June 15, 2024
A herd of elephants standing next to a body of water

Welcome to Yosemite National Park which spans across1200 square miles in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. Since the days of the Ahwahneechee Indians, that lived on the land for generations to the European settlers in the early 1800’s, 3.5 million people have entered through the gates of Yosemite to experience, explore, and be amazed at the beauty, vast wilderness and the many things to see and do at Yosemite. One of the most significant and underestimated examples of diversity, beauty and amazement is brought together by the plethora of wildlife that exists at Yosemite.

Though Yosemite is teeming with life, much of the wildlife, associated with Yosemite, goes unnoticed and hidden from eye. Many animals remain evasive to us, knowing we are there, watching us, inquisitive though we don’t realize they are there. I guess that is part of the fascination and uniqueness of Yosemite. Yosemite is ever changing, evident in the power and strength of the waterfalls and waterways that carve their niche in the limestone and granite rock, like a hot knife through butter. Evident in the works of mother nature as she paints a different landscape with each spring flood or the fact that El Capitan and other granite mountains continue to reach for the stars by growing taller each year, and then there are the two Glacier’s, Maclure and Lyell that are still intact. With over 250 species of vertebrates, various insects and spiders coinciding with the fact that many of these diverse animals live within their own elevational gradient with their own set of topographical restraints affords you the ability to see different wildlife scenarios portrayed each and every time you visit Yosemite.

Depending on where you are at a give time at a particular area of Yosemite, wild life will be found because of the abundance and diversity of wildlife that exists. The low elevation climates, diverse flora, warmer temperatures and mixed coniferous forests associated with the western boundary of Yosemite affords the greatest chances of wild life to be seen as well as the biggest variety. From carnivore to lagomorph, from marsupial to insectivore, bats to hoofed animals, you will definitely be able to experience a diverse and amazing share of wildlife here at Yosemite with one little rodent, the Mount Lyell Shrew, being endemic to Yosemite. Their is also the Lyell salamander, that is also endemic to the region. Unfortunately, life does not come without its sadness, as three animals have become extinct that used to reside here within historical record time and another 37 species of animals have special status and are on the list of endangered species for California or Federal legislation. The once encountered Grizzly Bear was last seen in Yosemite back in the early 1920’s when the last one was shot and killed. The Wolverine and Sierra Nevada Red Fox have become extremely rare and sightings have been few and far between.

In the lowlands of Yosemite, expect to see many species of mammals from the Virginia Opossum(only marsupial), seven species of shrew and one specie of mole, beaver, three varieties of hare, one specie of rabbit and the Pika. 17 species of bats and 19 different kinds of carnivores can also be encountered. Likely bat encounters are with the Western Mastiff and the Spotted Bat, which are the only two species of bat that are recognized by humans based on their high pitched frequency. Yosemite does not go without its share of reptilian or amphibian life with or without legs. Mountain King snakes, Gilbert’s Skink, Rattlesnakes, California Newt, Red and Yellow legged frogs, western wood turtle, coast horned, western fence, northern ans southern alligator lizards can also be see periodically. Various cowbirds, owls, songbirds and wood peckers, Peregrine Falcons, species of hawks and eagles as well. The Rainbow trout is the only fish species native to Yosemite, though now Brook and Brown Trout have been introduced. Their is much debate over whether or not, the introduction of trout to various water ways and ponds has had an adverse effect on plant life and certain species of frogs that have been dwindling in number over the past few years.

Carnivorous animals like the black bear, mountain lion, raccoon, gray fox, bobcat, weasel, skunk and coyote are fairly common, especially in the low land coniferous forest, meadow and foothill areas. As you get into the higher elevations, wildlife becomes less as does the variety of plant life and trees. Fir, hemlocks and pine trees become increasingly common in the upper montane and subalpine forests as the summers are shorter and warm temperature are less. Rubber Boas, fence and alligator lizards, chickaree, golden mantled ground squirrel, hermit thrush and goshawk are better suited for the higher elevations. The alpine zone which begins at 9000 feet is a very harsh environment with limited oxygen, hence their are no trees residing in this region, just herbal plants and such that grow in between granite rock outcroppings. This extreme region also has a few animals that do just fine here. The Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep, Pika, white-tailed hare, Yellow-bellied Marmot, Rosy Finch, and Clark’s nutcracker are associated with this harsh climate with reduced growing season and serious snow fall for much of the year.

So for all you nature lovers, hikers, rock climbers, day trippers and vacation goers, enjoy the scenery, history, vegetation and each other in this wonderful and picturesque park, but remember that their is wildlife all around you! Though you may not see them, chances are, they see you. By taking the time to research all the beautiful wildlife that exists here at Yosemite, their husbandry and distinct residence within the park, you can truly appreciate and see Yosemite for what it really is.