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Yellowstone National Park Geography


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Unit One in my interdisciplinary study on Yellowstone National Park.

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Yellowstone National Park Geography

  1. 1. Yellowstone National Park Social Studies Explorer An Expedition into the Geography, History and Economy of The World’s First National Park Miss. Lassiter
  2. 2. “For the benefit and the enjoyment of the people.” Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is the World’s First National Park. It an is a wild wonderland of fire and ice. Yellowstone is home to over half of the world’s thermal features, including Old Faithful. Yellowstone is a place of extreme beauty, solitude and chaos. The Yellowstone Caldera remains one of the most powerful geologic and volcanic systems in the world. Paradoxically the Great Yellowstone Ecosystem fuels a complex diversity of life. The Yellowstone River, which originates in the park is the largest undammed river in the country and is one of the last pristine water systems in the U.S. So grab your binoculars and prepare as we go on a Social Studies tour of Yellowstone, learning about the park’s geography, history, culture and economy.
  3. 3. Unit One: Yellowstone Geography
  4. 4. Yellowstone Geography: A land of fire and ice What is Geography: the study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources, land use, and industries. • Four spheres: the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere • The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be termed the zone of life on earth. It is largely self-regulating (troposphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere (rocky crust)) • Hydrosphere is composed of all the water on or near the earth. This includes the oceans, rivers, lakes and even the moisture in the air. Ninety- seven percent of earth’s water is in the oceans. The remaining three percent is fresh water, three quarters of the fresh water is solid and exists in ice sheets
  5. 5. Yellowstone Geography • Yellowstone National Park is located deep in the wild backcountry of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho in the Northern Rockies. Yellowstone land of fire and ice; a wonderland of chaos and conflict peace and solitude. It is a land of extremes from frigid winters to sublime summers, tranquil alpine lakes and thundering geysers and boiling hot springs. • Yellowstone is one of the earth’s most geographically diverse and dynamic bionetworks. The park is located atop the Yellowstone Plateau and Yellowstone Caldera. The park is crisscrossed by the backbone of the Continental Divide. Yellowstone is home to mountains, valleys and alpine habitats. The park has dozens of microclimates depending on varying factors of volcanic, geographic and geological forces. • Yellowstone’s geography is complex, unique and interconnected. The geography of this land of fire and ice is the crux of flora, fauna and human interactions within the park.
  6. 6. Yellowstone Geography Quick Facts - 96% of the land area in Yellowstone is located within the state of Wyoming. Another 3% is within Montana, with the remaining one percent in Idaho. - Yellowstone is an active supervolcano. - The park is 63 miles north to south and 54 miles west to east by air. - Yellowstone National Park spans 2.2 million acres. In area it is larger than the states of Rhode Island or Delaware. Yellowstone is the second largest national park in the continental U.S. after Death Valley NP in CA - Yellowstone’s geography is a diverse confluence of open forests, rivers and lakes, thermal areas, mountains, canyons and waterfalls - Yellowstone lies on the 45th Parallel - 5 park entrances: Gardiner MT, West Yellowstone MT, Cooke City (Northeast) MT, Eastern Entrance (70 miles west of Cody WY) and the southern entrance from the Tetons (WY)
  7. 7. Quick Facts Continued - YNP is a designated World Heritage Site and designated Biosphere Reserve - Highest Point: 11,358 feet (Eagle Peak - Lowest Point: 5,282 - Approximately 5% of park is covered by water; 15% is grassland; and 80% is forest - Precipitation ranges from 10 inches at the north boundary to 80 inches in the southwest corner - Temperatures at Mammoth Hot Springs (north entrance to park): January: 9 degrees, July: 80 degrees - The park is home to over 67 species of mammals - 3 million people a year visit Yellowstone from around the world! - Yellowstone has over 1000 miles of backcountry trailheads that trek into the diverse topography, allowing visitors to tour the geography of the park on foot.
