by Alex Gugel , all rights reserved
Winter/Spring 2020/2021 - Pocket Ranger Insert
Visitor Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park (NP) in Colorado. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).
Animals in Winter Whose Footprints? Life Beneath the Snow When the weather becomes cold, snowy, and windy during Rocky’s winter months animals need to adjust their behavior. Rocky’s winter tolerators leave clues for us by creating distinct patterns of footprints in the snow. Following these tracks can help us learn more about their behavior and daily activities. We can discover evidence of tolerators above the snow by finding their tracks or searching for caches of food. But some tolerators, like deer mice, retreat below for protection from harsh winds, bitter cold, and hungry predators. Some, like the elk, migrate. They move down to lower elevations where the weather is warmer and food is more abundant. Hopper Loper Walker The subnivean zone describes the area between the ground and the bottom of the snowpack. This area is well-insulated. The snow acts like a heavy blanket, keeping the creatures warm and hidden. Others, like black bears and marmots, hibernate. They spend the winter in a dormant state, remaining inactive to conserve energy. Animals like coyotes, deer mice, and snowshoe hares endure the winter. These critters are tolerators who adapt to survive harsh winter conditions. Think: would you rather be a migrator, hibernator, or tolerator? Why? Snowshoe Hare Mule Deer Coyote Hike a trail and see how many critters’ tracks you can find in the snow. Are they a walker, loper, or hopper? What kind of animal made these tracks? Snowy alpine Play in the snow! Do you feel warmer out in the open, or covered up under by a blanket of snow? Rocky Pocket Ranger Snowy Adventures! Changing Times Animals in Rocky are adapted to winter conditions. How might warming temperatures impact their lives? Have you been here before? What changes have you seen? Write your own predictions about how life in Rocky may change over the next 2050 years. Sagittarius The Sky Tells a Story Find the North Star The moon and stars have inspired humans for thousands of years. People told stories about the shapes they saw in the stars—stories about things that were important to them and lessons about how to behave and treat others. The North Star, also known as Polaris, is very near the celestial pole (if you were standing at the North Pole, it would appear directly overhead). Though you might expect it to be one of the brighter stars in the sky, it’s actually dim enough to be tricky to find. Luckily, if you can spot the Big Dipper, you can use it to navigate to the north star using the “pointer stars” at the bottom of the dipper. What do you wonder when you stare at a sky littered with thousands of stars? Scorpius If you could draw your own constellation, what story would you write in the night sky? The Big Dipper 3 Fun activities for all! Half the Park is After Dark Rocky Pocket Ranger Noticing Winter Find a quiet place to sit—beside your car, at a picnic table—during dawn or dusk. Take notice of your senses to get a whole new picture of the world around you. How does snow form? Snow forms when droplets of water in clouds freeze into ice crystals. This happens when clouds are colder than 15°F! As the ice crystals stick together, they become too heavy for the cloud and fall to the ground. As they fall, they may pass through warmer air causing a slight melting affect. If they melt too much, this causes sleet. If the air is cooler, the crystals will bond together forming large fluffy flakes. Temperature, air currents, and humidity influence the shape of the ice crystals, so each snowflake is unique. If you can, catch a snowflake or pick some up from the ground. • What does it look like? Can you see the different flakes? • Why do you think it looks that way? • Does it look like it will snow more today? What observations are making you determine that answer? • Does snow feel or act differently under trees and in meadows? Why do you think that is? Snow-covered Ponderosa pine tree Practice Intentional Curiosity Record your thoughts at right: “I notice...” Look closely. Are there animal tracks in the snow? Is steam coming off the nearby stream? What are the clouds doing? What patterns do you see in the trees? “It reminds me of...” What associations come to mind? An event? An object? A memory? Tying what you know with what you experience may help you retain this moment…and help you share it with others. “I wonder...” Ask questions about what you’ve noticed. Say them out loud to yourself or a friend. What do you want to know more about? Sensory Overload Vision Your eyes have two kinds of light receptors: rods and cones. Cones work best in strong light and pick up colors. Rods work better in dim light but don’t pick up colors. As the light changes in shadows, look at your clothing or the clothing of your friends. Can you tell what color it is? If you had to pick, would you want only rods or only cones for your eyes? What kind of sight would you want? Smell Smells are really just a combination of chemicals. When the chemicals join up in different ways, we smell different things. Moisture created by dogs’ noses helps them capture different chemicals in the air and smell better. 