A few remarkable animals have adapted to living in the alpine. Some, including many of the larger animals such as Elk spend the relatively warmer summer in the alpine and move to lower elevations in winter and some, such as the Pika and Marmot have made the alpine home year round. Photo by Gerhard Assenmacher – Yellow bellied marmot.
This charming, small member of the rabbit family has adapted to making its home year round in the alpine. Only living above 10,000ft they are highly specialized for alpine living. They do not hibernate in the winter, surviving on lichens beneath the snow and haypiles stored from summer.
The Yellow bellied marmot or ‘Whistlepig’ is common in the Colorado alpine in meadows and boulder fields up to 14,000ft. Their loud high pitched whistle easily identifies them. These mammals are herivores, eating many of the common alpine plants especially liking dandelions. These social animals spend more than half of their lives in a deep hibernation.
The boreal toad is a subspecies of the western toad. They are commonly found in wet areas in the Southern Rocky Mountains and in recent years, their population has been on the decline due to an amphibian disease, chytrid fungus. The boreal toad is currently listed as an endangered species in Colorado and New Mexico
Northern pocket gophers are a rarely seen but common burrowing rodent in the alpine. They are responsible for the surface tunnels called eskers. In the summer they feed on common alpine plants and store roots and tubers in the tunnel in winter. The tunnels are an important part of the soil building process.