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Notes from Yellowstone

By Amy Renfranz (

Article Published: Jun. 6, 2013 | Modified: Jun. 6, 2013
Notes from Yellowstone

Bison cows travel together with their calves, which are affectionately called ‘red dogs’ by the locals.

Photo by Amy Renfranz

For the past few weeks, I have been in Yellowstone National Park.

The beauty of this still unfamiliar place amazes me, but I must admit that I am getting a little homesick.

Dear readers, I need your help.

Please email me any and all pictures of the wildflowers in your backyard. Send thoughts of salamanders. There is only one species here, and I have yet to find it.

Share with me your adventures in deciduous forests and on the trails of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Most of all, I would love to read your notes on the monarch butterflies as they begin to grace your milkweed with their plump offspring.

I will be back in Appalachia as soon as I can, but until then, keep in touch. And in each email, please do not forget to throw in the occasional “y’all.” I miss those, too.

Homesickness aside, I am getting to learn some great things. For one, I was surprised to hear that bison once roamed parts of Western North Carolina. This was during a time far before European settlement, when bison, the great Thunder Beasts, numbered an estimated 20 to 30 million in North America.

Due to overhunting and habitat loss, bison numbers were down to 1,000 by 1889. Yellowstone, our first national park, was one of the few sanctuaries for them. Today, the park preserves a large portion of the remaining bison in the United States.

While driving through the park today, I noticed a few cows and calves running alongside the road. My friend told me that a group of bison is actually called an “obstinacy” of bison. It did not take long to understand why.

As my car approached, one of the 1,000-pound cows decided that she would like to run in the road. She stopped and eyed my car with looming tenacity. The other cows decided to follow along.

For nearly 30 minutes, I was forced to follow the obstinacy on their slow journey to the park’s green meadows. Thousands of flowers are in bloom there now.

In fact, I will make you a deal, dear reader. If you would be so kind as to email me a picture of the sweet lady slippers blooming along the Cone Trails, I promise to return the favor by sending you a photo of the bitterroot and pasque flowers of this incredible, Western place.


If you have a question concerning flora and fauna, please email ( All of your questions will be answered. One or two will be featured next week.

Amy Renfranz is a certified naturalist through the Yellowstone Association Institute and a certified environmental educator in the state of North Carolina.

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