Wildlife in the National Park
There's an interesting story about the reintroduction of wolves in
Yellowstone after an absence of almost a century. It turns out that
the presence of these top predators puts everybody back in their place. The herds of bison and deer don't feel so safe anymore along the meanders of the rivers and look uphill for places where they are less exposed to wolf attacks. This is good news for the riversides that used to get trampled by the heavy grazers. But also other mammals return to better defined niches: beavers, foxes, small deer all find the best spots to live - and avoid being chased around by wolves, that in turn concentrate on their core business: keeping the herds and groups of mammals free from weak and sick specimens that are a burden on the ecosystem.
• see film on YouTube 'How Wolves Change Rivers' by Sustainable Man
• see also article 'History of wolves in Yellowstone' in Wikipedia
bison herd in Lamar Valley
The first bisons you encounter are pretty impressive. We saw a couple of bulls on our way to Old Faithful. Later on the same day, we saw two herds on the road from Madison to Norris. The next day, we saw lots of them in Lamar valley... too many to be counted!
After a few herds of buffalo, you get a bit 'blazé' and don't get all excited anymore... But there are other big mammals to be spotted: elk for instance. They also think the park is theirs and a gang get together for a siesta on the village green of Mammoth. Park Rangers divert traffic and bystanders while the elk ladies and kids rest on the lawn. An elk male shows himself off near Uncle Tom's Point at the Yellowstone falls. A ranger keeps curious tourists at bay.
Sometimes it seems as if the Tourist office pays Bighorn sheep or Pronghorn deer to appear 'accidentally' on spots were cars pass with nature lovers...
In such vast spaces, it isn't always easy to spot birds. We saw some birds of prey, duck and goose, and also songbirds. Here also, knowing which species is a step too far for our limited knowledge. We just look around and like and love what we see... Let others do the 'name calling'.
ground squirrels near Old Faithful
On a smaller scale, nature abounds with chipmunks and other ground
squirrels that seem to make a sport out of crossing the road right in
front of your car. At resting spots they try to make a living out of begging for food scraps - but for the good of nature conservation you are advised not to feed any animals, nor leave any traces (eatable or not) of your passage.
Plants and flowers
It must be amazing to visit Yellowstone in the Spring, when all the
plants are busy producing flowers after a long cold winter. We came a
bit too late for this show, but still found fields full of yellow stars of Arnica
, small tufts of Phlox
, and pink stars of kind of desert flowers. My knowledge of 'European' botany isn't of much use here, at the most I can pinpoint the name of the family, maybe sometimes a genus name.