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Wildlife Watching in America's National Parks

A Seasonal Guide

Gary W. Vequist

Publication Year: 2013

From the Great Smoky Mountains to Point Reyes National Seashore, America’s national parks are home to some of nature’s great wildlife spectacles. Here, Gary W. Vequist and Daniel S. Licht, two veterans of the National Park Service, focus on twelve animals that have been imperiled and at risk, but are now protected within the National Park System.

Showcasing one species for each month of the year, including gray wolf, black bear, prairie dog, sea turtle, bison, bats, salmon, elk, beaver, American alligator, gray whale, and bald eagle, Vequist and Licht pair each premier species with a featured park, adding information about other parks where the species may also be readily seen and identifying other animals to look for in the same habitat—animals that prey, are preyed upon, or exist side by side with the focal species.

Beyond being a guide to observing these remarkable animals, Wildlife Watching in America’s National Parks, as the title implies, is also a book about America’s national parks. Reminding Americans why national parks are truly our “best idea” and encouraging readers to go find out why, these career wildlife specialists stress that it is “impossible to fathom America without these animals and without the parks in which they reside.”

Nature lovers, travelers, and outdoor hobbyists of all types will be enthralled by this inside view of America’s wildlife and the breathtaking photographs of places they inhabit.

List of Wildlife and Parks Featured:
Yellowstone National Park: Gray Wolf
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Black Bear
Badlands National Park: Prairie Dog
Dry Tortugas National Park: Sea Turtle
Theodore Roosevelt National Park: Plains Bison
Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Bats
Olympic National Park: Pacific Salmon
Buffalo National River: Rocky Mountain Elk
Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Beaver
Everglades National Park: American Alligator
Point Reyes National Seashore: Gray Whale

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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p. 1-1


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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

The idea for this book surfaced while observing an evening flight of bats at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. A small gathering of people watched in awe as wave after wave of bats exited the cave, circled overhead in the fading light, and then disappeared into the night sky. ...

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Introduction: Wildlife in National Parks

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pp. 1-16

George Catlin and other nineteenth-century painters, photographers, and authors helped popularize America’s western frontier. To urban Easterners, the images and stories from these frontier artists inspired romantic visions of majestic mountains, vast prairies, and pristine streams, ...

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pp. 17-20

Throughout the land there may be no better season to view wildlife than spring. In much of the country the long winter silence is now filled with the chorus of frogs, the singing of birds, and the buzzing of insects, all excitedly hoping to reproduce and continue the circle of life. ...

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1. March—Gray Wolves of Yellowstone

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pp. 21-37

Even in March most of Yellowstone National Park is still covered in deep snow. Although the days are getting longer and the sun is getting higher, spring still seems to take forever to come to the land, at least for some of the park’s residents. At this time of the year, perched between the seasons, life hangs in the balance for the elk, bison, ...

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2. April—Black Bears of the Great Smoky Mountains

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pp. 38-53

Black bears are generally a difficult animal to see. In most of North America they prefer the deep, dark forests and tend to be more active at night. In places where they are hunted they can become even more reclusive. Yet in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in April the bears are relatively easy to see ...

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3. May—Prairie Dogs of the Badlands

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pp. 54-68

In the month of May the North American prairie comes alive. Larks and other birds have returned and are singing from sunup to sundown. Wildflowers are in full bloom, with new species emerging every day. And the butterflies and other pollinators are busy doing their priceless work. ...

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pp. 69-72

Summer is the season of peak visitation in most national parks. This is especially true in many of the more famous parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Shenandoah, where the campgrounds are full, visitor centers are crowded, and wildlife “jams” are frequent. Yet some great national park units are mostly undiscovered by the masses. ...

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4. June—Sea Turtles of the Dry Tortugas

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pp. 73-88

There are few experiences as serene, as calm, and—somewhat paradoxically— as exhilarating as being underwater and watching a sea turtle effortlessly swimming through a turquoise sea. These animals exemplify peacefulness as they glide through an underwater world we can only visit. ...

