Diverse Habitats and a Diversity of Species
Yosemite National Park supports more than 400 species of vertebrates including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The high diversity of species is the result of diverse habitats in Yosemite that are largely intact. The park’s rich habitats range from thick foothill chaparral to conifer forests to expanses of alpine rock. Animals feel at home in each location.
In Yosemite Valley, you'll find species that depend upon meadow habitat. Predators, in turn, are attracted to these areas. The interface between meadow and forest is also favored by many animal species because of the proximity of open areas for foraging, and cover for protection. Overall, the park's widespread coniferous forests—with a relatively mild climate and a mixture of plant species—provide a lush habitat for animals to live. At higher elevations, fewer wildlife species tend to be found due, in part, to the lower complexity of the forest. Above treeline, the climate becomes harsh with a short growing season.
Despite the richness of high-quality habitats in Yosemite, approximately 40 species have a special status under California endangered species legislation. Three species—grizzly bear, California red-legged frog, and foothill yellow-legged frog—are believed to be extirpated in the park within recent history. Serious threats to Yosemite's wildlife and the ecosystems they occupy include loss of a natural fire regime, non-native species, air pollution, habitat fragmentation, and climate change. On a more local basis, factors such as the availability of human food and occurrence of roadkills negatively affect wildlife species.
“In final analysis, no two species well established in a region occupy precisely the same ecologic space; each has its own peculiar places for foraging, and for securing safety for itself and for its eggs or young. These ultimate units of occurrence are called ‘ecologic niches.’” – Joseph Grinnell and Tracy Irwin Storer, Animal Life in the Yosemite, University of California Press, 1924