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Yellowstone Wildlife

Yellowstone Wildlife: Ecology and Natural History of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Paul A. Johnsgard
Photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Yellowstone Wildlife
    Book Description:

    Yellowstone Wildlife is a natural history of the wildlife species that call Yellowstone National Park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem their home. Illustrated with stunning images by renowned wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen, Yellowstone Wildlife describes the lives of species in the park, exploring their habitats from the Grand Tetons to Jackson Hole. From charismatic megafauna like elk, bison, wolves, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears, to smaller mammals like bats, pikas, beavers, and otters, to some of the 279 species of birds, Johnsgard describes the behavior of animals throughout the seasons, with sections on what summer and autumn mean to the wildlife of the park, especially with the intrusion of millions of tourists each year. Enhanced by Mangelsen's wildlife photography, Yellowstone Wildlife reveals the beauty and complexity of these species' intertwined lives and that of Yellowstone's greater ecosystem.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-229-0
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-xi)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xii-xv)
    Paul A. Johnsgard
  5. One History of the Greater Yellowstone Ecoregion
    (pp. 2-11)

    The wrinkled surface of northwestern Wyoming and adjacent Idaho is a complex myriad of mountainous uplifts and basins, of varied ages and origins. In a somewhat fanciful way it resembles the imprint of a raccoon’s right forefoot that, having been pressed into sticky clay, was withdrawn to form a series of ridges and peaks that subsequently solidified into ranges of mountains extending southward from the northwestern corner of Wyoming.

    In this imagined view, the Yellowstone Plateau of northwestern Wyoming represents a gigantic if somewhat fanciful paw print, which rises more than a thousand feet above the surrounding lowlands. The plateau...

  6. Two The Gros Ventre Valley
    (pp. 12-23)

    The highest point in the Wind River Range and indeed all of Wyoming is Gannett Peak, which towers nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. About twenty-five miles north is Three Waters Mountain, an enormous massif whose summits form several miles of the Continental Divide. Its eastern slopes drain into creeks that flow into such famous rivers as the Wind, the Bighorn, the Yellowstone, the Missouri, and the Mississippi. Water draining off its broad, inclined southwestern flanks forms the headwaters of the Green River, which merges with the Colorado and finally empties into the Gulf of California. Water from its northwestern...

  7. Three The Sagebrush Sea
    (pp. 26-35)

    Like a silvery green sheet, the sagebrush flats of Jackson Hole spread almost uninterrupted from the base of the Gros Ventre Mountains to the Teton Range, the slow-growing and long-lived sage providing unspoken testimony to the survival value of longevity and fortitude in a semiarid environment. The species of sagebrush dominating these flats is part of a vegetational type that evolved and spread widely throughout the Intermountain West during the uplift of the Rocky Mountains more than twenty million years ago. Only a few other species of shrubs, mainly rabbitbrush and a few other sagebrush species, manage to compete effectively...

  8. Four The Lamar Valley
    (pp. 36-49)

    The Lamar River has its origins high in the Absaroka Range east of Yellowstone Lake, where it dances down mountain slopes until it encounters Soda Butte Creek. Joining forces, their waters turn west to flow through a broad and mostly unforested valley, the Lamar Valley. During late glacial times this valley was scoured and shaped by a sudden immense surge of water when an upstream ice dam broke, bringing a mix of water, rocks, and mud into the valley. After merging with the Yellowstone River and a few other tributary streams, the now considerably enlarged river finally leaves the northern...

  9. Five The Canyon
    (pp. 50-57)

    The raven’s favorite perch looked out over a canyon that is nearly a half mile wide and some 1,000 feet deep, with tall conifers growing right up to the brink of the steep cliff. From that vantage point, the raven had an uninterrupted view for a mile or more in each direction. At its back was a large parking lot, where tourists would emerge from vehicles, with cameras or binoculars in hand, and sometimes also with candy or various other edible items. It was a warm summer day in mid-July, and the raven preferred to perch in the shade to...

  10. Six The Geyser Basin
    (pp. 58-73)

    The still-blackened snag had two decades previously been a mature lodgepole pine, and its gaunt skeleton was still standing amid the debris of other pines strewn about on the ground like giant toothpicks. It was a stark reminder and relic of a massive wildfire that had enveloped the area in 1988, when more than a third of Yellowstone Park, nearly 800,000 acres, had been consumed by rampaging fires. The most heavily burned areas mainly consisted of ancient lodgepole pines, some up to 200–250 years old, resulting from seeds that had germinated after fires had swept through the region perhaps...

  11. Seven The Willow Flats
    (pp. 74-83)

    As a small flock of greater sandhill cranes flew north out of the National Elk Refuge in late April, they gradually broke up into the four lifelong pairs that had been formed several years before. Two pairs remained on the Elk Refuge to establish territories along Flat Creek, another settled into a beaver pond on a small creek below Teton Point overlook Grand Teton National Park, and a third pair headed for a beaver pond on the lower Buffalo Fork River. The remaining pair continued north to the willow flats just below Jackson Lake dam.