  8. 8. Yellowstone Volcano • Famous mountain explorer John Bridger called Yellowstone, ‘the place hell bubbled up.’ Yellowstone is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Lewis and Clark Explorer John Colter is the first white man who glimpsed into Yellowstone’s wonders– the stories of lakes of fire and sulfur steam were so astounding people laughed Colter off as a maniac. They nicknamed the land of Yellowstone as ‘Colter’s Hell.’ • Yellowstone’s geothermal activity is fueled by a subterranean hotspot where light, hot molten rock from the mantle rises towards the surface. A series of eruptions 2.1 million, 1.3 million and 640,000 years ago create the majority of geologic and geographic features within the park today. The final eruption caused the Yellowstone Volcano to collapse forming a 30 by 45 mile caldera. The caldera rim is visible around the park, including Fairy Falls in the Lower Geyser Basin region.
  9. 9. Yellowstone Caldera
  10. 10. Hydrothermal Features: • Yellowstone is home to over 10,000 thermal features – over 2/3 of the world’s geothermal activity. Thermal features are concentrated mostly within the boundary of the 30 by 45 mile caldera rim. Geothermal activity is divided into ‘thermal basins.’ • Thermal features within the park include: Geysers, Hot Springs and Fumaroles • A fumarole, also called a steam vent, occurs when a hydrothermal has so little water in its system that the water boils away before reaching the surface. Steam and other gases emerge from the feature's vent, sometimes hissing or whistling. Steam vents are often superheated, with temperatures as high as 238°F • A GEYSER is a hot spring that erupts periodically and forcibly ejects water. Three ingredients are necessary for a geyser to exist: a source of heat, an abundant supply of water, and a special underground plumbing system. Yellowstone is home to over 500 geysers, more than any in the world; including the world’s most powerful geysers Steamboat (Norris Basin), most powerful predictable geyser: Grand Geyser (Upper Basin) and most famous geyser in the park: Old Faithful (Upper Basin)
  11. 11. Hot Springs are the most common hydrothermal features in Yellowstone. Beginning as precipitation, the water of a hot spring seeps through the bedrock underlying Yellowstone and becomes superheated at depth. An open plumbing system allows the hot water to rise back to the surface unimpeded. Convection currents constantly circulate the water, preventing it from getting hot enough to trigger an eruption.
  12. 12. Yellowstone Thermal Features: Life at the Extremes: • Hot Springs Colors Many of the bright colors found in Yellowstone's hydrothermal basins come from "thermophiles" —microorganisms that thrive in hot temperatures. So many individual microorganisms are grouped together—trillions!—that they appear as masses of color. • Different types of thermophiles live at different temperatures within a hot spring and cannot tolerate much cooler or warmer conditions. Yellowstone's hot water systems often show distinct gradations of living, vibrant colors where the temperature limit of one group of microbes is reached, only to be replaced by a different set of thermophiles. • Grand Prismatic Spring is home to millions of living bacteria and is a dynamic ecosystem. Many microbiologists study thermophiles and their ability of adaptation, including cancer research and alternative energy solutions!
  13. 13. Yellowstone’s Geothermal Features demonstrate the interconnectedness of our earth’s geology, geography and social sciences. The geologic forces mold the geography, while the geography affects the biodiversity and human interaction with the land. The economy of Yellowstone is linked strongly to the tourism of the park’s thermal features including Old Faithful. Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in the world. It erupts on average every 90 minutes Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is the world’s second largest hot spring.
  14. 14. Yellowstone Forests - 80% of Yellowstone National Park is covered in forest and the greater Yellowstone ecosystem (stretching from WY to ID to MT) is home to twenty-seven national forests including the Bridger- Teton, Gallatin, Shoshone, Custer and more! - Forests in Yellowstone are complex habitats serving as the lifeblood of the park. The forest ecosystem provides homes for the smallest of park wildlife such as birds and squirrels to Grizzly and Black Bears, Elk, Moose and more. The forest ecosystem is home to hundreds of plant species as well as bugs, microorganisms +++ the forest is interconnected in a circle of life
  15. 15. Forests • The Park is home to seven species of conifer: - Lodgepole Pine - White bark Pine - Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine fir - Douglas-fir - Rocky Mountain Juniper - Limber pine - The park is also home to some deciduous species, including: - Quaking Aspen and Cottonwood
  16. 16. Yellowstone’s forest ecosystem is driven by intervals of fire. Fire is a force of destruction. In 1988 over half of Yellowstone’s forest were consumed by flames. Forestry experts assumed Yellowstone’s vibrant forest ecosystems were lost or marred for centuries. What they learned is extraordinary, the forest naturally reseeded itself. Species such as Lodgepole Pine and Quaking Aspen only reseed during period of extreme heat. Quaking Aspen’s root system is so deep that it begins to regrow from its roots even if its entire forest structure is burned to ash. Yellowstone’s forests are thriving again. Foresters understand that fire is a force of rebirth in the park, allowing the forest to stay healthy – preventing overcrowding of trees, freeing up space for more habitat and allowing for a flourishing diverse ecosystem. The balance of fire and life is a delicate one in Yellowstone Park. Forest Fires act as a force of destruction and rebirth
  17. 17. Yellowstone’s Lakes and Rivers: Yellowstone is a diverse hydrosphere. • Yellowstone’s lakes, rivers, and water systems fuel the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, nourishing the land, flora and fauna.
