer, ruminant mammal of the family Cervidae, are found in most parts of the world except Australia. Antlers, solid bony outgrowths of the skull, develop in the males of most species and are shed and renewed annually. They are at first covered by "velvet," a soft, hairy skin permeated by blood vessels. The stem of the antler is called the beam, and the branches are the tines. Antlers are used as weapons during breeding season combats between bucks. In deer that lack antlers (the musk deer and Chinese river deer), long upper canines serve as weapons.

BOBCAT

Elusive-seeming felines that often appear as characters in various American indigenous legends, bobcats are nevertheless well known members of the Felidae family, found exclusively in North America. The bobcat’s thirteen member subspecies have a wide range over the continent, found from the southern parts of Canada to Central Mexico. These smaller wild cats can adapt to life in many different types of habitats, from forested areas to wet swampland, and from arid semi-desert to the more populated edges of urban centers.

GRAY FOX

The gray fox is a species of fox ranging from southern Canada, throughout most of the lower United States and Central America, to Venezuela. This species, and the closely related island fox, are the only living members of the genus Urocyon, which is considered to be among the most primitive of the living canids. The gray fox has a gray back, tawny sides, neck and legs, a white belly, and a black stripe along the back and tail. Another black stripe crosses their face from the nose to the eye and continuing to the side of the head.

PANDA

Pandas are famous for their black and white markings. The legs, shoulders, ears and oval patches around the eyes are black, and the rest of the coat is white. Good tree climbers, pandas can also swim to escape predators. Pandas use an enlarged wrist bone that looks like a thumb to grasp objects like bamboo. They weigh an average of 200 to 300 pounds and reach six feet in length. The shrinking range of the panda is limited to parts of Szechuan, Shensi and Kansu provinces in central and western China. Only around 1,000 pandas exist in the wild, and about 60 in zoos. The panda’s lifespan in the wild is unknown but in captivity averages more than 20 years.

GORILLA

Of the three subspecies of gorilla, the mountain gorilla is the largest and rarest. Remarkably strong, the mountain gorilla has a short trunk and a broad chest and shoulders. Males develop a streak of silver hair on their backs when they mature and are called "silverbacks." Male mountain gorillas reach an average of 6 feet tall (when standing upright) and weigh 400 to 500 pounds, making them the largest of the great apes (chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas). Females are smaller, standing an average of 4 to 5 feet tall and weighing 150 to 200 pounds.

SHEEP

The domestic sheep is the most common species of the sheep genus. They probably descend from the wild mouflon of south-central and south west Asia. Sheep breeders refer to female sheep as ewes, intact males as rams, castrated males as wethers, yearlings as hoggets, and younger sheep as lambs. In sheep husbandry, a group of sheep is called a flock or mob. Sheep are ruminant animals. They have a four-chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it.

GOAT

Goats seem to have been first domesticated roughly 10,000 years ago in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Domestic goats were generally kept in herds that wandered on hills or other grazing areas, often tended by goatherds who were frequently children or adolescents, similar to the more widely known shepherd. These methods of herding are still utilized today. Goats, like cows, are ruminant animals. They have a four chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it.