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The Great Rocky Mountain Nature Factbook

"A number of sidebars scattered through the book really are gratifying. Take the one on salamanders and lizards. Ewing explains the difference and what the difference means. . . . Reading about earthquakes? There is a sidebar on the Richter and Mercalli scales: Richter is objective while Mercalli is subjective. And take the section on mayflies. It's complete and factual yet simple enough to be understandable."

--Great Falls Tribune

From the introduction

I didn’t grow up in the Rockies, but I’ve been growing since I arrived in 1992—finding my own niche on the east side of the Continental Divide among aspen and arrowleaf balsamroot, watching red squirrels and ruffed grouse come and go. Living here has taught me things about my place in the world—the natural world and human society—that I hadn’t learned in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest, my homes since early adulthood. It hasn’t been all comfortable, especially the human society part. I’ve had to come to terms with my own presence here, in the face of diminishing wildlife habitats and human pressures on wildlands.

An old saying goes, if a pine needle falls in the woods, the eagle sees it, the bear smells it, and the deer hears it. That holds true in spades if the deer is Odocoileus hemionus—a species Lewis and Clark referred to as “mule deer” in reference to the animal’s large ears. We still call them mule deer, and they remain a treasured presence in the Rocky Mountains. . .

Snow flea
It’s enough to make you itch under your long johns: a zillion snow fleas peppering the snow, bucking like tiny broncos. But don’t worry; they aren’t really fleas and they couldn’t care less about you or your dog. Snow fleas are in the Collembola, or springtail, order. These minute, wingless insects have a forklike peg, called a furcula, on their underside, held in tension by a catch. It works like a sort of built-in catapult. . .

When is a berry not a berry? When it’s a cone. Those little blue berries on the Rocky Mountain juniper are actually seed-bearing cones that take two years to ripen. At the end of the first summer, the new cones are green and very bitter. Check again at the end of the second summer, and you should find a frosty-looking, ripe, blue cone about the size of a pea. Look closely on the surface for two or more little points, equivalent to the sharp tips of pine cone scales. . .