  18. 18. Yellowstone Lake Yellowstone Lake is the largest body of water in Yellowstone National Park, spanning 136 square miles and 110 miles of shoreline. At an altitude of 7,732 feet , it is the largest high elevation (above 7,000 feet) lake in North America! Yellowstone Lake is home to the native cutthroat trout. Unfortunately the indigenous Cutthroat is being threatened by the invasive non-native Lake trout. Efforts to save the cutthroat trout include scientific studies into spawning grounds and protections, angling (lake trout are caught to remove them from environment). Fishing Bridge used to be a popular spot for fishing, as it lies at the spawning ground of Cutthroat. Over fishing depleted the population. Fishing at Fishing Bridge is now outlawed but it is still a wonderful spot to catch a stunning view of Yellowstone Lake.
  19. 19. • Yellowstone has countless backcountry lakes from the tiniest – Isa Lake, with straddles the Continental Divide, to Heart Lake, and Shoshone Lake, the largest backcountry lake in the lower 48. • Both Heart Lake and Shoshone Lakes are home to isolated thermal features. The hike to Shoshone Geyser Basin is nearly twenty miles roundtrip on foot. Heart Lake Basin can been accessed in a moderate 11 mile RT hike. • Isa Lake is so small it resembles a pond. In truth ‘it is a lake’ that straddles the Continental Divide. Its waters flow to Atlantic and Pacific! Isa is know for its beautiful water lilies in the summer months. (see photo below)
  20. 20. The Yellowstone River - The Yellowstone River is the longest free-flowing river in the continental United States. It traverses over 600 miles of rugged and pristine wilderness from Yellowstone Lake to The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Tower Falls and more. - The Yellowstone River is a tributary of the Missouri River. The Yellowstone is vital to providing moisture from Wyoming to North Dakota’s Badlands. - The Yellowstone River has played a role in forming the landscape of the park, cutting away at canyons including the spectacular Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
  21. 21. MajorYNP rivers include: - Yellowstone - Gallatin - Madison - Firehole - Gibbon - Gardner - Lewis - Shoshone - Snake Each river is vital to the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Each river has its own personality and beauty. You can explore Yellowstone Rivers through backcountry hiking trails, white water rafting and angling Yellowstone is a angler’s paradise. Just remember: ‘Catch and release.’
  22. 22. Yellowstone is a Wonderland of Waterfalls The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone Tower Falls of the Yellowstone
  23. 23. Mountains • Yellowstone’s mountains are part of the Rocky Mountain front. • There are at least 70 named mountain peaks over 8,000 feet in Yellowstone in four mountain ranges. • The Washburn Range and the Red Mountains are completely enclosed in the boundaries of the park. • The Gallatin Range begins approximately 75 miles north of YNP near Bozeman and dominates the northwest corner of the park. • The Absaroka Range, the largest range in the park, begins approximately 80 miles north of the park near Livingston Montana and runs southeast into, then south through the entire eastern side of the park to the Wind River Range in Wyoming.
