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Science and Children >  > Mountains Majesty > Activity: Rocky Mountain Animals 
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Rocky Mountain Animals Then and Now


Based on an article in
Science & Children Magazine,
Published by the National Science Teachers Association, Nov.-Dec. 2004

Rocky Mountain Animals--Then and Now

This activity aligns with the following National Science Education Standards: Content Standard C: Life Science–Organisms and environments; diversity and adaptations of organisms.

Time required: Will vary depending on extent of research; would probably work best as a long-term project (a week or more)

Early explorers and pioneers who traveled through the Rocky Mountain area were amazed by the variety and numbers of animals they saw. Have your students research and prepare reports on one of the following animals:

BisonGrizzly BearBald Eagle
Gray WolfBeaverSnowshoe Hare

Reports should focus on the changes that have taken place in their populations over the past two centuries and on the current status of each. They could also include information on why changes have occurred and where these animals may be found today. In addition to encyclopedias, magazine articles, and books on natural history, websites on the Lewis and Clark expedition might be helpful starting points for research, as will the following:

Greenback Cutthroat TroutNative to cold Rocky Mountain rivers, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout was outcompeted for food, space, and spawning habitat as settlers began in the late 1800s to stock their own favorite sport fish. Colorado’s state fish, the trout is a threatened species, although recent recovery efforts have helped to stabilize existing populations. Illustration by Joseph R. Tomelleri.

Extension Activities

Copy the page below for each of your students. Using books on animal tracks or the eNature website mentioned above, students should try to identify the three animals whose tracks are pictured in the illustration. Then have them write a story describing what they think might have happened. One possible scenario: Two deer coming toward the stream (from left) encounter a mountain lion, which is walking along the stream. The mountain lion sees them and starts to run and the deer begin to run as well (note the more widely spaced tracks). The mountain lion catches one deer (note the jumble of tracks) while the other escapes across the stream. Meanwhile a raccoon flees upon seeing the mountain lion.

What Happened Here?

Can you figure out what animals visited the stream in the drawing below? Check some books on animal tracks or www.eNature.com to see if you can match the tracks with the following animals: mountain lion, deer, raccoon. Write the name of each animal next to its tracks.

Animal tracks can help you identify animals, and they can also help you learn about animal behavior. For an added challenge, you can write a story about what you think happened in the scene below.

Drawing of animal tracks and stream crossing

Last updated: 11-13-2009