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Fauna Series No. 3







Faunal Position

Life Zones







Fauna of the National Parks — No. 3
Birds and Mammals of Mount McKinley National Park
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Life Zones

MOUNT MCKINLEY NATIONAL PARK can be divided readily into two life zones, the Alpine or Arctic and the Sub-Alpine or Hudsonian. Timber rarely is found growing in this region at elevations above 3,000 feet. The higher or Arctic-Alpine zone of the park includes all areas above timber line. The treeless portion extends from the extreme summit of Mount McKinley (20,300 feet) down to timber line (3,000 feet). The main Alaska Range is all above timber line.

While there are many square miles of glaciers that have never been explored or even surveyed, we do know the extent of Muldrow Glacier on the northeast flank of Mount McKinley. It seems probable that this one glacier covers an area equal to the combined area of all the glaciers in Mount Rainier National Park.

After hiking some 750 miles in various portions of McKinley Park, it is my belief that considerably more than half of the park apparently lies within the Arctic-Alpine zone. This zone is the particular dwelling place and breeding ground of the following mammals: grizzly bear, Stone's caribou, Dall sheep, meadow mouse, Northern hoary marmot, and collared pika. The following birds are known to breed in the Arctic-Alpine zone in McKinley Park: long-tailed jaeger, Baird's sandpiper, Hudsonian curlew, Pacific golden plover, surfbird, Kellogg's ptarmigan, Kenai white-tailed ptarmigan, golden eagle, black gyrfalcon, short-eared owl, pallid horned lark, Northern raven, Hepburn's rosy finch, Eastern snow bunting, Alaska longspur, American pipit, and European wheatear.

Though the Hudsonian or Sub-Alpine life zone occupies about one-fourth of the total area of the park, it produces a much greater variety of animal life than is to be found in the higher, treeless Arctic-Alpine zone. The following species of birds were found inhabiting the Hudsonian life zone in the McKinley district: Alaska spruce grouse, Harlan's hawk, American hawk owl, Nelson's downy woodpecker, Alaska three-toed woodpecker, Northern flicker, Say's phoebe, olive-sided flycatcher, American magpie, Alaska jay, common redpoll, slate-colored junco, Eastern fox sparrow, Bohemian waxwing, Northwestern shrike, orange-crowned warbler, Alaska yellow warbler, myrtle warbler, Northern pileolated warbler, Yukon chickadee, Alaska chickadee, Hudsonian chickadee, Kennicott's willow warbler, Eastern ruby-crowned kinglet, Townsend's solitaire, gray-cheeked thrush, Eastern robin.

Among the mammals the following species were found to be characteristic inhabitants of the spruce woods and cottonwood groves of the Hudsonian zone: American black bear, Canadian beaver, Alaska marten, Alaska mink, Alaska moose, interior meadow mouse, Drummond meadow mouse, Alaska porcupine, Mackenzie varying hare, and Northern red squirrel.

Some adequate conception of life zone areas may be had from the fact that the entire mountain mass, from base to summit, lies within the Arctic-Alpine zone. No other mountain of which we have knowledge is known to tower to so great a height as 17,000 feet above timber line.

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Last Modified: Thurs, Oct 4 2001 10:00:00 pm PDT

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