South Central Rockies Forests Habitat
This species occurs in the South Central Rockies forests, a set of seven disjunctive geographic units, forming an ecoregion centered primarily on the Yellowstone Plateau and the mountain ranges radiating outward from the plateau. The largest unit lies mainly in western Wyoming, extending into eastern Idaho and central Montana; a portion of this ecoregion lies in northwestern Wyoming, and comprises the headwaters of the Yellowstone River and Green River. A second large unit comprises the mountains of central and eastern Idaho south of the Clearwater River. The ecoregion also occurs in five additional isolated geographic units, the two largest being the Bighorn Mountains of north-central Wyoming/ south-central Montana, and the Black Hills of western South Dakota/ northeastern Wyoming.
The dominant vegetation type in the ecoregion is coniferous forest. Küchler classifies the potential vegetation type as Douglas-fir / spruce-fir forest, dominated by Engleman spruce (Picea englemannii), subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), and Douglas-fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii). Large areas of the ecoregion are dominated by Lodgepole pine. In some regard, the preponderance of Lodgepole pine reflects the greatly altered (via fire suppression) disturbance regime in the ecoregion. Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) is an important species at the upper treeline / Krummholz zone.
The American bison (Bison bison NT) is the premier example of charismatic megafauna within the South Central Rockies forests and is an ecoregion endemic. The Yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris) is also found here in its colonial burrows, especially at mountain meadow and talus habitats. American black bear (Ursus americanus) and Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) also occur within the ecoregion. In addition to these ursine species, two other apex predators in these forests are the Bobcat (Lynx rufus) and Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis). Other mammals found here are the American mink (Neovison vison) and the Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus); and the Western harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis).
There are only six amphibian taxa known to the South Central Rockies forests. Anuran species found in the ecoregion are: Northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens); Boreal chorus frog (Pseudacris maculata); Columbia spotted frog (Rana luteiventris); Woodhouse's toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii); and Western toad (Anaxyrus boreas). Salamanders found here in the South Central Rockies forests are merely the Tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).
Notable reptiles that can be observed in the South Central Rockies forests include: Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta); Ornate tree lizard (Urosaurus ornatus); Western rattlesnake (Crotalis viridis); Western terrestrial garter snake (Thamnopsis elegans); Red-bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata); Western gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer); and the Smooth green snake (Liochlorophis vernalis).
Avifauna found in the ecoregion include the Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos); Pinyon jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus VU); Lapland longspur (Calcarius lapponicus); Blue-grey gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea); Black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus); and the Golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satropa).
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