North America: Fascinating Fact Generator

  • Collared pikas (mouse-sized critters related to rabbits) must collect 50 times their own body weight in vegetation to survive the winter.
  • Mountain goats tough out the worst of winter on high mountain peaks over 12,000 feet above sea level, where Arctic winds can reach 100 mph.
  • In spring, mountain goats leap and spin to shake off their heavy winter coats, which help them withstand winter temperatures as low as -50°F.
  • A male bighorn sheep’s huge, curved horns can weigh up to 30 pounds. The horns alone account for 10 percent of the sheep’s body weight.
  • During rut, male bighorn sheep lunge headfirst at one another, colliding head-on with 800 pounds of force – enough to kill most animals.
  • Weighing only 1 oz (28 g), the calliope hummingbird’s migration along the Rockies is the longest per gram of any warm-blooded creature.
  • A wolverine’s sense of smell is so powerful it can detect a frozen animal carcass buried 20 feet beneath the snow.
  • The wolverine has a special tooth that can rotate 90° sideways, allowing it to tear off meat from prey that has been frozen solid.
  • The cougar’s hind legs are proportionally the longest of any cat. It can leap 18 feet up a cliff face and nearly 40 feet across.
  • The cougar has the largest distribution of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, ranging from Canada to the tip of Patagonia.
  • Each year in Labrador, Canada, 28,000 caribou wind their way through the mountains as part of a 3,700-mile annual migration.
  • In preparation for winter, grizzly bears can gain up to 400 pounds. At winter’s end, they will have lost nearly 40% of their body weight.
  • Smell is a grizzly bear's sharpest sense. Its nose is 2,300 times more sensitive than ours and it can smell carrion from 18 miles away.
  • Gray whales travel from the Bering Sea to Mexico and back each year, a 14,000-mile roundtrip that may be the longest mammal migration.
  • Whale blubber, loved by orcas and grizzlies, contains more calories per pound than any other food found in nature.
  • With a summit elevation of 20,320 feet above sea level, Mount McKinley – part of the Denalis – is the highest mountain in North America.
  • The mustangs of the Great Basin Desert are descendants of horses that got loose during Coronado’s famous expedition 450 years ago.
  • Some of the vertical spires found in Monument Valley are the magma cores of ancient volcanoes that once peppered the landscape.
  • Death Valley holds the record for the highest air temperature ever recorded on Earth: 134°F, taken at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913.
  • Death Valley’s Badwater Basin is the lowest point on land in North America: 282 feet below sea level.
  • The Grand Canyon’s highest point, Point Imperial, is over a mile and a half above the canyon floor.
  • Long-tailed manakin males dance together in pairs to attract females, but only the older bird gets to mate.
  • Olive Ridley sea turtles return to land after 15 years at sea, on the very same night, by the thousands, to lay their eggs.
  • Of the half a million Olive Ridley sea turtles that hatch every year, only 5% make it past waiting predators to the safety of the sea.
  • In North America, some 3 billion birds stream north every spring, flying thousands of miles to find food, a mate and to raise a family.
  • Along North America’s Pacific Coast, hundreds of millions of salmon surge into rivers each year, swimming 750 miles inland to spawn.
  • 200 million monarch butterflies flutter across North America each spring, from Mexico to as far north as the Canadian prairie.
  • Bracken Cave near San Antonio, Texas, is home to the largest concentration of mammals on Earth: some 20 million free-tailed bats.
  • Labrador, Canada, is home to one of the greatest migrations on earth: 28,000 caribou that travel 3,700 miles each year in search of food.
  • American black bears evolved in the time of saber-toothed cats, when bedding down in treetops was the safest way to spend the night.
  • In the early 1800s, 30 million bison roamed the American heartland – more than the entire human population of North America at the time.
  • American bison were once hunted to near-extinction. Only 1,000 remained in 1890, down from 30 million bison less than a century earlier.
  • North America’s Great Plains are a sprawling ½ a billion acres of shelterless land stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the North Pole.
  • Each year, over 400 tornadoes rip into North America’s prairies; in the last 50, tornadoes have touched down in virtually every state.
  • North America’s Great Plains are pounded by some of the most powerful storms on the planet, spawning tornadoes with winds up to 200 mph.
  • The largest-ever prairie dog settlement spanned 100 miles in one direction, 250 in the other and was home to 400 million prairie dogs.
  • Prairie dogs have calls to identify specific predators. They may also communicate how big the predator is and how fast it’s approaching.
  • 500,000 years of erosion have shaped the Badlands into a region of razor-sharp ridges and buttes. Temperatures here can climb to 116°F.
  • Ferruginous hawks, which live in arid and semiarid grasslands, shade their hatchlings beneath their 5-foot wings when temperatures soar.
