Mammals of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

This is a list of the images and their descriptions found in the Mammals Photo Gallery. The images were photographed by James N Perdue and any usage of these images should credit Mr. Perdue and his website: [This is NOT a complete list of the mammals in the refuge.]



Large Mammals in the refuge, i.e. moose, deer, pronghorn, elk, wolves, coyotes, bears, etc. Top carnivores and other large mammals play a pivotal role in regulating ecosystem health and function. Grazing maintains the health of the grasses and other animals dependent upon the grasslands, and the predation of smaller species keeps the refuge population in balance.

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

These deer are often observed lurking around the forest edges.

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Males lose and re-grow their antlers every year. 

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

The white-tailed deer is a ruminant, which means it has a four-chambered stomach. Each chamber has a different and specific function that allows the deer to quickly eat a variety of different food, digesting it at a later time in a safe area of cover.

White-tailed Deer Browsing on Grasses in Winter

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are browsing on the grasses uncovered by the wind beneath Mount Taylor in the refuge.

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

When startled and bounding, this deer conspicuously displays its large white tail.

White-tailed Deer in Snow

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) head into cover of the forest near Upper Red Rock Lake. These deer survive the cold and harsh conditions of the refuge by finding grasses hidden under the snow, then twigs and even the needles of the Douglas fir trees.  They are always on the lookout for wolves and coyotes in winter to avoid being a meal themselves.

Moose (Alces alces).

Found in willow bottoms and in the forest timber.

Moose (Alces alces). 

This moose was coming out of the forest near Upper Lake campground.

Moose (Alces alces), Cow and calf

This cow actually had twin calves with her, somewhat unusual.  She's getting a drink from Picnic Creek.

Moose (Alces alces) Calves

These were twins feeding along Picnic Creek in late August.

Moose Foraging on Willows

This moose (Alces alces shirasi) and her calf are foraging on willow shoots in mid-February. This is their staple diet during winter since the normal diet of forbs is hard to obtain through the snow in winter.  Along Elk Springs Creek here, there are many willows that attract the moose in winter.  When willows shoots become scarce, they will find gooseberry, sub-alpine fir and Douglas Fir shoots in the nearby forest.

Moose Foraging

Moose are foraging in the bog area on the southeast side of the refuge. In addition to the willows they dig for other grasses hidden in the snow.

Moose Family in Snow

A cow and her two calves forage among the willows along Elk Creek Road in the refuge during mid-February.  They have long legs that permit them to trot over low-shrubs without exerting much energy, like the sagebrush and low willows that grow here. Late winter deep snows with hard crusted tops slow them down however.



Moose (Alces alces) Female

This cow was eating along Picnic Creek in late August.

Moose at Red Rock Creek in Snow

This moose  cow (Alces alces shirasi) was lying on the ice in Red Rock Creek in the refuge in mid-February.  Bull and cow can be distinguished in winter from the black nose of the bull and the reddish/ brown nose of the cow. Also in the bull, the bell, the long rope of skin dangling from under their muzzle, is longer than in the cow. The male yearlings have bells that resemble the female cow.

Moose Calf Runs to Mother

This moose (Alces alces shirasi) yearling is running to its mother nearby. The calves stay with the cow until right before she gives birth again, usually in May or June.  Moose are solitary and do not usually gather in large groups (like the wapiti elk), but rather stay in small family groups, usually mother and calf or calves.  The gestation period for a female is 8 months.

Moose Siblings Resting in Snow

These two sibling moose calves (Alces alces shirasi) are resting with mom, who is not far away, along the banks of the still flowing Elk Springs Creek on the refuge in February. Mom is most probably keeping an eye out for wolves.

Moose Droppings

Moose excrement is clearly evident throughout the refuge against the white background of the snow. Compared to elk droppings, moose droppings are larger, lighter in color, and contain more cellulose material. An adult moose eats about 40 to 60 pounds of plants each day. Even with four stomachs--an extremely efficient digestive system—moose defecate several times a day.

Moose (Alces alces shirasi) and Calf in Winter

These moose seemed surprised by the photographer, but conserve energy and do not flee.

Elk (Cervus canadensis)

Grazing in Willow bog. The Elk or wapiti is one of the largest species of deer in the world and one of the largest mammals in North America and eastern Asia.

Elk (Cervus canadensis)

Young bull Elk grazing in Willow bog. Elk have a tendency to do most of their feeding in the mornings and evenings, seeking sheltered areas in between feedings to digest. Their diets vary somewhat depending on the season with native grasses being a year round supplement, tree bark being consumed in winter and forbs and tree sprouts during the summer.

Elk (Cervus canadensis)

As is true for many species of deer, especially those in mountainous regions, elk migrate into areas of higher altitude in the spring, following the retreating snows, and the opposite direction in the fall.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

Pronghorn have adapted to the open plains by developing extremely keen eyesight. Its large, protruding eyes can detect movement up to 4 miles away.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

Besides humans, cougars, wolves, coyotes and bobcats, are the major predators of the pronghorn. Golden eagles have been reported to prey on their fawns.

