Changes to Wildlife

Pika in rocks, NPS photo, A. NelsonPtarmigan, NPS photo, Danny OnMt. Goat, NPS photo, J. Giese

Climate change has direct impacts on the movement, migration, and well-being of wildlife. Although there are uncertainties in exactly how climate change will affect different species, some generalizations can be made based on life histories of different species.

Species that are mobile with large geographic ranges, and are more generalists in their diet, are able to tolerate a wide range of climatic conditions, and will likely better adapt to a changing climate. Endemic specialists, such as the pika, are projected to decline as increasing temperatures reduce the alpine range that pikas rely on. A species such as the wolverine, which is dependent on snow for persistent spring snow cover for denning, will have less habitat available as warmer temperatures reduce site availability and connectivity between sites.

The distribution of vegetation will be altered by climate change as well, which will directly alter the availability of wildlife habitat. Community types such as alpine and subalpine spruce-fir are likely to decrease as lower elevation vegetation communities take over these areas in response to warmer, longer growing seasons.