Rocky Mountain National Park Feature
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Flora and Fauna
Volcanic uplifts and the savage clawing of receding glaciers have brought about Rocky Mountain's majestic landscape. You'll find three distinct ecosystems here—verdant mountain valleys towering with proud ponderosa pines and Douglas firs; higher and colder subalpine mountains with wind-whipped trees (krummholz) that grow at right angles; and harsh, unforgiving alpine tundra with dollhouse-size versions of familiar plants and wildflowers. The high, wind-whipped ecosystem of alpine tundra is seldom found outside the Arctic, yet it makes up one-third of the park's terrain. Few plants can survive at the tundra's elevation, but many beautiful wildflowers—including alpine forget-me-nots—bloom briefly in late June or early July.
The park has so much wildlife that you can often enjoy prime viewing from the seat of your car. Fall, when many animals begin moving down from higher elevations, is an excellent time to spot the park's animal residents. This is also when you'll hear the male elk bugle mating calls (popular "listening" spots are Horseshoe Park, Moraine Park, and Upper Beaver Meadows).
May through mid-October is the best time to see the bighorn sheep that congregate in the Horseshoe Park-Sheep Lakes area, just past the Fall River entrance. If you want to glimpse a moose, try Kawuneeche Valley, on the park's western side. Other animals in the park include mule deer, squirrels, chipmunks, pikas, beavers, and marmot. Common birds are broad-tailed and rufous hummingbirds, peregrine falcons, woodpeckers, mountain bluebirds, and Clark's nutcracker, as well as the white-tailed ptarmigan, spotted year-round on the alpine tundra.
Mountain lions, black bears, and bobcats also inhabit the park but are rarely spotted by visitors. Altogether, the park is home to 63 species of mammals and 280 bird species.
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