  • Male jumping spiders flirt by dancing. If his dance steps aren’t totally mesmerizing, the female will kill him and slurp his insides out.
  • The pocket gopher has very bad eyesight and is nearly deaf, but can detect even the slightest vibration made by approaching predators.
  • A bobcat will sit and patiently focus on a pocket gopher’s burrow for over 2 hours, waiting for its prey to pop up so it can make a kill.
  • Cranes have been living on North America’s Great Plains for nearly 10 million years. They’re among the oldest living birds on the planet.
  • Nebraska’s sandhill crane is a living fossil. It has 1 of the longest fossil histories of any living bird, dating back 10 million years.
  • North America’s pronghorn can sustain a speed of 60 mph for miles without stopping. A cheetah can only sprint at that speed.
  • Winter is a fight against starvation for the 1-ton American bison, which must consume over 20 pounds of grass a day just to stay alive.
  • In North America’s Great Plains, the northern lights can be seen as far south as Tulsa, OK – further south than anywhere else on Earth.
  • A red fox homes in on the Earth’s magnetic field to fine-tune its pounce, allowing it to target mice stirring 3 feet beneath the snow.
  • Bald eagles will scare flocks of snow geese roosting on an icy lake, then prey on those that break their bones in the mass hysteria.
  • Millions of snow geese head north across the Great Plains each year. Over 200,000 of them can clog a single icy lake at winter’s end.
  • Prairie chickens inflate air sacs on the sides of their neck and snap their tails to impress females.
  • Alaskan grizzlies can give birth on slopes 9,000 feet high. Their newborns must avoid avalanches on their trek to the valley below.
  • An avalanche can pack 36,000 pounds of bone-crushing force as 1 million or more cubic feet of snow slides down the mountain at 90 mph.
  • In North America, 200 billion trees unfurl their leaves and 11,000 species of flower push out of the soil each spring.
  • Manitoba, Canada is home to the largest concentration of snakes on Earth: 30,000 garter snakes, which emerge from the soil each spring.
  • A white-tailed deer mom will feign injury, pretending to be easy prey in order to steer a hungry predator away from her vulnerable fawn.
  • North America’s smallest bird, the calliope hummingbird – which is as light as a penny – migrates up to 5,000 miles each year.
  • The male calliope hummingbird has purple throat feathers that resemble a tempting flower, which he unfurls to attract mates.
  • Each year, over 200 million salmon leave the Pacific Ocean and travel up to 750 miles upriver in the Pacific Northwest to spawn.
  • Years after they’ve hatched, salmon can find their exact birthplace based on smell alone.
  • A spawning salmon’s stomach organs will completely disintegrate to make room for millions of sperm and eggs.
  • Alaskan brown bears have enormous appetites. In spring and summer, they can devour up to 100 pounds of salmon a day.
  • Alaskan brown bears, which rival polar bears as the largest land predators on Earth, can crush a bowling ball between their jaws.
  • In North America, a Kodiak bear was filmed for the first time diving up to 20 feet to catch salmon. Only a few bears know how to do this.
  • The size of a tennis ball, the Yukon’s collared pika needs to collect 30 times its weight in flowers to make it through the winter.
  • The mouse-like collared pika collects the dead bodies of migrating birds and stores them in its “storm cellar” for food during winter.
  • Across the eastern half of North America, over 26 billion oak trees close up shop for the season each fall in an explosion of color.
  • A chipmunk’s cheeks can stretch up to 3 times the size of its head to store nuts. It races to store about 6,000 nuts by end of fall.
  • An acorn woodpecker will drill up to 3,000 holes in a dead oak tree to store nuts. It shifts nuts to smaller holes as they dry out.
  • Woodpeckers slam their beaks against wood with a force 1,000 times that of gravity. That’s 20 times more force than a human can survive.
  • Canada’s Chilkat River hosts the largest concentration of bald eagles on Earth – 30,000 congregate here each year to feast on salmon.
  • The Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania are home to largest wild elk herds east of the Mississippi River.
  • Weighing nearly 60 pounds, the North American beaver is the continent’s largest rodent, second in the world to South America’s capybara.
  • Each spring, spinner and blacktip sharks migrate 1,000 miles up the U.S. Atlantic Coast in one of the planet’s greatest mass migrations.
  • The giant hurricanes that pound North America each year can reach 600 miles across and deliver over 13 trillion gallons of rain.
  • In the last 100 years, hurricanes have hit nearly every inch of North American coastline from Texas to the tip of New England.
  • Two of the largest tectonic plates on Earth collide from California to Alaska, spawning violent earthquakes and steep mountain ranges.
  • In the hidden inlets of Big Sur, California, bobcats prey on seagulls that bathe in crystal clear mountain streams.
