Yellowstone, the world's first national park, is known for its geysers, Hot Springs, and magnificent landscapes. It's also home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states, including these five animals that were in the park:
Perhaps no animal is more iconic to Yellowstone than the gray wolf. Each of Yellowstone's wolf packs consists of around 10 wolves. These social animals how to communicate with other members of their own pack and to indicate their territory to rival packs. Pack members work together to hunt large prey in the winter time. Elk make up over 90% of their diet. A single wolf pack can kill upwards of 20 elk over the course of one month. Elk are one of the seven native ungulate species in Yellowstone, and they are the most abundant, with an estimated population of 10 to 20 thousand animals in summer months.
Male elk, known as bulls, are easily distinguished by their antlers, which they drop and regrow each year. A healthy bull's antlers are just under six feet wide. During mating or rutting season, males use their antlers to fight one another over females.
An estimated 150 grizzly bears call Yellowstone home. After they emerge from hibernation in the spring, grizzlies will feed on elk, bison, and other ungulates, as well as a variety of plants. A female will give birth to up to 3 cubs at a time. The drive to protect and feed her little ones may put her claw to paw with some of the park's other top predators, as well as male bears. She'll raise her young on average for a little over two years before sending them off to live on their own in Yellowstone's wilderness.
Nearly 5,000 bison inhabit Yellowstone. The park is the only place in the lower 48 where bison have roamed freely since prehistoric times. Males can stand over six feet tall and weigh up to one ton, making bison the largest land mammal in North America. Despite their size, bison are agile and can run over 30 miles per hour, an advantage when they're being chased by Yellowstone's predators. Bison calves are ready to run and keep up with the herd within hours of birth. Their orange-red fur has earned them the nickname "red dogs." A young bison's hair turns to the classic chocolate brown color within a few months.
North American River Otter
While many of Yellowstone's other iconic animals roam on land, river otters spend much of their time in the park's lakes and rivers. Yellowstone's thermal features keep its waters from freezing over, allowing otters year-round access. Otters have two young per litter. Females act as the sole parent and enjoy playing with their young in and around the water. Playtime also helps otters learn survival skills. And the water isn't just a big otter playground, but a food source as well. Otters propel themselves through the water with powerful tails and flexible bodies, enabling them to catch fish like these native Yellowstone trout.
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