  24. 24. Yellowstone Canyons • Yellowstone is a land of canyons, each opening a window into the geologic forces of nature that created the spectacular gorges, as well as the geography of the land. Canyons in Yellowstone were carved by erosion, volcanism and glaciation • Yellowstone has dozens of canyons, each with a unique history and striking appearance. The most famous of the park’s canyons is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Other major canyons include: The Black Canyon of the Yellowstone, Lewis Canyon and the Golden Gate (photo below)
  25. 25. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
  26. 26. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Facts: • Formed by volcanism, glaciation, uplift, erosion and the power of the Yellowstone River, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a symphony of nature’s art in motion. It is an awe-inspiring beauty of depth, drama and color. • The Canyon is twenty-four miles long and between 800 and 1,200 feet deep. It has a width ranging from .25 to .75 miles across. • The canyon serves as a habitat for the park’s osprey and eagle populations. Grizzlies, elk and other mammals live on the precipice of the canyon rim in forested areas. • The canyon’s palette of yellows and pinks are stunning, but the canyon’s claim to fame is its breath taking waterfalls. • The Upper Falls of the Yellowstone tumble 109 feet from the canyon wall. The brink of the upper falls marks the junction between a hard rhyolite lava flow and weaker glassy lava that has been more easily eroded and helps form the splendor of the canyon’s color.
  27. 27. The Upper Falls & Brink of the Upper Falls
  28. 28. The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone • The Yellowstone River crashes majestically 308 feet over 590,000 year old Canyon Rhyolite lava flow into the depths of the canyon. • It is the largest volume waterfall in the Rocky Mountains gushing on 8,4000 cubic feet/s at peak runoff • The color, light and sheer drama of the falls inspired painter Thomas Moran who accompanied the Hayden Expedition on 1871 on the first official government sanctioned exploration of the park. His painting of the Lower Falls from the Canyon’s Artist Point convinced Congress to create Yellowstone as the world’s first national park on March 1 1872!
  29. 29. The Lower Falls in Color Thomas Moran’s painting from Artist Point Millions of tourist’s each year take a snapshot of this grand view of the Lower Falls
  30. 30. Valley: an extended depression in the Earth’s surface that is usually bounded by hills or mountains and normally occupied by a river or stream. Valleys are the most common geographical formation on the Earth. Yellowstone’s Valleys are formed by a mix of erosion, glaciation, volcanism and uplift. • Yellowstone is home to a wide array of valleys from hidden leas deep in the backcountry to wide open tracts of vast pristine open spaces. Yellowstone’s Valleys act as arteries to the park’s overall health, providing habitat for the park’s flora and fauna. Valleys are micro-ecosystems within the greater ecological structure and biosphere. Yellowstone’s valleys act as agents of a confluence – transitioning points from mountains to canyons to prairies…as agents of transition they are gathering points for wildlife, geographic and geologic forces and history! A few of the major valleys in Yellowstone include: • Hayden Valley: Located in the heart of Yellowstone located to the west of Yellowstone Lake, east of The Grand Canyon of YNP… • Lamar Valley: Located in the Northeastern corner of the park, isolated by the Beartooth and Absaroka Mountains and Gallatin Ranges. This is one of the most important areas for wildlife in the park • Gibbon Valley: Located amid geysers and hot springs, the Gibbon Valley is a popular spot for elk.
  31. 31. Hayden Valley-The Heart of Yellowstone’s Wild Side - Located in the heart of the Yellowstone Plateau, the valley is a confluence of geography, geology, history and wilderness exploration. It also is home to a few thermal features including the Mud Volcano basin - The Hayden Valley is the largest valley in Yellowstone. - Hayden Valley lies 8,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by 12,000 foot mountains. The Yellowstone River ambles peacefully through the valley before making its way to its chaotic descent into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. - The Hayden Valley is an old lake bed. During the Pinedale glaciation, which ended 14,000 years ago, water from Yellowstone Lake flooded the 17,000 acre valley. Eventually the waters receded exposing the lake bed as a fertile valley with nutrient rich soil to support a diverse mix of wildlife. - Wildlife in Hayden Valley includes: - Bison: in August the largest free roaming bison rut in the world occurs in the valley - Grizzly and Black Bears - Elk - Coyotes - Wolves - And hundreds of birds including Yellowstone’s Trumpeter Swan and Pelicans
  32. 32. Lamar Valley Located in the northeastern corner of Yellowstone, The Lamar Valley is an untouched wilderness marked by its remote solitude, stunning views and abundant wildlife. The Lamar Valley is cut by the Lamar River, a tributary of the mighty Yellowstone River. The Lamar River has dozens of important tributaries including Slough Creek. The open land is sheltered by the towering Beartooth-Absaroka range. This isolation provides abundant moisture from snow melt, while the volcanic ground provides abundant shrubs and berries for wildlife. The Lamar Valley includes echoes of an ancient petrified forest, fossilized rocks are excellent habitats for a number of species. Though often bypassed by tourists, The Lamar Valley is a ‘metropolis’ for wildlife including: bears, foxes, coyotes, bison, pronghorn, elk, moose, smaller rodent species… The most beautiful and controversial species in the Lamar Valley is the Yellowstone Gray Wolf, which was reintroduced to its native park habitat in the 1990s. Ranchers oppose the wolf’s reintroduction, while biologists argue that wolves help strengthen biological diversity in the park and act as important predators in protecting a healthy balance of life in Yellowstone.
