Mammals hold a special place in our perception of wild nature. They warm our hearts, inspire our imaginations, and thrill our senses. They are big and small, inquisitive and reclusive. They are always engaging and thrilling to see. The sixty-one species of mammals that live beneath the towering peaks of the Teton Range in Grand Teton National Park are no exception. They are found in each of the four major habitats in the park: the alpine, coniferous forests, sagebrush flats, and wetlands, and in each they have secured a place for themselves that has allowed them to live and prosper no matter what the conditions. Mammals share two characteristics that make them unique among the world's animals: they have hair, and they nurse their young.
In addition, there are several other characteristics that have allowed mammals to live successfully in almost any habitat. First, mammals are warm-blooded. They rely on metabolism to maintain a constant body temperature instead of depending on the environment to keep them warm. This allows mammals to live in areas that cold-blooded animals cannot tolerate. Secondly, mammals have well-developed sensory systems and specialized tooth structures that allow them to find and eat different foods depending on their requirements. Also, different modes of travel, such as climbing, swimming, running, gliding, and flying, have allowed mammals to inhabit a variety of niches in every ecosystem. Finally, mammals stress quality over quantity in regard to reproduction. Instead of utilizing energy to produce vast numbers of offspring, mammals instead produce a smaller number of young and concentrate their efforts on ensuring the survival and success of those young. Thanks to a combination of these characteristics, mammals have successfully adapted to almost every environment found on Earth.
In Grand Teton National Park, mammals make up the largest part of the wildlife that people travel hundreds of miles to see. Large ungulates like moose, elk, mule deer, bison, and pronghorn are commonly seen from roadside vantage points. However, large predatory mammals like grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, and mountain lions are often more sought after sightings. Uinta ground squirrels, least chipmunks, and red squirrels tend to show up where ever you go in the park, but you'll have to keep your eyes open to find less commonly viewed mammals like badgers, pine martens, long-tailed weasels, and wolverines. In rocky regions, pikas, yellow-bellied marmots, and golden mantled ground squirrels will probably cross your path, and in the waters of Grand Teton National Park, you may be lucky enough to spy a muskrat, beaver, or river otter. No matter where you go in Grand Teton National Park, a mammal will not be far away. Their success in adapting to a variety of conditions has made their dispersal throughout the park possible, and their ubiquitous presence in Grand Teton National Park has made this beautiful place even more exciting and rewarding to visit.