Coniferous forests are found in both the northern and southern regions of the world. Northern coniferous forests are located just below the tundra, and are called taiga. Vegetation there consists primarily of conifers, or those trees that bear needles and cones, such as pine, fir, and spruce. These hardy trees grow tall and close together, shading the forest floor. Even so, some grasses, vines, lichens, mosses, ferns and a few shrubs manage to grow in areas that receive some sunlight. In the more southern coniferous forests, cedars, cypresses, and redwoods grow. Animals that make this their home have adapted to the severe winters, heavy snowfalls, and warm, moist summer months in the more northern regions, through a variety of methods.
A northern coniferous forest can be an inhospitable place in winter for animals. The temperature can easily drop to well below zero, and food is scarce. Snow may cover the landscape for six months at a time. Some of the inhabitants live there only in the summer, migrating south during the colder, snowier periods of the year. Those animals that make the coniferous forest their home are herbivorous, carnivorous, or both. In the U.S., Canada and Russia, some of these include moose, elk, caribou, deer, wild boar, black bears, grizzly bears, bobcats, lynx, wolves, foxes, beavers, river otters, hares, mice, voles and wolverines. Bears, which make these forests their home all year, have adapted by hibernating during the harsh winter months. Hares and foxes develop thick winter coats, and elk, caribou and deer exist on whatever mosses and lichens can be found.
Because of the scarcity of vegetation, most of the birds living in the northern coniferous forest are birds of prey, feeding on rodents or fish throughout the year and berries during the summer. Many migrate south out of the forest area during the winter. Bald eagles, long eared owls, ospreys, falcons, and hawks call this home for at least part of the year. Reptiles are relatively scarce in this climate because of the cold winter temperatures, however, there are insects, many of which are still unclassified.
Even in this seemingly harsh environment, wildlife abounds, adapts and manages to survive when their lives are not encroached on by civilization. Unfortunately, a few of these coniferous forest animals are on the endangered species list, including the grizzly bear, spotted owl, woodland caribou, Siberian tiger and Siberian crane.