Animals of the Mountains

by Cris Cruz, age 11

Mountaintops are one of the harshest places to live. With cold and windy slopes, it takes a tough animal to endure this type of environment. Still, many animals make these snowy summits their home.

The Himalayan Mountains are one of the hardest environments of all. Nesting very high in these mountains is the Himalayan snowcock. This incredible bird builds its nest at an altitude of more than 13,000 feet. Its gray and white feathers are perfect camouflage among the landscape of gray rock and ice capped mountaintops.

Also living in the Himalayan Mountains, is the snow leopard, a big cat whose beautiful spotted fur coat is often a target of fur poachers.

With its thick hairy coat, the yak is comfortable in the highest, coldest parts of the Himalaya mountains. It can eat the toughest grasses and survive at altitudes over 20,000 feet. Sought after for its wooly coat, milk and meat, the yak is also used as a sure footed pack animal.

The lammergeier is another one of the few birds that can survive mountain peaks. It is found in the mountains of Africa and Southern Europe. As a type of vulture, the lammergeier eats almost all parts of its prey including the toughest hide and bones of a carcass. In order to break down the bones and get at the soft marrow inside, the lammergeier drops the bones from great heights down onto its chosen rock.

Mountaintops of California and South America are the home of condors. They are the world’s biggest birds of prey, with giant wings spanning more than 10 feet across. They too, are vultures feeding on carcasses. Their secret to survival is their ability to ride wind currents, soaring patiently for hours waiting for the next meal.

Mountain goats are nimble climbers that can scale the steepest of slope. Their secret for incredibly good climbing is not only in their balance, but also in their hooves. Mountain goats’ hooves have sharp edges, which dig into rock crevices, acting like suction cups.

As humans, living in the mountains appears difficult and unpleasant. But these tough animals are adapted to this severe ecosystem, which is nothing short of remarkable.

[Source: The Big Book of Knowledge]