Animals in U.S. National Parks

Animals in U.S. National Parks
The national parks of the United States harbor some of the most diverse and plentiful wildlife populations remaining in the country. For many species, the parks play a major role in conservation by providing refuge in the face of over-hunting and habitat loss, and a source population for range expansion. Many of the most charismatic, imperiled and unique species have come to symbolize the parks they inhabit.

Florida Panther

The Florida Panther is a subspecies of the widespread mountain lion or puma, but compared to them its population has been precariously reduced. Its stronghold is south Florida, especially the Everglades National Park and the adjoining Big Cypress National Preserve, where it haunts pine rocklands, cypress strands and other subtropical wilds.

Grizzly Bear

Grizzlie--one of the most formidable beasts in North Americ--may be found in Alaska, where they remain common, North Cascades National Park in Washington, Glacier National Park in Montana, and Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in Wyoming. Grizzlies in the often-harsh landscapes of the continental interior generally weigh between 300 and 700 pounds; those in richer habitats of coastal British Columbia and especially Alaska may approach a ton in weight.

Black-footed Ferret

This beautiful member of the weasel family was believed extinct in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains until 1981, when a relict population was discovered near Meeteetse, Wyoming. Since then, captive breeding programs and reintroductions have slowly bolstered the wild population. Today, black-footed ferrets, lithe and dark-masked, hunt prairie dogs in the grasslands of Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

Desert Bighorn Sheep

About 13,000 Desert Bighorn sheep inhabit the southwestern United States, heraldic lords of high arid ranges and labyrinthine canyons. Beleaguered by diseases introduced by non-native livestock--including domestic sheep--Desert Bighorns find refuge in national parks, including California's Joshua Tree, where several hundred roam in a few distinct bands, and in Death Valley, one of the harshest environments in the country.

American Bison

The image of an American Bison on the insignia of the National Park Service symbolizes this great shaggy beast's importance to the country's natural heritage. Nearly driven to extinction by sport and market hunting (for bones, leather and several national parks: meat) in the 18th century, bison have been nursed back to ecological health. They now roam many public and private lands, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Wind Cave, Theodore Roosevelt and Badlands National Parks.

American Crocodile

The American crocodile, which can reach 20 feet in length, inhabits parts of Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean, and a small area of the U.S. in the Everglades and Florida Keys. Cold temperatures restrict the croc's range in contrast to its more common relative, the American alligator. Look for American crocodiles in Everglades National Park (especially the shore and offshore keys of Florida Bay) and Biscayne National Park.

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter swans are the heaviest waterfowl species in North America, sometimes weighing over 30 pounds. With a wingspan of nearly seven feet, these are striking birds indeed. Once widespread across the western and northern reaches of the continent, trumpeter swans were heavily hunted for their feathers from the 17th through 19th centuries. Conservation efforts have paid off, however, and this giant swan's numbers are on the rise. Populations in the Rockies recovered partly because of the refuge of Yellowstone National Park, which has long supported year-round flocks. Breeding and migratory populations can be observed in other preserves, including Denali.

Article Written By Ethan Schowalter-Hay

Ethan Schowalter-Hay is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written for the "Observer," the Bureau of Land Management and various online publishers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.

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