  33. 33. Wildlife of Yellowstone • Yellowstone's abundant and diverse wildlife are as famous as its geysers. There are 67 species of mammals including 7 species of native ungulates and 2 species of bears, nearly 300 species of birds, 16 species of fish, 4 species of amphibians, and 5 species of reptiles. In the following slides we’ll be introduced to a few members of Yellowstone’s wildlife population. • Mammals include: • Grizzly and Black Bears • Bighorn Sheep • Mountain Goats • Bison (Buffalo) • Coyote
  34. 34. Yellowstone Wildlife…a living habitat • Wolves • Moose • Elk • Foxes • Uinta Squirrel • Pika • Marmot • Wolverine • Lynx • Bobcat • Mountain Lion • Pronghorn Antelope • +++ many more!
  35. 35. Grizzly Bears - Grizzly Bears are an emblem of Yellowstone, an ambassador of the park’s wild undaunted spirit. - The mighty Grizzly Bear is identifiable by its distinctive hump and the grayish or grizzled tips of its fur. Grizzlies have a terrific sense of smell. - Height: 3 ½ feet at the shoulder - Grizzlies only live in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Washington though their historical range stretched to California and the Great Plains. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is home to over 700 Grizzly Bears - Weight: Male (216-717 lbs.) Female: 200-428 lbs. - Grizzlies can run at speeds of 30 miles per hour. - In spite of their ‘ferocious’ reputation as killers, a grizzly’s diet consists mostly of berries and nuts. They do not attack humans unless provoked, or a bear has become habituated to human food. A fed bear is a dead bear because habituated bears change behavior and become more aggressive. - Grizzlies have a lifespan of twenty-to-thirty years. They have one of the lowest reproductive rates of terrestrial mammals on the continent. Grizzly Bears do not reach sexual maturity until they are four to five years old. - On average females produce two cubs in a litter - A Mother’s Love: Grizzly Mama Bear’s will do anything to protect their young, they raise their cubs for two years
  36. 36. - The grizzly bear is an important force in the ecological make-up of Yellowstone. - The grizzly bear has a mutualistic relationship with fleshy-fruit bear plants. As the grizzly consumes the fruit, the seeds are seeds are dispersed and excreted in a germinal condition. This is an examine of the circle of life in the park from the flora to top of the food chain predator. - While foraging for tree roots, plant bulbs or ground squirrels bears stir up the soil. This increases species richness in alpine soil making nitrogen deep in the soil more readily available for the environment, therefore strengthening the soil and viability of plants in the ecosystem. - Bears are most solitary except during mating season or when they are with their young. - Bears eat elk, moose, pronghorn and other carrion, squirrels and ground rodents. They do not consider humans a source of food and have mutual respect for humans. In fact bears fear humans and try to avoid us. Respect the bear. For bear safety tips check out NPS - Bears hibernate on average for five months a year. Warmer winters are disrupting the delicate balance of a bear’s life cycle in hibernation.
