Tracking the Elusive Yellowstone Butterflies

We have all sorts of geyser gazers and wolf watchers to catalog anything major in Yellowstone National Park, but what of the lesser creatures that are mostly ignored? Meet the folks tracking Yellowstone butterflies.

Like every other part of the nature scene in Yellowstone National Park, the Yellowstone butterflies contain species unique to the Park, as well as a cross-section of common butterflies found throughout the continent.

These Yellowstone butterflies — common and rare — are being cataloged by volunteers who descend annually on the Park to count the species and number of specimens. From the Great Falls Tribune:

The Yellowstone count is part of the North American Butterfly Association’s Fourth of July Butterfly Count, in the spirit of the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. The Yellowstone count is typically the Saturday closest to the 12th of July because summer comes later to the park.

The counts are taken within a 15-mile diameter circle in one day. In Yellowstone, that range takes in wetlands, sagebrush desert, ponds, forests, creeks, grassland, a thermal terrace, Electric Peak at near 11,000 feet and the park’s lowest point of Reese Creek at 5,000 feet.

“The key to getting a lot of different species is to vary the habitat where you look,” said [naturalist and artist George Bumann].

Sponsored by the Yellowstone Association, the survey attempts to find specimens of all 134 butterfly varieties in the Park. Last year 34 species were identified; the year before 58 species were identified.

For the record: the butterfly above is a Greater Fritillary butterfly in a shot from the National Park Service archives.


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