Parks naturalist George Melendez Wright argued that up until the 1930s, the National Park Service was fulfilling only part of its responsibility, which was at the very heart of the national parks: preserving the wildlife in its natural state. Wright’s scientific report of wildlife conditions in the parks proposed a radical new policy: Unless threatened with extinction within a park, each native species of animal – including predators – should be allowed to carry out its struggle for existence unaided. The National Park Service has to be constantly monitoring conditions and adopting policies to try to keep the needs of animals and interests of humans in balance.
Divide your class into 12 small groups. Have each group investigate one the animals of Yellowstone National Park at the Yellowstone Net Web site http://www.yellowstone.net/wildlife/. They should research the territory, food source, water availability and shelter for their assigned animal. They can list this information on a table or chart. Have each group share their findings with the class and discuss how each animal might compete with others for the resources they need.
Then have students create a list of potential conflicts that might arise as these animals and humans encroach on each other’s territory and think of potential solutions to these conflicts.