    This table-flat area of willow...

  12. Eight The Pond
    (pp. 84-95)

    Only a few hundred yards east of an elegant hotel overlooking Jackson Lake lies a small, shallow pond in a depression in the glacial moraine. It is annually recharged by snow meltwater, and its outlet into Christian Creek has long been efficiently dammed by beavers. At its deeper southern end an extensive bed of bulrushes fringes the shoreline. The central portion is fairly deep, open water, and the northern end merges into a succession of communities dominated by emergent rushes, low grasses and sedges, and willow thickets. Thus, in a very small area a remarkably diverse and highly productive aquatic...

  13. Nine The Oxbow Bend
    (pp. 96-103)

    From his perch in the tall cottonwood edging the Snake River, the male bald eagle scanned the river downstream toward Oxbow Bend. A half mile away a pair of ospreys was diligently fishing where the river encircles a wooded island and the main channel turns sharply southward along the base of Signal Mountain. Twelve feet below him his mate had just laid her first egg in a gigantic nest of twigs and branches. Both birds were nearly five years old and in full adult plumage. They had selected this nesting site the year before, spent months constructing the nest, and...

  14. Ten The Aspen Island
    (pp. 104-113)

    Like randomly shaped pieces in a gigantic ecological jigsaw puzzle, the aspen groves of Jackson Hole form a series of golden-green islands of various sizes in a matrix of silvery green sage. Sometimes they form a narrow belt between the sagebrush flats and the darker green conifers on the mountain slopes, often growing on low moraine hills shaped by the last glacier about 14,000 years ago. Each aspen grove is virtually an island unto itself, often made up of genetically identical descendants that sprout and spread from the roots of a single seedling. Sometimes a “fairy ring” of young aspens...

  15. Eleven The Spruce Forest
    (pp. 114-121)

    The ruffed grouse moved before dawn from his favorite roost in the aspen grove to his primary drumming log in a dense stand of tall spruce trees. Lying on the moist and still partially snow-covered soil were variably rotted logs of generations past. A carpet of soggy needles cushioned the grouse’s footsteps as he approached the log in the half-light of the mid-May dawn. He lightly jumped onto the smaller end of the log and walked slowly toward its larger portion. A few feet from the end he stopped, turned his body at right angles to the log, placed his...

  16. Twelve The Cirque
    (pp. 122-131)

    The little lake remained tightly icebound in the spring sunshine, even though patches of green were appearing around its edges and white calthas and yellow avalanche lilies were poking their perennially optimistic blossoms through the quickly melting snow. Around the snow-hidden circular lake, named Solitude by some unknown explorer, a spectacular amphitheater rises sharply for nearly 1,000 feet. It closely clasps the lake in its rocky grasp except to the southeast, where the walls open to provide a stunning vista of a triumvirate of massive pinnacles, the Grand Teton, Mount Owen, and Teewinot Mountain. Melting snow and ice from the...

  17. Thirteen The End of Summer
    (pp. 132-135)

    August is the time of warm days and easy living for animals in the Yellowstone region. Mosquitoes that had plagued the birds and large mammals during June and early July disappear, and an abundance of food makes foraging almost a spare-time activity rather than the central preoccupation of life.

    The young pine martens were almost grown and soon began to hunt with their parents. Usually the family was up by dawn, with the young eager to be out. The youngsters delighted in racing up and down an old cottonwood near their den, playing games of tag. At times they jumped...

  18. Fourteen A Yellowstone Autumn
    (pp. 136-143)

    Over the decades of the twentieth century, the populations of elk and bison in Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks progressively increased as wolves, mountain lions, and coyotes were effectively removed, the last Yellowstone wolf having been killed in 1926. The Park Service began killing Yellowstone bison during the 1920s, when the population was rising rapidly, from about 500 in 1920 to about 1,100 by 1930. In 1934 an elk-culling program also began to reduce that population by about 3,000 per year, aiming toward a goal of more ecologically sustainable numbers. Nevertheless, by the 1960s Yellowstone’s northern range was being seriously...

  19. Appendix 1 Observing Wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecoregion
    (pp. 144-161)
  20. Appendix 2 Birds of the Greater Yellowstone Ecoregion
    (pp. 162-169)
  21. Appendix 3 Vertebrates of the Greater Yellowstone Ecoregion
    (pp. 170-197)
  22. Appendix 4 Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Greater Yellowstone Ecoregion
    (pp. 198-199)
  23. Appendix 5 Butterfiles of the Greater Yellowstone Ecoregion
    (pp. 200-203)
  24. Appendix 6 Latin Names Of Plants Mentioned in The Text
    (pp. 204-207)
  25. Bibliographic Notes and References
    (pp. 208-225)
  26. Index
    (pp. 226-228)