The Japanese Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta japonica) is a subspecies of Rock Ptarmigan which lives commonly in the northern high latitudes. This bird is considered as a survivor of the ice age and it moved to the high mountains of over 2,400m after the ice age had ended. Its population is estimated to be about 3,000 and it is a nationally protected species.

Among the rock ptarmigans in the world, only the Japanese rock ptarmigans are not afraid of human beings. They have never been hunted in Japan because the high mountains used to be considered as sacred place while they are hunted for wild game for food in other countries. However, their natural enemies are increasing due to the global warming. In addition to hawks and stoats, monkeys, foxes and martens are now invading the high mountains. For the defense from the side of the bird, some rock ptarmigans are successfully breeding chicks near by the hiking trails.

I pursued Japanese rock ptarmigans for one year at Murodo of Mount Tate. Though my visits were only 6 times for 11 days in total, Japanese rock ptarmigans showed their beautiful appearance at each season.






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