Pronghorn and Fawn

The mother cleans the fawn to avoid the smell attracting predators.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

The male pronghorn grow prominent horns that shed and regenerate each year. Females have smaller horns that are barely visible.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

The pronghorn rarely live to 15 years old, 10 years being a more normal lifespan.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

Pronghorn with Lower Red Rock Lake in the background.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

Herd of Pronghorn near Lower Red Rock Lake.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) and it's fawn

Pronghorns have a gestation period of 235 days, longer than is typical for North American ungulates. They breed in mid-September, and the doe carries her fawn until late May. 

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) newborn fawn in grass.

Mothers hide their newborns in the grass while eating to avoid predators finding them.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

Fawn suckling its mom along South Valley Road.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)


Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

This group of does is curious about what large and shiny object is being pointed at them by the photographer.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

Pronghorns are the fastest land mammal in North or South America, being able to run up to 60 mph. 

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

Female pronghorn will form nursery groups to have more eyes on the lookout for predators. While watching wildlife, please stop your vehicle to allow the animals time to safely navigate the fences.

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) running.

Please don't chase the pronghorn as they might break a leg.





Small Mammals in the refuge, i.e. badgers, rodents, river otters, squirrels, etc. These smaller mammals help keep the insects, other smaller mammals, and grasses in balance within the refuge. They also provide food for larger mammals and birds. They contribute to the health of the soil for the maintenance of the grasslands.

Badger (Taxidea taxus)

This badger was seen near Lower Red Rock Lake Road. Badgers breed in summer and early fall, but have delayed implantation, with active gestation beginning around February and they give birth to as many as 5 young in early spring.

Badger (Taxidea taxus)

This badger was running up Lower Red Rock Road. They are especially adapted for burrowing, with strong front legs equipped with  well-developed long claws. Their digging abilities are used to pursue and capture ground-dwelling prey. 

Badger (Taxidea taxus)

Badgers are active at night, staying in dens during daylight hours, but are quite often seen at dawn or dusk. During winter they may remain inactive in their burrows for up to a month, although they are not true hibernators. This guy was out during the middle of the day however. 

Least Chipmonk (Tamias minimus) 

These animals are active during the day and eat seeds, berries, nuts, fruits and insects. Predators include hawks, owls and mustelids (weasel family).

American River Otter (Lutra canadensis) swimming

River otters can remain underwater for nearly 4 minutes, swim at speeds approaching 7 m/h, dive to depths nearing 36 feet meters, and travel up to 1200 feet while underwater.

North American River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

These otters travel between the ponds and lakes via the inter-connecting creeks.

North American River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

Fish are a favored food among the otters, but they also eat various amphibians, turtles, and crayfish. There have been reports of river otters eating small mammals as well  such as voles, and even muskrats and beavers.

North American River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

A family of otters playing in Widgeon Pond. Otters like to play together, mostly chasing and wrestling together.

North American River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

The river otter is active year-round and is most active at night and during twilight hours.

North American River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

The mothers raise their young without aid from adult males. When the pups are about two months old, their mother introduces them to the water.

Wyoming Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus elegans)

These squirrels like to hang out at the Upper Lake campground. Their diet is mainly herbivorous. They prefer green foliage, such as grasses and leaves, although these squirrels will also eat shrubs, forbs, flowers, seeds, stems, and roots. 

Wyoming Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus elegans)

Although they live in colonies, they are not highly social - burrows are not shared, for example. An adult female and her female young form a loose social group, but tend not to mix with other females and their litters, nor do they groom each other or display other sociable behaviors.

Wyoming Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus elegans)

Adults can live up to three or four years but only one out of four juveniles survive their first year.

Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

This large rodent hangs around Lower Red Rock Lake dam. Muskrats spend much of their time in the water and are well suited for their semi-aquatic life, both in and out of water. Muskrats can swim under water for 12 to 17 minutes.

Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

The muskrat's name comes from the two scent glands which are found near its tail; they give off a strong 'musky'odor which the muskrat uses to mark its territory.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red foxes are omnivorous and are highly opportunistic. They mainly eat invertebrates, like insects, and earthworms. They also eat plant material, such as berries. Common vertebrate prey includes rodents (such as mice and voles), rabbits, birds, eggs, and fish. 

Fox (Vulpes vulpes) Tracks in the Snow

Fox tracks lead into the featureless snow covered ground on the refuge. Presumably the fox, with its great hearing and smell is looking for rodents that live under the snow in winter.

Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris)

They like to live on rocky slopes, hiding under and in-between the rocks. Thus he is also known as the rock chuck. The marmot is an omnivore, eating grass, leaves, flowers, fruit, grasshoppers, and bird eggs.


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US Fish and Wildlife Service, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana