'Vital Signs' report reveals park's ecological health

A newly released 'Vital Signs' report from the National Park Service outlines the ecological health of the park in 2010.

Yellowstone Cutthroat

Last week, the annual Yellowstone National Park ‘Vital Signs’ report was released to help benefit park rangers and scientists in understanding the current ecological condition of the park to best assess park needs.

The report is gathered by park scientists and cooperators in the Yellowstone Center for Research (YCR) from over two dozen ‘health indicators’ from natural resources measuring internal and external forces that are shaping the natural condition of the park.

Highlights of the report included:

-3,274 earthquakes were detected within the park, the most recorded since 1985, according to the University of Utah seismic stations. The report indicated that nearly 2,400 quakes were recorded during short period from mid-January to mid-February in an area northwest of Old Faithful.

-Grizzly Bear numbers are at their highest since 1975 with 602 living within the park in 2010.

-Yellowstone wolf numbers experienced their lowest at 97 since 1999, which has been attributed to decreasing northern range elk numbers as well as increasing grizzly populations. Yet gray wolf populations saw an increase in the greater Yellowstone are and the species was even removed from the Idaho and Montana endangered species lists in May of this year.

-Bison numbers also saw a slight drop in 2010 with an estimated 3,700. However, Montana has opened up larger winter ranging areas north of the park for the 2011 winter for bison.

-With dropping numbers since the 1980s, the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in Lake Yellowstone saw continued drops in population due to low water levels, disease, and the growing number in nonnative Lake Trout in the lake. Since 1994, almost 550,00 Lake Trout have been removed, yet more data suggests continually rising numbers in lake trout.

For more information and further details, the entire Vital Signs report can be found here.