  • The first Hollywood movie was shot in Los Angeles, California 100 years ago. Today, the West Coast is home to over 30 million people.
  • The cliffs south of Los Angeles are home to one of the fastest animals on the planet – the peregrine falcon, which can dive at 240 mph.
  • In the waters off California, billions of bioluminescent phytoplankton light up the water, each glimmering for only a tenth of a second.
  • Moon jellyfish aren’t just mindless blobs; they have delicate senses, and some even have complex eyes that help them navigate.
  • At 10 feet wide with 60-foot tentacles, the lion’s mane jellyfish – found off the California coast – is the world’s largest jellyfish.
  • The Bay of Fundy on Canada’s east coast is home to the most extreme tides on Earth. Sea levels here can change by as much as 40 feet.
  • Dolphins along North America’s Mid-Atlantic coast operate as a unit to drive fish to land, a behavior seen nowhere else on the continent.
  • For the past 200,000 years, half a million ancient horseshoe crabs have been coming to the beaches of Delaware to breed.
  • Each year, hundreds of millions of seabirds pass through America’s eastern seaboard – one of the planet’s greatest migration corridors.
  • In summer, 18 trillion mayflies – over 3,000 times the population of people on the planet – take to the air along the Mississippi River.
  • Each year, trillions of mayflies hatch along the Mississippi River, collectively releasing 475,000 tons of protein into the food chain.
  • Every drop of water that falls on two-thirds of the United States, from New York to Yellowstone, flows into the Mississippi.
  • North America’s alligator gar is an ancient fish that can reach 12 feet in length. It gulps air and may even be able to survive on land.
  • Next to crocodiles, American alligators have the strongest bite in the animal kingdom. They can grow over 19 feet and weigh nearly a ton.
  • A Florida manatee’s lungs are two-thirds the length of its body, allowing it to feed underwater for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • In the heat of summer, herds of wild mustangs will walk over 1,000 miles to find waterholes in North America’s Great Basin Desert.
  • Death Valley is the driest area in North America. The amount of rainfall it receives each year would barely fill a coffee cup.
  • The sparse animal life of Death Valley can only support a single 30-pound coyote for every 50 square miles.
  • The cactus is only found in the Americas. It can suck up to 200 gallons of water from a single rainfall and store it for months.
  • Cactus bees have the fastest development cycles of any bee in the world – 2 short weeks, driven by the brief cactus pollination period.
  • 60,000 bolts of lightning strike the Arizona deserts each year. A single bolt can reach 50,000 degrees and generate a billion volts.
  • After releasing their rain, collapsing monsoon clouds in the Southwest can create deadly walls of dust 100 miles wide and 1 mile high.
  • There are thousands of spadefoot frogs buried beneath the desert sands of the American Southwest, waiting for the annual monsoons.
  • Over the past two decades, around half a dozen wild jaguars have returned to the Southwestern deserts of the United States.
  • The American Southwest’s pygmy rabbit is the world’s smallest rabbit. It’s about the size of a soda can and weighs a single pound.
  • The mighty Colorado River has been carving out the mile-deep, 277-mile-long Grand Canyon for some 6 million years.
  • The California condor's 9-foot wingspan is the largest on the continent. This ancient bird is so rare that only 22 remain in the wild.
  • O.D. McKee sold the very first Oatmeal Creme Pie in early 1935. The popular snack was used many years later to launch the Little Debbie brand.
  • The Little Debbie brand was born in 1960. Company founders, O.D. and Ruth McKee, named the product line after their granddaughter, Debbie.
  • The first Little Debbie snacks were sold in a carton of 12 and had a retail price of 49 cents. Twelve cakes would have cost 60 cents if sold separately.
  • The Little Debbie® bow tie has been in use continuously since 1963. A graphic artist decided a red bow tie would look great on the packaging and placed it just above the die-cut opening that was on all of our cartons at the time.
  • The top-selling varieties of Little Debbie snacks are Oatmeal Crème Pies, Swiss Cake Rolls, Nutty Bars Wafer Bars and Honey Buns.
  • If you lined up all the Little Debbie snacks that have been sold over the years, they would cover 9.9 million miles – enough to circle the earth almost 400 times!
  • You could fill the Globe at Epcot Center in Disney World 744 times with all of the snack cakes Little Debbie has sold since 1960.
  • Little Debbie snacks have orbited the earth on the space shuttle, traveling more than 17,500 miles an hour. Little Debbie snacks have been a standard pantry item on space shuttle missions for many years.
  • The first national Little Debbie commercial from the 1980s featured comedian and impersonator Rich Little rapping while posing as Jack Nicholson, George Burns and Crocodile Dundee (Paul Hogan).
  • Little Debbie currently has more than 1 million Facebook fans and close to 20,000 followers on Twitter!
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