Yellowstone

Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America's first National Park. Located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, it is home to a large variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk.

Yellowstone is sitting on a large volcanic field that, millions of years ago, had some of the world's largest known eruptions. That legacy makes it the site of the Earth's largest concentration of geysers, including Old Faithful, and some of the world's most extraordinary hot springs.

yellowstone hotspring

People and Yellowstone

People and Yellowstone have a long history. Native American peoples began using Yellowstone as a home or hunting ground around 11,000 years ago. In 1872, when the United States was still a young country, Yellowstone became its first National Park. It is now internationally recognized as one of the world's most magnificent parks. People from all over the world come to enjoy its natural wonders and wildlife.

The Importance of Fire

Yellowstone is an ecosystem adapted to wildfires. Many of its plants have adaptations that help them survive fires, such as having roots that live even if the top of the plant is burnt. Some plants actually need fire to reproduce. Lodgepole pines need fire to burn off the resin that keeps their pinecones closed until fire opens up new spaces in which the pine seedlings can grow.


Wildlife in Yellowstone

Yellowstone is best known for its mammals, including the bison, grizzly bears, gray wolf, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and mountain lion. The park actually has the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states, with 67 different mammal species.

Yellowstone encompasses many different kinds of wildlife habitat, including:

  • Alpine tundra: Dry, rocky, and treeless areas near the tops of mountains. Alpine tundra has low growing plants and a few mammals, such as mountain goats and pika.
  • Mountain meadows: Lush, spongy oases of sedges, wildflowers and shrubs at elevations from about 6,000 to above 11,000 feet. They range from small glades to grasslands of thousands of acres. Because of heavy winter snows, mountain meadows often remain moist throughout the year. Elk, pronghorns and mule deer frequent these habitats.
  • Sage-steppe Grasslands: Treeless areas of grasses, shrubs and herbaceous plants such as wildflowers, with low moisture and seasonal extremes in temperature, in which bison can be found.


Threats to Yellowstone

Boundary Conflicts

When Yellowstone National Park was first established in 1872, the aim was to preserve the geysers and hot springs, not necessarily to protect wide-ranging wildlife that were not well understood at the time. For the big animals that live in Yellowstone National Park today--such as grizzly bear, elk and wolves--it's not clear where the park's boundaries start and stop. Many of these species require wide ranges or migration corridors to get to their breeding sites. The result: wildlife migrates outside of the park boundaries into unprotected areas. The area around Yellowstone is a frequent site of conflict between wildlife and people.

The National Wildlife Federation has a goal of reducing wildlife conflicts in the Yellowstone region. Learn about NWF's Wildlife Conflict Resolution work.

 

National Wildlife Magazine Articles:

A Top Dog Takes Over

Where Have Yellowstone Amphibians Gone?

Rebirth of Yellowstone's Wolves

 

Resources:

USGS Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

Yellowstone National Park

NWF Wildlife Conflict Resolution Program

 

Sources:

USGS Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

Yellowstone National Park  

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