Animals of Mount Rainier’s Alpine Zone

After climbing between 6,000-7,500 feet, one may notice a big change… no trees!  The air is freezing cold, snowfields and glaciers can be found.  The flowers grow short, and the animals are few.  It’s the hardest place on the mountain to live, and the air is the best I’ve ever breathed.  This is the Alpine Zone.

This is where we ended our hike from White River campground.  We were at the bottom of Inter-Glacier Snow Field.  If I had to pick any place on Mount Rainier to live in (during the summer at least) that place would be it!  I hear that Panorama Point is another beautiful Alpine area, found at the lower end of Muir Snow Field.

Most of the animals in the Alpine Zone only live there during the summer, when it’s not extremely cold.  Let’s look at a couple that you might see crawling about up there.

Marmot

Marmot

Hoary Marmots are the largest of North America’s ground squirrels.  Because of their high pitched warning whistle, and their pudginess, they’re also called “whistle pigs”.  They hibernate during the colder months in burrows, usually near or under boulders.  During the summer these large rats are seen a lot.  They don’t spook very easily.  Marmots are the largest animals that are regularly seen in the Alpine Zone, although other animals such as bears do venture through this cold region of Mt. Rainier.

Pika

Pika

 

Pikas are another type of critter found in the Alpine Zone of Mount Rainier.  They are small, hamster/chinchilla like Critters.  Like tailless mice, but big and fat with rounded ears.  Like their neighbors, the marmots, they let of a high pitched warning sound when they sense danger.  They’re not as brave as marmots though, if they see people they’ll likely hide.  You’ll have to look a bit harder to see these little guys.

Sometimes they are called “rock rabbits”, “coneys”, or “whistling hares”.  Pikas do not hibernate.  They collect grass, dry it, and stuff it in their burrows for warmth.  And they need all the warmth they can get in this cold area.

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If you’re traveling this high on Mt. Rainier, there’s a good chance you’re going to want to climb up on the snow, and you may possibly be on your way to summit Washington’s greatest peak.  Make sure to get the proper gear, available from Whittaker Mountaineering.  They are experts on climbing and on Mount Rainier, and they can be found at the foot of the mountain.  Currently they offer free shipping on any order over $75.  Check them out!

Thanks for reading, and Lord willing we’ll see you in a couple weeks!  Praise God for our beautiful Mount Rainier!!!

Roaming the Subalpine Zone of Mount Rainier

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 Tail Deer

Black Tailed Deer

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

Elk

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!