In Yellowstone National Park, one-ton bison bulls plow snow caves. Their massive, woolly heads dig to reach grass that will sustain them till green up comes to this high country months from now. Half-ton cows and calves spend their winter days in the same routine. Their movement is determined by Mother Nature. They go where they can eat grass. The weather is a wild card. If big snowstorms bury the bison winter range, or the snow becomes encrusted with ice that keeps bison from their food, more will migrate and fewer will return in Spring.
There is a wealth of unique and fascinating treasures hidden in the lodgepole pine forests inside Yellowstone National Park. A few steps away from any main trail one can spot numerous animal tracks in the fresh snow including pine marten, snowshoe hare, red squirrel, fox and deer mice tracks. Many small woodland animals don’t hibernate, but thrive under the snow in their own subnivean world. Under the snow is an active world of pocket gophers, mice and voles. There are tunnels connected to the trees, which is why foxes are so prevalent in that area near town. Foxes can pinpoint the critters through the snow.
The lodgepole pine makes up 80 percent of Yellowstone’s tree cover. Lodgepole have no taproot, working well here because the soil is typically only six to 12 inches deep. The tree is also a sun-tolerant tree, so when areas open up after wildfire, the tree has a large areas with a lot of sun to colonize. Other Yellowstone trees such as firs and spruce can’t tolerate the sun nearly as well, making lodgepole the dominant tree in Yellowstone, at least for now. Trees produce different cones due to genetic variability. The one basic, normal pine cone that all trees exhibit on a two-year cycle which you see on trees all the time. The other kind, like found on Yellowstone’s lodgepoles, never open up and stay on the tree indefinitely and won’t open scales unless they experience temperatures of 113 degrees Fahrenheit. These are called serotinous cones.