Wildlife in Yellowstone

November 05, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Recently, I posted the third photo (of a couple dozen, in all) from a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Those that know me, know that I'm something of a volcano freak so this trip was all about the hydrothermal features of the park. Even though you don't have actual flowing lava, Yellowstone is a tremendously active volcanic site. The actual caldera is approximately 45 miles by 35 miles and is one of the world's largest calderas. There are more than 10,000 hydrothermal features. 10,000! And there are, at least, 500 active geysers in the park. If that's not enough, the park experiences anywhere between 1,000 and 3,000 earthquakes per year. Granted, most of those are never felt as they are microquakes, but it's evidence that the area is very geologically active. Yellowstone is also considered a "supervolcano" -- a volcano capable of incredible power and potential for 1,000 cubic kilometers of lava or greater. Depending upon where you read, Yellowstone is one of three to a half dozen supervolcanoes in North America. The volcano has had at least two incredibly powerful eruptions that would be devastating to us today, but then, that's been over the last couple of million years. She has also had minor eruptions. It's unlikely we have anything to worry about in the near future. Pronghorn resting in a meadow of the Lamar River Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY.Woke Up From Where She LayPronghorn resting in a meadow of the Lamar River Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

So while I was really excited to see all of the features of a living and (almost literally) breathing supervolcano, I was decidedly surprised by all the wildlife. By the end of the week I was really over seeing all the Bison -- with the exception of having to stop for a Bison crossing directly in front the car just a few yards ahead. These are referred to locally as "bison jams". By the end of the week a list of featured animals were crossed off. Bison. Elk. Eagle. Prairie Dog. Black Bear. Moose. Deer. Osprey. Mountain Goat. And a few creatures we couldn't identify. I'm not even sure I'm remembering everything. The one that really stood out to me, though, was the Pronghorn, or Pronghorn Antelope. These creatures are gorgeous to me and don't appear to be very skittish, unlike deer. What is interesting about Pronghorns (or Antilocapra americana) is that they are their own unique species here in North America. In fact, their closest relative is the Giraffe. Huh. Sure wouldn't have expected that! But looking at the snout of Pronghorn there is some similarity with a Giraffe. If you're really curious about these gorgeous but slightly odd creatures PBS has a page that has a lot more detail than I'll cover here. It also includes a map of their range which appears to be a huge swath of the North American interior from southern Canada down to Mexico including the Baja Peninsula.

 

What I learned while I was there (there's hearing/reading things and then there's witnessing things to really drive the point home) is that Yellowstone really does have a vibrant and varying wildlife ecosystem. She boasts 67 species of mammals, 285 species of birds, 16 species of fish, 6 species of reptiles, and 5 species of amphibians. You could easily spend a lifetime trying to spot them all. If you're planning a trip to Yellowstone (which I highly recommend), I suggest making a list of the animals you want to spot and make a game of it. Also, while you can spot many animals from the comforts of your car you have a much greater chance of seeing things by getting out and hiking some of the trails. Even some of the easier trails are more than worth the time. 


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