4 Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose. What do you smell? Water? Dirt? Pine? Where is the smell coming from? Is it cool or warm? Hearing Think about the ears of an elk or a mountain lion. How are they shaped? Do they swivel? Why might good hearing help these animals? Hidden Valley in winter Sit quietly and listen. Count five things you can hear. Now cup your hands around the back of your ears with palms facing forward. Listen again. Can you hear anything more? Would you be able to rely on your hearing for survival at night? Young deer in snow Everyone wants to know Rocky’s vital statistics. Each blank needs a number. Find the answers in your park map and this information guide, or ask park staff. What’s more, we’ve given you the answers: the numbers at bottom. • Rocky Mountain National Park was established in ________. • Fragile alpine tundra encompasses _________ of Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the largest examples of alpine tundra ecosystems protected in the contiguous United States. • The dramatic elevation range within the park boundary, which spans from 7,600 feet to ______ feet and straddles the Continental Divide, allows for diverse terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, varied plant and animal communities, and a variety of ecological processes. • The Continental Divide angles through RMNP for ___ miles northwest to south-central from the Never Summer Mountains’ ridge tops, south at La Poudre Pass, across Trail Ridge Road at Milner Pass, elevation 10,758 ft/3,548 m, through the park’s core, and exits at Ogallala Peak on the park’s southern boundary. • Approximately ____ miles of hiking trails explore the park. • Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved highway in North America with its high point at ______ feet. • On March 30, 2009, _____ of the park was designated as Wilderness—which means it is managed with the highest level of Federal protection afforded to public lands. • The ___ Essentials are the things you need to take with you whenever you are hiking. • Rocky Mountain National Park has ____ peaks higher than 10,000 feet. Fill in your own statistics! • The mighty Colorado River starts its _____-mile length in RMNP. It drains seven U.S. and two Mexican states on its way to the Gulf of California, and passes through six more National Park Service areas: Arches National Park (UT), Canyonlands National Park (UT), Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (AZ/UT), Rainbow Bridge National Monument (UT), Grand Canyon National Park (AZ), and Lake Mead National Recreation Area (AZ/NV). • Year of your first visit to Rocky Mountain National Park: ____________ • Miles of trail hiked on this trip (And how many total over time?): ____________ • Number of animal species seen on this trip: ________ • Number of flower species seen on this trip: ________ • Highest elevation visited on this trip (Driven? Hiked?): ____________ 42 94.9% 1,450 12,183 1/3 118 355 1915 10 14,259 Ypsilon Mountain on snowy March morning 9 Rocky Pocket Ranger Rocky by the Numbers Rocky Pocket Ranger Wild at Heart Wilderness... the word has different meanings to different people, but here in Rocky Mountain National Park, wilderness is something special. On April 9, 2009, nearly 250,000 acres of the park were permanently protected as the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness Area. of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The Wilderness Act goes on to describe wilderness as a place “retaining its primeval character and influence” where there are “outstanding opportunities for solitude.” • Is Rocky Mountain National Park a “wild” place? Why or why not? Before the act, of the park’s approximately 265,000 acres, only 2,917 acres had been officially designated by Congress as Wilderness. The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 was the culmination of efforts begun in 1974 by wilderness advocates (see illustration at top-right of your park map). Wilderness holds different value to different people. Think about the questions below and discuss them with friends or family. • Of the following animals found in Rocky Mountain National Park, which ones do you consider “wild”? Why? • What does “wild” mean to you? Write your definition below: Wilderness, according to the Wilderness Act, “...in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community • Is there value to something being “wild”? Why or why not? • What makes an animal “wild”? Do we treat wild animals differently? • • • • • • Chipmunk Marmot Deer Moose Bear Mountain Lion Remember: treat all animals in Rocky with respect. Don’t feed any animals and maintain a safe distance (see front page). Take the Rocky Pledge The Rocky Pledge “To preserve unimpaired for this and future generations the beauty, history, and wildness therein, I pledge to protect Rocky Mountain National Park.” • I pledge to never build a fire outside of a campground or picnic area fire ring. • I pledge to park only on designated asphalt or gravel parking areas. • If I need to go but am not near a restroom, I pledge to leave no trace by stepping at least 70 steps from the trail and water sources, burying my waste at least six inches deep or packing it out in a waste bag, and carrying out my toilet paper. • I pledge to watch wildlife from a distance that doesn’t disturb them in any way. I will never feed wildlife— doing so causes them harm. PLEDGE to PROTECT Rocky Mountain National Park #rockypledge • I pledge to remove nothing from the park except my own and others’ trash. I will leave no trace of my visit so that the next person can experience the same beauty as I did. • I pledge to keep my leashed pet only on roads, in campgrounds, and in picnic and parking areas. I will never take my dog on Rocky’s trails, meadows, or tundra areas. • I pledge to honor, respect, and protect all our national parks and public lands. Take a photo of yourself protecting Rocky and post it to social media tagged #rockypledge! File a Trail Report On _______, I hiked the ___________ Trail at ____ am/pm. My thoughts about the hike: __________________ I carried the right gear (see front page and page 11). I removed nothing from the park except trash. I stepped at least 70 steps off the trail if I had to use the bathroom. I followed social distancing guidelines. I didn’t feed wildlife and watched them from a safe distance. 10 Send us an image of your visit! firstname.lastname@example.org