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Big Sky
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Big Sky Country

Big Sky Country

In western North America, the Rocky Mountains rise to snow-capped peaks. In this environment, life changes with elevation. Lichens and grasses are found near the mountain summits. Below the timberline, evergreen forests of spruce, fir, and pine clad the slopes. Mule deer and elk winter at lower levels, moving higher in the summer. Pumas and eagles range widely in search of food.

In Native American times, the American Midwest was a vast expanse of grassland hosting millions of bison and pronghorns, miles of prairie dog towns, innumerable small mammals, and predators such as the coyote and wolf. From the Rockies eastward, the land gradually slopes downward toward the Mississippi. Short grasses of the high western plains merge with the tall grasses of the prairie lowlands to the east.


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American Elk Big Sky Country

American Elk

Cervus elaphus

Biome: Big Sky Country

Classification: Mammals

Biography: Elk are among the most vocal members of the deer family. Cows bark alarm signals, calves bleat and squeal, and bulls bugle. Bugling marks the beginning of the fall rutting, or breeding season, and advertises the bull's fitness to cows and rival bulls. During the rut, cows... More >


Black-billed Magpie Big Sky Country

Black-billed Magpie

Pica pica

Biome: Big Sky Country

Classification: Birds

Biography: Streaming, iridescent tails and flashing white wing patches identify black-billed magpies in flight. On the ground, these striking members of the crow family forage for insects, fruits, mice and carrion, and will sometimes steal the eggs and young of smaller birds. Magpies... More >


Black-tailed Prairie Dog Big Sky Country

Black-tailed Prairie Dog

Cynomys ludovicianus

Biome: Big Sky Country

Classification: Mammals

Biography: Although named for their barking alarm call, black-tailed prairie dogs are actually burrowing ground squirrels. Prairie dogs have a complex social structure and communicate by using special calls and postures. They live in colonies or "towns" that range in size from one to... More >


Long-eared Owl Big Sky Country

Long-eared Owl

Asio otus

Biome: Big Sky Country

Classification: Birds

Biography: Rodents beware! The conspicuous ear tufts of the long-eared owl are not for hearing, but help it blend in with tree branches when roosting. Its true ears are hidden under the feathers at the edge of the facial disc, which channels sound into the ears. For additional... More >


Mountain Lion Big Sky Country

Mountain Lion

Felis concolor

Biome: Big Sky Country

Classification: Mammals

Biography: Also known as a cougar, puma, panther, catamount, painter or mountain lion, this cat is recognized by its large size, uniform tan color, and long tail. Of the New World cats, the mountain lion is second only to the jaguar in size, and typically weighs between 100 and 150... More >


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