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5. July—American Bison of Theodore Roosevelt

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pp. 89-103

“We landed, ascended the bank, and entered a small skirting of trees and shrubs that separated the river from an extensive plain. On gaining a view of it, such a scene opened to us as will fall to the lot of few travelers to witness. This plain was literally covered with buffaloes as far as we could see, ...

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6. August—Bats in Carlsbad Caverns

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pp. 104-114

The sweltering desert landscape of the American Southwest may not seem like an ideal wildlife-watching destination in August. But within the caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico the temperatures can run 20–40 degrees cooler than the outside desert. That cool subterranean climate is ideal for the hundreds of thousands of Brazilian ...

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pp. 115-117

Fall brings some of the year’s most exhilarating wildlife-viewing opportunities. In some places, such as the deciduous forests of the Midwest and New England, fall comes with a burst of color as leaves turn golden yellow, brilliant orange, and deep scarlet, providing a picturesque backdrop for wildlife viewing. ...

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7. September—Pacific Salmon of the Olympics

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pp. 118-129

An adage attributed to Chief Seattle goes, “all things are connected, this we know.” Perhaps no animal epitomizes this connectivity more than the five species of salmon. They start their life as small fry far inland in tiny freshwater streams. At this stage of their life much of the food they feed on comes, either directly or indirectly, from the surrounding uplands. ...

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8. October—Elk of Buffalo River

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pp. 130-141

In terms of photographic appeal there may be no animal in North America more sought after and more impressive than the North American elk in autumn. The adult males, known as bulls, carry their massive antlers proudly and regally. They use the enormous antlers to thrash small trees and to send clods of earth flying, ...

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9. November—Beaver of Cuyahoga River Valley

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pp. 142-158

Cuyahoga Valley National Park—located in northeastern Ohio just a half hour from the Cleveland metropolitan area and millions of people—is one of the newest parks in the National Park System. Surprisingly, even an “urban” park such as Cuyahoga Valley can conserve wildlife and provide quality wildlife-watching experiences. ...

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pp. 159-162

There is always something fascinating to discover in America’s national parks. This holds true even in winter. Undeniably, in many northern parks the harsh winters and icy roads can test the wildlife observers’ dedication, just as winter tests the perseverance of the mammals and birds that brave the inclement weather. ...

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10. December—American Alligators of the Everglades

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pp. 163-175

Winter in the Everglades sounds like an oxymoron, but there is indeed a noticeable winter season. Instead of snow and subfreezing temperatures, relative dryness and pleasant temperatures characterize the region (versus the steamy heat of summer). Winter in the Everglades is also characterized by increased biodiversity ...

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11. January—Gray Whales of Point Reyes

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pp. 176-191

Think a person needs a large boat and/or lots of money to see whales? Not at all. Whale watching can be done from shore—if one knows where to go. One of the best places to see whales from shore is Point Reyes National Seashore, an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, California. ...

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12. February—Bald Eagles on the Mississippi River

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pp. 192-204

Are we seriously recommending wildlife watching in Minnesota in the dead of winter? Well, “you betcha.” True, Minnesota in February is cold and, for much of the state, seemingly lifeless. But an exception is the unfrozen reaches of the Upper Mississippi River where thousands of bald eagles congregate, ...

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Final Observations

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pp. 205-220

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, eighty-seven million Americans enjoy some form of wildlife-related recreation. Those Americans spend more than $122 billion annually in wildlife-related activities (e.g., binoculars, lodging, birdseed, etc.). ...

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Acknowledgments and Credits

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pp. 221-222

We’ve had the pleasure of visiting every park featured in this book, numerous times for most. However, we still had many information gaps that could not have been filled without generous input from the many dedicated rangers, naturalists, interpreters, biologists, and maintenance and administrative employees at the parks. ...

Additional Reading

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pp. 223-224


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pp. 225-230

Back Cover

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p. 246-246

E-ISBN-13: 9781603448277
E-ISBN-10: 1603448276
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603448147

Page Count: 244
Illustrations: 97 color photos. 3 maps. 15 tables. Index.
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Travel Guide