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The amazing wildlife of Yellowstone and its comeback

Published
August 27, 2021
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YELLOWSTONE National Park is almost nine thousand square kilometres in area. It straddles the three states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

I was in West Yellowstone, in the state of Montana just west of the national park. I wanted to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a not- for-profit wildlife education centre.

Yellowstone is famous for its rugged natural beauty, cascading waterfalls, sky-high mountains and rocky cliff faces. It’s also home to many animals and birds, including wolves, bison, and of course, grizzly bears.

Native American people have lived in the Yellowstone National Park for over 11,000 years, so there are plenty of historical sites there as well.

High up in the Yellowstone mountain areas grow the whitebark pine trees, an iconic symbol of Yellowstone. I had heard that they were dying off in mass amounts. I thought the Discovery Center would help shed some light on this for me.

The Discovery Center was a great experience, and an awesome way for me to see the wolves and grizzly bears up close — but safely. I admired the commitment the staff had to conservation: they were working on lots of programs.

Another animal I saw there was the bald eagle, the symbol of America.

I hadn’t realised what dire times this magnificent bird had been through as well. It was an endangered species once upon a time. By 1963 it was estimated that there were only around 400 nesting pairs in the whole of the contiguous or ‘lower’ 48 states, that is to say, in the USA apart from Alaska and Hawai‘i. Some of the most significant reasons for the loss of bald eagle population at that time were chemicals in pesticides such as DDT — given prominence in Rachel L. Carson’s 1962 environmental classic Silent Spring, which prophesied a world without birdsong because the birds had perished from the effects of the over-use of pesticides — oil spills, deforestation and the general presence of humans. Since the early 1960s the numbers of bald eagles have recovered greatly, however, and they were removed from the list of endangered species in 2007.

All of this was fascinating to learn about, and well worth the drive to visit. It did make me want to find out if I could see any bald eagles in the wild, so I headed toward Lamar Valley.

Lamar Valley is a significant part of the Yellowstone National Park for wildlife. It supports a vast number of animals and bird life living in the park, including elk, bison, wolves, bears and the Bald eagle.

And so, I continued on to the Lamar Valley and its wildlife. Hopefully, I thought, I will see some of the animals and get some good photos! And I did! But fortunately, before I left through the North Entrance and its historic Roosevelt Arch (named after Theodore Roosevelt, not the other one), I came across the Mammoth Hot Springs, where silica terraces reminded me of the fabled Pink and White Terraces of New Zealand’s Rotorua Region.

The latter were briefly a Yellowstone-like tourist attraction until a huge volcanic eruption buried them in 1886. The risk of volcanic eruptions is something that goes with this sort of geothermal territory in New Zealand and America alike.

I should add, by the way, that the Mammoth Hot Springs were only a part of Yellowstone’s geothermal wonderland, other parts of which, as with Rotorua, are more colourful: painted rainbow colours by red and green algae, yellow sulfur, and clear blue water.

So, get in and see those sights while they are there, they might not be there next year!

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