Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Flora & Fauna

Yosemite's wide range of elevations, from its semi-arid foothills to its snowcapped mountains, has produced a habitat distribution that nurtures 37 types of native trees, over 1,000 species of wildflowers, 85 species of mammals, over 150 species of birds and 33 varieties of reptiles and amphibians. Some commonly seen representatives are as follows:

Trees

The California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) is a large deciduous tree with yellow-green leaves and a dark trunk that is commonly found in Yosemite Valley. The tree produces acorns that the Miwok people pound into nutritious flour.

Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) is easily identified by its puzzle-like bark, which has a pattern of irregularly-shaped plates separated by dark furrows. The mature tree is very wide at the base and its lowest branches are especially high off the ground.

Incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) is often confused with the giant sequoia because it has feathery, reddish bark. The incense-cedar grows abundantly throughout the Sierra Nevada below 7,000 feet, while sequoias grow only in a limited number of groves.

Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is the most massive living thing on earth. Three groves are located in the park: the Mariposa Grove, near South Entrance (Wawona Road); the Tuolumne Grove, near Crane Flat off the Tioga Road; and the Merced Grove, off the Big Oak Flat Road between Crane Flat and the Big Oak Flat Entrance. The giant sequoia is believed to live up to 3,000 years.

Flowers

Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly. The Mariposa lily (Calochortus leichtlinii) is said to resemble this beautiful winged creature. The Sierra tiger lily (Lilium columbianum) has spots on its petals that dangle down, like a bell, from the top of the stem. Both species of bulbs were once an important part of the diet of the American Indians.

The mule ears (Wyethia mollis) is a striking yellow flower that has a large blossom resembling a sunflower. The flower's huge leaves, which grow to between eight and 16 inches long, give the flower its name.

Animals

The coyote (Canis latrans) is a silver-gray member of the canine family seen year-round. At night you may hear it singing in a chorus of howls, barks and yodels. The coyote primarily preys on field mice and ground squirrels, although it has learned to beg from people. Please do not feed coyotes, because human food is harmful to them and they may bite you. Conditioning coyotes to seek food from people makes them vulnerable to being hit by passing cars.

Often seen grazing in or near meadows, the naturally timid mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) has grown accustomed to seeing people. However, more attacks on humans by deer occur than by bears. Surprised? Although it appears to be tame, and may even approach you, the California mule deer is a wild animal and may charge if it feels cornered or threatened. Its hooves and antlers are sharp! Always leave it a wide area to walk away, and, as with all other animals in the park, never tempt it with food or approach it at close range.

The western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus) is one of many types of tree and ground squirrels found in the park. It is known for its impressive, bushy gray tail. During mating season, squirrels become excitable, chasing one another, fighting and making noise.

The bat is the only flying mammal in existence. Recent acoustic surveys by scientists indicate that at least 15 bat species can be found in Yosemite, including the rare spotted bat. The spotted bat (Euderma maculatum) is named for three distinctive white spots on its black back. It also has the largest ears of any bat in North America. Most bats eat insects which they hunt at night. A single bat may eat up to 600 insects in one hour! Bats find food by echolocation, an utterance of a series of high-pitched squeaks that bounce off objects such as insects. Species such as the spotted bat emit a squeak when they feed so you can sometimes hear them at night.

Unfortunately, bat populations have decreased dramatically in the last 25 years due to pesticides, habitat loss and human disturbance of caves. Yosemite contains one of the last remaining spotted bat populations in California. Check at a visitor center for more information. Steller's jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) is a comic, bright-blue bird with a pointed gray-black crest. The distinctive caw-like screech of the Steller's jay is often an alert to others that food has been found.

The population of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) is doing well in the park. This raptor is occasionally seen in Yosemite Valley, but is more common at higher elevations. Look for a very large, dark brown bird that holds its broad wings in a shallow V-shape when soaring. Young eagles have white areas on their wings and tail.

Yosemite is also home to the great gray owl (Strix nebulosa), an endangered bird in California. Monitoring continues to document the status, distribution, numbers, habits and health of the park population of this large, noble bird. In some areas of the park you may hear its distinctive, deeply-toned hoot.