As you climb between 4,500 and 6,000 feet you’ll notice that the trees begin to thin into the famous meadows of Mt. Rainier. This is the Subalpine Life Zone of Mount Rainier. Some argue it is the most beautiful place in all of Washington. And it isn’t just people that enjoy this area.
Black Tailed Deer roam all around Mt. Rainier, but they love to graze in the sunbathed subalpine meadows. These animals are a favorite game for hunters, but here in Mt. Rainier they enjoy protection from hunting. They are not protected, however, from traffic. These deer move about mostly during dawn and dusk, when the lack of light makes it somewhat difficult for drivers to see them. Always be cautious and on the lookout for them when driving during these times.
These may be the most commonly seen large animals in the park. If you’re quick with the camera you’ll find they pose nicely for your shots. And thanks to William, my awesome Irish Wolfhound/Siberian Husky mix, I found out that the deer aren’t too spooked by dogs whining at them through car windows. The deer and dog held each other’s gaze for quite some time. I really wanted to let the animals interact, but letting my dog out would have been not only illegal, but dangerous for both animals. At least they shared that moment through the window.
Elk can be found in the Subalpine Zone as well. The moose is the only deer species larger than the elk, and occasionally a large Sambar deer will match an elk’s size. Like the black tail deer, these big creatures roam about when the sun is close to the horizon. So be careful when driving through the park at those times, the animal and your car will appreciate it!
The bugling of elks is a well known sound, and very easy to pick out. The louder a male’s bugle, the more females he will attract. Sometimes they use their large antlers and powerful front leg kicks to fight for mating rights. Be careful if you are close to an elk, those antlers and kicks can do a man in.
Other animals can be found in the Subalpine Zone of Mount Rainier. It’s a good place to get pictures of wildlife, especially during the spring when the meadows are ablaze with color. God is amazing, and His creations are beautiful!
If you’re camping out in the Subalpine Zone of the mountain, remember that it’s pretty cold at night. Make sure to pack warm clothes, good sleeping bags, and quality tents. These and other resources can be found at www.whitakermountaineering.com. Check out their sales, and remember that submitting a product review could win you $200!