  37. 37. Black Bears • The black bear is the most common and widely distributed bear species in North America. • The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the few areas south of Canada where black bears coexist with the Grizzly Bear. • Black bears can be black, brown, golden and even a reddish brown. So don’t judge a black bear by its color. • Black bears are smaller than Grizzlies, but what they lack in size they make up in agility. Black bears are excellent climbers and are adapted to life in Yellowstone’s forests. Grizzlies are more adept to foraging in open valleys. • Their diet includes rodents, insects, elk calves, cutthroat trout, pine nuts grasses and other vegetation • Black bears have an exceptional sense of smell. They have better eyesight than grizzly bears. • Mate in spring; give birth the following winter to 1-3 cubs • They are true hibernators. While Grizzlies choose to induce hibernation as an adaptation mechanism, Black bears biologically have to hibernate as part of their cycle.
  38. 38. Elk - Yellowstone provides a summer range for an estimated 10,000 – 20,000 elk from 6-7 herds, most of which winter at lower elevations outside the park. These herds provide visitor enjoyment as well as revenue to local economies outside the park. We will go into the tourism economy of Yellowstone in Unit Three of our Expedition - Elk range in forest and forest-edge habitat, feeding on grasses, plants, leaves and bark. They are often found at Mammoth Hot Springs, Gibbon and Sentinel Meadows and around Old Faithful - Male (bull) elk weight around 700 pounds and are five feet at the shoulder. Bulls have antlers, which begin growing in the spring. Female (cow) elk weight 500 pounds and are slightly shorter. Calves average thirty pounds at birth. - The Elk Rut is a dance of romance and ‘insanity’ each autumn in Yellowstone. Bull elk compete for mates and to set up their harem. The sound of the love bugle of a bull elk is truly haunting
  39. 39. Bison: ‘Give me a home where the Buffalo roam!’ • Bison are the largest land-dwelling mammal in North America. Males average 1985 lbs. , while females weigh 1100 lbs. Both males and females are dark chocolate-brown in color with long hair on their forelegs, head and shoulders. Rarely bison are white. White bison are considered sacred to Native American tribes. • Calves are born after nine months of gestation and are reddish-tan at birth, and begin turning brown after 2 ½ months. • Both sexes have relatively short horns that curve upward • All bison have a protruding shoulder hump between five and six feet tall. • Large shoulder and neck muscles allow bison to swing their head side to side to clear snow from foraging patches – making them hardy winter warriors.
  40. 40. - In spite of their size, bison are able to run thirty five miles per hour. They are excellent swimmers as well. - They can jump over objects about five feet high and have excellent hearing, vision and sense smell. - Bison are active during the day and at dusk. - Bison are social animals that often form herds, which appear to be directed by older females. - Bison primarily feed on grasses, sedges and other grass-like plants in open grassland and meadow communities. - They often can be found in the Hayden and Lamar Valleys. - Yellowstone has an estimated population of 4,600 bison in two breeding herds, northern and central.
  41. 41. • Bison overpopulation is a major biological debate as ranchers fear migratory bison will encroach on their rangeland, hurting cattle’s grazing territory and infecting the herd with brucellosis. The NPS has resorted to hazing to quell the natural migration of bison. This is culling practice is based on unsound biological evidence. Bison do not transfer brucellosis to cattle. Elk are known to infect cattle with brucellosis, but elk hunting is critical to the Montana, Idaho and Wyoming economies, leading to a stigma on bison. Bison and Wolves have been social issues in the Greater Yellowstone area based on historical and social prejudices as well as science and research. It is important to research through deductive and inductive reasoning and hear all sides of an argument before making a judgment on Yellowstone issues. Politics often plays a role that contradicts the mission of the park: to protect and to preserve for the people. This is a civics issue for park patrons and public servants. For more information on the Yellowstone Bison controversy: Buffalo Field Campaign ; NPS Bison Management • More info on brucellosis
  42. 42. Yellowstone Gray Wolf Quick Facts: - 26-36 inches high at the shoulder; 4-6 feet long from nose to tail tip - Males weigh 100-130 pounds; females weigh 80-110 pounds - Average lifespan is five to twelve years in the wild - Wolves can be gray, black and white; gray is the most common - There are currently 400-450 wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem - Wolves are able predators who feed primarily on hoofed animals. In Yellowstone, 90% of their winter diet is elk; more deer is summer; eat a variety of smaller mammals like beavers - They mate in February and give birth to average of five pups in April after a gestation period of 63 days; young emerge from the den at 10-14 days old; pack remains at the den for 3-10 weeks unless disturbed.
