The Rocky Mountains are awe-inspiring. As one of our continent’s youngest ranges, it’s towering tetons jut up from the earth at dizzying angles, surrounded by thick forests and wild rivers.
And then there are the animals.
Just like the range they inhabit, the creatures of the Rocky Mountains can be wild and dangerous. From hulking bears to deadly spiders, and everything in between. Find yourself up close and personal with these beasts and you may want to start hiking the other way.
Make no mistake, the Rocky Mountains are something every American deserves to experience. And if you do, you might find someone on this list. Here are 15 of the wildest animals on the range.
15. Black Widow Spider
You know it when you see it.
The telltale red hourglass on the back of the Black Widow is a warning sign to all who near: She’s a ruthless killer.
There are actually more than one species of spider that claim the name Black Widow, all preferring more temperate climates to northern latitudes. Those found along the Rocky Mountains are no less deadly than their cousins, National Geographic reports, with venom as much as 15 times more potent than a rattlesnake’s.
Once bitten, a human will begin to suffer muscle aches, nausea, and difficulty breathing. For the elderly and small children, this can be fatal.
One of the largest animals of the Rocky Mountains and beyond, there are six different subspecies of elk that once roamed the United States, one which is named for the Rocky Mountains.
Two of those subspecies have gone extinct, Elk Network maintains, but those that remain still show the physical characteristics of their prehistoric descendants.
The Rocky Mountain Elk has the largest set of antlers of all the Elk in North America, primarily eating regional grasses. Their herbivorous nature isn’t a sign of fragility, though. When an Elk bull feels threatened, he will curl up his lip and start to grind his teeth.
That means, “Watch out!” You don’t want to be caught on the business end of those antlers!
While certainly not the biggest, and admittedly not even deadly, the Pika is an important creature in the Rocky Mountain ecosystem. It’s also one of the cutest.
According to the National Park Service, pika are more closely related to rabbits, rather than squirrels, and rarely grow to weigh more than 6 ounces in adulthood.
Unlike some of the other animals on the range, the pika doesn’t hibernate. It continues to work throughout the winter, collecting straw for building burrows in mountain crevices.
And some of those burrows can be big! NPS reports that some pika burrows have been as large as bathtubs.
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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.