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 elks.
Yellowstone is sitting on a large volcanic field that, millions of years ago, had some of the world's largest known eruptions. This 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.
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 and 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.
Yellowstone is best known for its mammals, including the bison, grizzly bears, gray wolves, elks, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and mountain lions. 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. There's the alpine tundras—dry, rocky, and treeless areas near the tops of mountains—that have low-growing plants and a few mammals, such as mountain goats and pika. Other parts of Yellowstone are mountain meadows, which offer lush, spongy oases of sedges, wildflowers, and shrubs at elevations from about 6,000 feet (1,800 kilometers) to above 11,000 feet (3,350 kilometers). They range from small glades to grasslands of thousands of acres. Because of heavy winter snows, mountain meadows often remain moist throughout the year. Elks, pronghorn, and mule deer frequent these habitats. The sagebrush-steppe grasslands provide another type of habitat, in which bison can be found. The grasslands are treeless areas of grasses, shrubs, and herbaceous plants such as wildflowers, with low moisture and seasonal extremes in temperature.
Yellowstone is an ecosystem adapted to wildfires. Many of its plants have adaptations that help them survive fires, such as 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.
When Yellowstone National Park was first established, 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 bears, elks, 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 more about our Wildlife Conflict Resolution work.
Yellowstone, National Park Service
Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, United States Geological Survey
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