Other Rocky Mountain Predators

Other Rocky Mountain Predators

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Other Predators: The Gray Wolf, The Wolverine, The Coyote and The Red Fox

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Electric ElkAn Elk Carcass, Dottie Little Tent photo.

Some of the work of all predators is to clean up the habitat and ensure that nothing gets wasted. Although all of the animals featured on this page are capable for killing their prey they are also part of the clean-up crew. Their job is to cull out the weaker prey to ensure that a healthy ecosystem continues and clean up when disease or death occurs.

No ecosystem is complete without predators and prey spread throughout the spectrum from largest to smallest. Although each of the predators featured in this page could certainly have its own page I have chosen to present them in a one page format.

Please attach your Wolf, Wolverine, Coyote or Red Fox photos to this page.

The Gray Wolf, Canis lupus:

Coyote v. Wolf IIIA Yellowstone Wolf, tie dye mike photo.
FootprintA Wolf Track, photohiker photo.

The wolf is back in the contiguous United States with Federal support in most areas. One exception to this is the packs found in Northwestern Montana near Glacier National Park. Most of the packs there have decended from a pack called "The Magic Pack" from the early 1980s that made its way South from British Columbia along the North Fork of the Flathead River.

Range: The grey Wolf can be found in isolated pockets in the Rocky Mountains such as Northwestern Montana and the Great Yellowstone Ecosystem. They are also common in Canadian Rockies. The species has been re-introduced back into part of its range with mixed reviews depending upon which side of the wolf debate one’s opinion lands. The estimated 5,000 wolves in the United States have enjoyed Federal Protection but that protection has been lifted in certain areas due to pressure from ranchers where wolves are preying upon their livestock.

Vital Statistics: An adult wolf will weigh 55 to 130 pounds and is 4.5 to 6.5 feet in length. They will stand a little less than 3 feet high at the shoulders. Wolves, like black bears, come in many different color phases. The color range can vary from black to gray to almost pure white.

Diet: Wolves mostly prey on elk and deer but will also eat smaller game if they have difficulty finding larger game. Wolves are opportunistic feeders and will also eat carrion.

Life Cycle: Wolves live most of their lives in family packs. Hear in a wolf howl is an amazing experience. Their communication is complex and consists of barks and whines to growls and howls. Wolves mate in January or February and give birth to a litter of 4 to 7 pups after 63 days of gestation. The pups mature in about 10 months.

Threats to Population: The biggest threat to wolves is conflict with people over livestock losses.

The Wolverine, Gulo gulo:

Wolverine TrackA Wolverine Track, peninsula photo.
Coytoe Tracks (GSMNP)Coyote Tracks,BobSmith photo

If you have seen a wolverine you are indeed fortunate. I was able to see one in the summer of 2007 in Glacier National Park after spending a lot of time in the mountains.

The wolverine is a member of the weasel family and is also known as devil bear, carcajou, or woods devil and its Latin name is Gulo gulo, meaning “glutton.” There are not many wolverines in each area as they all require a large amount of land to survive.

They are solitary creatures throughout most of the year. Wolverines are active at any time of day, year round. They have tremendous physical endurance and can travel up to 40 miles a day in search of food.

Wolverines will rarely attack any predator larger than itself, like a wolf or a bear. Instead, they will try to avoid these animals. Wolverines will fiercely defend a food source or its territory against other wolverines or smaller predators.

Range: The wolverine at one time called most of the cooler climates of North America its home. They are no longer found in the eastern United States and Canada. There are many wolverines in Alaska. The Rocky Mountains continue to be one of the last bastions of range for this incredible animal.

A male wolverine’s home range can cover as much as 240 square miles, while females have ranges that cover 50 to 100 square miles.

Vital Statistics: The wolverine will weigh a maximum of 45 pounds and are dark in color with a lighter colored strip running around both sides of its back from the ears to the tail. The flat head contains bone crushing jaws as well as sharp teeth for tearing meat. It has short thick legs and a thick body. Its non-retractile claws are long and curved like those of a grizzly bear.

