The Little Tahoma
Plants and Animals
Mount Rainier is ringed by old-growth forests of western hemlock and Douglas-fir. What makes a forest old-growth? Forests more than 250 years old are usually considered old-growth. In Mount Rainier National Park, the vast majority of the forest falls into the old-growth category, and some stands of trees are more than 1,000 years old. Old-growth stands are very different from second growth forests. They are characterized by individual trees of many sizes, standing dead trees, and many dead, downed logs in streams. Holes, broken branches, and upended tree trunks create important wildlife habitat.
Scattered through the old-growth forest are many smaller trees that grow well in the cool dense shade. Pacific silver fir, western red cedar, and western hemlock create a cool multi-layered forest where the temperature remains moderate, even during the hottest days of summer. The forests of Mount Rainier provide homes for many animals and plants, including the northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus), the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), and the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis).
Of the 54 mammal species found at Mount Rainier, you are most likely to see:
Black-Tailed Deer follow the melting snows up toward Paradise in early summer as the shrubs develop buds and leaves, and huckleberries begin toripen. In June and July new fawns appear. Their tan and white spotted fur helps them blend into their surroundings.
Coyotes are about the size and shape of a German shepherd dog, and have silvery tan fur with a black tip on the tail. They normally eat small rodents, berries, fruits and carrion. You may see them anywhere in the park.
Red Foxes are often seen at picnic areas around Longmire and Paradise. They may look gray or even black in color. If you see a fox, do not feed it! It needs to hunt for its natural food to stay healthy!
Douglas’ Squirrels, also known as Chickarees, are quite common in the park. Their fur is dark reddish black on the back with orange-brown patches on their sides. They feed on tree cones and are found throughout the forested sections of the park.
Elk resemble deer, but are much larger (800-1000 lbs.) Their bodies are a rich brown color, their heads and necks are darkerbrown, and they have a light tan or white patch around the rump. Male elk shed their antlers each winter and grow a new set the following summer.
Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels are slightly larger than chipmunks and have stripes down their backs, but not on their faces (you can tell them apart this way). Although chipmunks and ground squirrels eat many of thesame foods, they coexist because chipmunks climb into the lower branches oftrees and shrubs to forage, while ground squirrels remain on the ground.
"In nature, one never really sees a thing for the first time until one has seen if for the fiftieth."
Joseph Wood Krutch
Plants and Animals