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Rocky Mountains

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Rocky Mountains

Teton Range reflection on Beaver Pond.

Photo © Aimintang / iStockphooto.
The Rocky Mountains stretch through western North America from Alaska to New Mexico, forming the middle section of the Western Cordillera, an extensive belt of mountains that reaches from the Arctic Circle to Mexico. The Rocky Mountains straddle the continental divide, a natural barrier to the west of which water flows toward the Pacific Ocean and to the east of which water flows in the direction of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

Habitat Classification:

The habitat zones found within the Rocky Mountains may be classified as follows:
  • Ecozone: Terrestrial
  • Ecosystem: Alpine / Montane
  • Region: Nearctic
  • Primary Habitat: Temperate forest
  • Secondary Habitats: Aspen forest, ponderosa pine forest, high elevation willow forest, spruce / fir forest, alpine tundra

Wildlife:

Birds that can be found in the Rocky Mountains include:
  • American dipper
  • brown-capped rosy finch
  • black swift
  • blue grouse
  • Clark's nutcracker
  • gray jay
  • MacGillivray's warbler
  • mountain chickadee
  • pygmy nuthatch
  • northern pygmy owl
  • pine grosbeak
  • red crossbill
  • three-toed woodpecker
  • Townsend's solitare
  • Virginia's warbler
  • Western tanager
  • white-tailed ptarmigan
  • Williamson's sapsucker
  • Wilson's warbler
Mammals that inhabit the Rocky Mountains include elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep. Bison and predators such the grizzly bear, gray wolf, lynx and wolverine are very rare in the Rocky Mountains and in some areas they are locally extinct. Salamanders, toads, frogs and a variety of fish inhabit the mountain range.

Geology and History:

The Rocky Mountains are part of the Western Cordillera, one of the most extensive mountain ranges in the world. The Rocky Mountains lie in the eastern midsection of the Western Cordillera and stretch from British Columbia to New Mexico. The geological history of the Rocky Mountains is complex. Large sections of the mountain range were formed during a series of significant uplifts that have taken place during the last 15 million years (Tertiary Period). Additional mountain formation occurred during the Cretaceous Period.
The northern portions of the Rocky Mountain range have been repeatedly glaciated during the Pleistocene Epoch, Halocene Epoch, and as recently as 15,000-20,000 years ago. Water played an important part in sculpting the profile of the Rocky Mountains, with rivers, lakes, snow, and melt water runoff eroding the range throughout its history.

Where to See Wildlife:

Some of the places you can see wildlife in the Rocky Mountains include:
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  3. Animals / Wildlife

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