Diet: The wolverine has a powerful jaw and large neck muscles allowing it to crush and eat bones and frozen flesh. The will eat almost anything they can find. They rely on feeding on the remains of kills that other animals or humans have left. They will also eat small game. They are poor hunters of large game but there are recorded instances where this has occurred.

Life Cycle: Wolverines generally first mate in their second year of life. There is a long breeding season from May to August. The female wolverine is able to delay the onset of pregnancy until food supplies are at a peak and she will have her kits sometime between January and April. The female digs out a system of snow caves to have her young. The kits grow rapidly and are on their own at the age of 6 months.

Threats to Population: Loss of wilderness habitat threatens the wolverine. Preservation of stable ecosystem is crucial to their survival. Protection of wilderness designation is needed in areas where land is at risk for being broken up into smaller portions due to human development.

Visit this link for a facinating article about wolverines in Glacier National Park.

The Coyote, Canis latrans:

Coyote, Lamar ValleyA Lamar Valley Coyote, Bob Sihler photo.
The Fox (Valsavarenche, Gran Paradiso), 22 febbraio 2007The Red Fox, Antonio Giani photo.

The Coyote is perhaps recognized in the United States as the constant opponent of the Road Runner in the cartoons. It is an unfortunate depiction of a truly amazing animal. A coyote is cunning and intelligent and its ability to survive has been challenged throughout the West due to constant conflicts with ranchers.

Range: Coyotes are found throughout the continental United States, Mexico, Central America as well as most of Canada. They thrive in a number of habitats such as the grassy plains, forested areas as well as in the mountains. It is also not unusual to see them in the urban areas of our country.

Vital Statistics: The coyote is the size of a large domestic dog. It generally has brown/gray to yellow/brown fur with a lighter underbelly. The black nose and pointy ears are effectively used to find its next meal. A coyote runs with its tail straight down.

Diet: Coyotes hunt at night and generally prefer to hunt alone. The diet is made up of small mammals, birds and even an occasional snake for fun. They have been observed eating fruits, berries and vegetables when other food is not as readily available. Coyotes will hunt in cooperative packs when hunting large game like deer.

Life Cycle:
Coyotes mates from February through April. Two months later the pups will be born. The average litter size is 6 pups. Male pups will be weaned and leave the pack when they are between six and nine months of age. Female pups remain with their mother’s pack.

Threats to Population: Threats mostly occur from mankind and disease.

The Red Fox, Vulpes vulpess:

Mountain doggyThe Red Fox, TQW photo.
[img:296667:alignleft:medium:The Red Fox, TQW photo.]

Truly a master of adaptation the fox can be found in almost every environ on the planet earth. I would be surprised if we don't find them on Mars. The fox has an the ability to manipulate the environment they are in to make the best of any situation. We all could learn a lot from a fox.

Range: Red foxes live through the Rocky Mountain Range. They adapt here just like they adapt in any other part of the world. The diverse habitat includes the high desert, forest floors and subalpine areas of the Rockies. Like the coyote the red fox also can assimilate into the urban environment and it is well know for its ability to evade and escape many threatening situations.

Vital Statistics: Red fox can weigh up to 30 pounds and its total body length could be a little less than 3 feet from nose to tail. Foxes also signal each other by making scent posts—urinating on trees or rocks to announce their presence

Diet: Red foxes are omnivorous and would prefer to eat small rodents, rabbits, chipmunks and even frogs. They will add berries and other plants if needed. In residential setting foxes will also eat pet food and garbage.

Life Cycle: In winter, foxes meet to mate. The vixen has a typical litter of 2 to 12 pups. Both parents care for their young through the summer before they are able to strike out on their own in the fall.

Threats to Population: In the Rocky Mountains most foxes are killed as destructive pests or frequent carriers of rabies.


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