Wildlife Portfolio of the Western National Parks
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THE PRIMARY PURPOSE of our national parks is to preserve these supreme examples of Nature's handiwork in as nearly a natural condition as possible for the benefit of both present and future generations. The secondary function of the national parks is to furnish inspiration, education, and enjoyment to all people. It has been a repeated experience in the educational and protective work of the National Park Service that the more people learn about the many different kinds of trees, birds, mammals, and flowers, the more fully they understand and enjoy them. In a similar manner it has been found, almost without exception, that the people who recognize, understand, and in turn appreciate these outstanding natural features of the national parks rarely if ever destroy or damage them.

On the other hand, it has been continually noted that much damage to wildlife and frequent serious injury to human beings has resulted from lack of information on the part of park visitors. No one insists that persons visiting a national park must have technical knowledge before they can appreciate the majestic beauty of a Sequoia or enjoy the fragrance and color of a flower. The boy who ignorantly played with a snake which he reported "barked at him with its tail," the girl who fabricated and wore a "beautiful wreath of (poison oak) leaves," and the woman who spent several weeks in the hospital because she ignorantly fed "a nice big black bear" candy from her hand are all closely akin to the fellow who "didn't know the gun was loaded."

In contrast to this, a great deal of legendary and unjustified fear prevents many persons from camping or otherwise fully enjoying their stay in nature's wonderland. Each year, I spend many hours explaining to questioning visitors in our national parks that there is actually a thousand times more chance of injury in city or highway traffic than of attack or injury by a wild animal in any of our national parks. It is my firm conviction after years of experience with many park visitors that the peace of mind, more complete relaxation, and greater enjoyment resulting from a full knowledge and appreciation of the facts about wildlife demand our best efforts in popularizing the native species in the national parks.


My thanks are extended to the late Dr. Joseph Grinnell, former Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and to the University of California for permission to use several photographs taken by me for that institution, as indicated in the text.

I am indebted to the late Dr. Frank R. Oastler for the excellent photographs of the mother mountain goat and kid, and of the trumpeter swan standing on its nest. Several other photographs have been contributed by various persons and are so designated. For this assistance I am grateful to the following: Wendell Chapman, Frank Childs, Adolph and Olaus Murie, and Merlin Potts.

To the many rangers, naturalists, superintendents, and other members of the National Park Service who have assisted in this work I express my gratitude and appreciation.


During the past 35 years the author's field investigations have covered much of the Pacific Coast of North America between Point Barrow and Lower California. Studies have been made of the animal life in practically all of our western national parks. The photographs and data in this publication are based largely upon this lengthy field experience.

It has been impossible to photograph or even to mention briefly all of the several hundred species of birds and mammals found in all of the western national parks and monuments, so I have endeavored to select and to present a few representatives of the outstanding or characteristic species found in some of these areas. The list of both park areas and animals is necessarily incomplete.

I have been asked repeatedly by park visitors what kinds of animals would most likely be found in a given national park. For their convenience, the various species of animals are listed according to the scientific classification, using common names, followed by a list of the principal western parks and monuments in which the creatures may be found. (See page viii.) As here used, the term "species" includes all its subspecies. Thus, all geographic races of the black bear are grouped under the one heading: Black Bear.


All of the photographs herein presented have, with a few exceptions as noted, been taken within a national park or national monument. No "movie trained" animals or other high-pressure methods have been used to procure spectacular results. It has been our constant endeavor to make the presentation as natural as possible. All of these photographs are of living wild animals in their native habitats. Photographs of bears, deer, and other supposedly wild animals eating out of a person's hand have been rigidly excluded from this publication because such feeding practices tend to pauperize the animals and to destroy their essential native characteristics and charm, thus defeating the primary purpose of our national parks.

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Last Updated: —2009