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Grizzlies and Pronghorns and Wolves, oh my!


Grizzly bears don’t only need lots of space to roam—they also need to be able to feed themselves! As Scientists in the Field author Mary Kay Carson explores in Park Scientists, this isn’t always an easy task, even in vast expanses of wilderness like Yellowstone National Park. Keeping bears and humans safe from one another is a constant challenge, especially since “grizzlies used to feed regularly in dumps,” she writes. Still, as Carson puts it, “Yellowstone ended up a last refuge for many wild animals….Today it’s the only place in North America where all the continent’s major predators can be found together.”

But how can the Yellowstone wilderness sustain all of these major predators? In their new contribution to the National Geographic Live series, “Photographing Animal Migrations, the Heartbeat of Yellowstone,” National Geographic photographer Joe Riis and wildlife ecologist Arthur Middleton have shown us just how large that ecosystem really is! Their presentation delivers a fascinating new look at the far-reaching migration patterns of pronghorn, elk, and deer, and the long miles they travel to munch on fresh grass in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem each summer.

As the National Geographic Live caption describes, “The successful comeback of wolves and bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have been in large part thanks to the migration of pronghorn and elk that roam the vast landscapes.” Indeed, the challenging process of sustaining a healthy grizzly population in Yellowstone, as well as reintroducing the endangered Gray Wolf—an amazing journey chronicled in Scientists in the Field’s Once a Wolf, by Stephen R. Swinburne—has depended heavily on these migrations, and both Riis and Middleton have delivered new information that can help us better understand this fascinating connection.

Perhaps most importantly, Riis’ photos and video footage document the ways humans have affected these ancient migration paths: roadways, fences, and cattle are all hazards to the elk and pronghorn. Definitely check out “Photographing Animal Migrations, the Heartbeat of Yellowstone,” then pick up Once a Wolf and Park Scientists for more info on the predators of Yellowstone!

by Harriet Low

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