The World’s first National Park – America’s very own Yellowstone National Park. Established in 1872, this park beams with boiling hot springs, fumaroles, mud spots, and geysers. Beyond the geography it carries a vast selection of animals such as: elk, bison, black bears, grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, moose, trumpeter swans, white pelicans, ospreys, eagles, and my personal favorite ~ the Yellowstone wolves. More about these guys later…
This park has five main entrances and spans throughout Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. It is a wild landscape that is constantly in motion and changes drastically as you move through all 3,742 miles of it. This park is endless. Between rivers, valleys, mountains, and gorges there is plenty of areas to hike and explore the beautiful animals that call Yellowstone their home.
Yellowstone hosts the largest wild bison herd, and believe me, they are everywhere. I even saw them slowly strut through campsites. No worries, no cares. Visitors think they are big fluffy sweethearts, but they are the most dangerous animal in the park. And they can cause a very long, and boring traffic jam.
The Grizzlies are also very dangerous, however if you are smart your chances of getting mauled will be extremely low. Make noise while hiking, don’t run, and DEFINITELY carry bear spray – the stories we heard on our 3 week trip through the Rocky Mountains were not pretty.
We did a private bear/wolf tour while we there, although expensive, it was worth every penny. Since we were there in late July it slimmed our chances of sightings due to the excessive heat. We did not see any bear unfortunately, but we DID see wolves. More particularly a giant black wolf that reminded me of Adicous (my most handsome German Shepherd). He stood tall, with a muscular body while keeping watch over his carcass. We had to spot him through a scope, so even my 400 mm lens wasn’t able to catch him. But he left us breathless. I couldn’t believe we had found him.
The Yellowstone wolves are a strong point of controversy ever since coming to the park in 1995. They all came from Alberta, Canada, with the first pack of 8 wolves from Jasper Park. Biologists of Yellowstone thought the park needed the wolves, whom had been absent from its ecosystem for over 70 years. Yet the ranchers that live on the outskirts of the park were not thrilled. Many people are not thrilled. Once those wolves roam outside the park they are no longer protected, and since they are free animals, sadly a couple have been shot once outside the boundaries
These exquisite grey wolves were game changers for Yellowstone Park, they became a historical benchmark and a scientific study that still baffles many to this day. With the absence of wolves for over 7 decades the deer/elk population grew out of control. Even through hunting efforts they could not be controlled, and they reduced vegetation to almost nothing. Once the wolves came they cut down the populations – obviously.
But that’s not all.
By reducing the rampant deer community, and driving them out of the valleys, the land started to regenerate. Trees began growing higher, birds came back to the trees, beavers became more abundant. Before the wolves there was one beaver colony, now there are 9. Who cares about beavers….well their dams provide their own unique ecosystems in the rivers for otters, muskrats, ducks and fish.
The wolves also started killing coyotes, so the number of rabbits and mice began to rise, bringing more eagles, hawks and weasels, and badgers. The carcasses the wolves left became food for eagles and bears. The bears also had more berries to eat due to vegetation regrowth.
AND that still wasn’t everything…
The reintroduction of wolves changed the waters, rivers, and streams of Yellowstone. The regenerating forests stabilized the river banks so they collapsed less often, and were more fixed in their course, causing less soil erosion. These magnificent creatures changed not only the ecosystem but the land geography as well.
So many circles of life reborn, all because Yellowstone reintroduced the wolves.
To read my full guide on Yellowstone click here.