  43. 43. Yellowstone Wolf Extermination and Restoration • Wolf packs once roamed from the Arctic tundra to Mexico, but a loss of habitat and extermination programs led to their demise throughout most of the United States by the early 1900s. • The gray wolf was an active participant in the complex Yellowstone Ecosystem when the park was founded in 1872. At the time park management was a nascent science and even biologists did not understand how ecosystems are interconnected. • Park officials set out in the 1870s to destroy Yellowstone’s wolf population believing the predator was a danger to the vitality of the park. By the mid-1950s Yellowstone’s wolf population vanished • In the 1960s the National Park Service wildlife management policy changed to allow populations to manage themselves. Many argued that wolves were critical to the ecosystem’s ability to regulate populations of other mammals and create a healthy balance in the park.
  44. 44. Wolf Restoration • In the 1960s and 70s, national awareness of environmental issues brought Yellowstone and other wild lands to the forefront of public policy. In 1973 the Endangered Species Act was passed to help protect at risk wildlife, including all wolf subspecies (1978) in the lower 48 states except Minnesota. • It is NPS policy to restore native species when possible leading to the controversial proposal to reintroduce the wolf into the Yellowstone ecosystem. • Wolves have traditionally been viewed as violent, aggressive predators that feed on livestock. They also hunt elk and other carrion that game hunters target in hunting season. Hunting licenses supply state income. Wolf reintroduction truly is a crossroads of social science issues including geographical impacts of wolves on the land and populations, economic factors (increase in park tourism, decrease in hunting license fee income as elk populations decrease; revenue loss from livestock killed by wolves), and the historical implications of wolves place in the ecosystem. • From 1995 to 1997, 41 wild wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were released in Yellowstone National Park. As expected, wolves from the growing population dispersed to establish territories outside the park where they are less protected from human-caused mortalities. The park helps ensure the species' long-term viability in Greater Yellowstone and has provided a place for research on how wolves may affect many aspects of the ecosystem.
  45. 45. Wolves as prey… • In 2011, Congress gave hunters and trappers in Montana and Idaho the right to hunt wolves that had previously been protected under the Endangered Species Act • 366 wolves were killed in the first year of hunting. • This remains a controversial topic as hunters argue that the elk are dying because of the wolf. Wolf advocates point out that the overpopulation of elk is being naturally culled. Trophy hunters are upset they are not allowed to hunt, since the wolf is controlling the population effectively. • Another valid argument against wolves is their affect on agriculture. The debate will continue • In spite of their big-bad reputation wolves are remarkable creatures, who are loyal, smart, agile and intrepid.
  46. 46. Moose: The Solitary Warrior - Moose are loners by nature who are known for being ‘moody,’ truth is they are just solitary warrior’s who like to keep to themselves. They rarely travel with more than one or two other moose companions, unless caring for their young. - Moose are the second largest mammal in the park after bison, weighing upwards of 1000 pounds! - Moose have a preferred diet of willow, aspen and aquatic plants. - They are excellent swimmers, often seen around marshy areas of meadows, lake shores and along rivers - There are fewer than 200 moose in Yellowstone. The population has declined in the last forty years due to loss of old growth forest, hunting outside the park and predators
  47. 47. Small, but mighty: wildlife that makes Yellowstone tick… - Pika Marmot
  48. 48. Yellowstone birds are wild and varied from migratory to resident birds. The majestic trumpeter swan and dynamic pelican are popular birds in the park Trumpeter Swan Yellowstone Pelican
  49. 49. • PASSPORT STAMP – Geography • We have completed our journey into the geographic wonders of Yellowstone, a land shaped by time, erosion, uplift and volcanism. Yellowstone is a dynamic biosphere, with intricate hydrologic systems, mountains, plateaus, valleys and abundance of life from microbes to the thundering bison. • Next up on our Social Studies trek into Yellowstone, we will step into a time machine and explore the history of Yellowstone National Park
  50. 50. References: • Websites used in this digital presentation include: • • • • All photographs are taken by Adele Lassiter, or free copyright sources from and other license free sources.