Gallery 12: It's a Wilderness Out There!
If it feels like it's been a long winter - just imagine being a wild animal in the Rocky Mountains!
Those bitterly cold snaps followed by warming chinook winds, and all that snow. Deep snow can pose problems for creatures such as deer and elk whose small hooves and large body weight mean they sink.
But for some animals, the snow can be an advantage. Lynx have huge snowshoe-like feet that allow them to float on top of the snow pack and seek out their prey.
Subnivean creatures such as voles and shrews take advantage of the snow's insulating properties and run around all winter in the space just above the ground, where the temperature is usually just above freezing.
While a hard crust on the snow's surface created by a melt-freeze cycle or extreme winds might make it easier to travel, it poses real challenges for some animals.
Ungulates (e.g. deer, elk) may not be able to paw through these crusts to access their forage, and predators (e.g. marten, fox, coyote) that rely on the subnivean creatures may not be able to dig down to their prey.
Luckily spring is just around the corner!
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