High Nature: Amazing Mountain Wildlife

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(images via claude74, itsnature, gravitydude99)

Mountains are some of the most inhospitable places on earth.  Thin air, lack of vegetation and harsh weather highlight that fact.  But some creatures have adapted to mountain life.  For them, negotiating rocky terrain, breathing thin air, and finding food in such a scarce environment is second nature.

Snow Leopard

snow-leopard

(image via newagecrap)

Snow Leopards are at home in South and Central Asia.  They are an especially stocky cat, weighing up to 120 pounds.  Despite their ferocity (snow leopards have been known to kill animals three-times their size), they are endangered, with the worldwide population estimated around 10,000.

Indian Rhino and Yak

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(images via Wonker and thomaswanhoff)

The Indian Rhinoceros is one of the most unusual mountain creatures.  They thrive in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in Northeastern India and Nepal.  They can weight more than 3 tons, easily the largest mountain animal on earth.

The yak is a woolly, strong creature that has made life possible to humans in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau for centuries.  They have larger hearts and lungs than their other bovine cousins and can survive at up to 18,000 feet above sea-level.

Mountain Goat

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(image via mikefats)

There are actually several species that are often tagged as Mountain Goats.  The shaggy, sure-footed Rocky Mountain Goat is frequently sighted in Colorado and Wyoming.  Other species are equally sure-footed and able to survive by eating whatever the mountains have to offer.

Himalayan Griffon, Andean Condor, and Tibetan Snowcock

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(images via reurinkjan, Ester Inbar and Otto Plantema)

The Himalayan Griffon Vulture is a scavenger that can often be seen soaring over the mountains of South Asia.  With a wingspan that approaches 10 feet, this is one of the largest birds to be found at high altitudes.

The Andean Condor is the Griffon’s Western Hemisphere cousin.  It has a similar size.  This South American species can live up to 50 years.

The Tibetan Snowcock is not as large as the two scavengers above, but it is arguably as tough, carving out an existence high on the Tibetan Plateau.

Alpine Marmot

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(images via leo-seta)

Alpine Marmots are the largest relative of the squirrel.   They have an ideal set of skills for life in Central Europe’s mountains.  They are able to dig through hard, rocky ground with ease and can escape harsh conditions by hibernating (sometimes up to nine months per year).

Vicuna and Llama

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(images via Rico Hubner and eschipul)

The rare Vicuna is a cousin of South America’s most famous domesticated animal, the llama.  It thrives in the same high-altitude conditions, but is considerably harder to find.  At one point, there were only about 10,000 left in the wild.  Protection has brought the number back to more than 100,000.

The Llama has become of necessity of life for people living in the high Andes.  These relatives of the camel have are used for labor, for their thick wool, and even for food.

Alpine Ibex

alpine-ibex

(image via Earth explorer)

This species of goat is easily recognized by its long, curving horns (which can be more than three feet long).  Despite the menacing appearance this gives them, the horns are mainly used for protection against predators.  Like most other goats, the ibex is strictly a herbivore, surviving on sometimes scarce mountain foliage.

Water-holding Cabbage

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(image via Esculapio)

This unique plant species is one of the many unique ones that grow high on Mount Kilimanjaro.  The flowering tops make it seem top-heavy and completely alien.

Bharal and Deer Mice

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(images via reurinkjan and kwantlen park)

The Bharal is yet another goat-like animal that thrives in sparse, rocky terrain.  Its sure footing and ability to ingest anything that is vaguely edible make it an ideal mountain dweller.  Bharal are a major food source for another animal on this list, Snow Leopards.

Deer Mice are found high on many of the world’s mountains.  These creatures can adapt easily to a number of environments, including the extreme cold of the Andes Mountains.

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