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North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences - Home Yellowstone in Winter

2010 Q & A

January 15, 2010

How much gas does the snowcoach use?

Jonathon, Allison & Brittany, Chestnut Grove Middle, Stokes Co.

We used one gallon of gas for every 2 miles we traveled in the snowcoach during the morning.. Gas mileage varies based on the amount of snow on the ground, and also how fresh the snow is – fresher and deeper snow leads to worse gas mileage. It also depends on the weight inside the coach. The snow was deeper in the afternoon, but we don’t know what our gas mileage was. Together, we weigh about 2000 pounds!

Do the rangers make sure the animals have food and water?

Mrs. Winn’s 3rd grade, Pinnacle Elementary, Rutherford Co.

Yes, but not in the ways you might expect. By maintaining a wild ecosystem, predators and prey living (and dying) together, and by protecting the plants that support so many species, there is a healthy balanced food web.

What is it like in Yellowstone? Do you like it?

Lauren, Brawley Middle, Iredell Co.

Yellowstone is a different world from North Carolina. The thermal features make you feel like you are on a different planet – steam and the smell of sulfur surround you, strange burping sounds erupt from the ground, and the surrounding trees are coated with ice and snow and look like they’re in a Dr. Seuss story. There’s also a lot more large wild animals to see, and you can view them better in them open valleys, whereas in NC we have more wooded areas that hide animals from our eyes. And there’s definitely fewer people around. Yes, we like it!

How do the animals survive the cold?

Rachel, home schooler, Okeechobee Co., Florida

To answer this question, we’ll focus on some of the winter adaptations and behaviors of bison. Bison have dense fur that keeps them well insulated by preventing their body heat from escaping. In Yellowstone, bison tend to congregate near thermal areas where the ground acts like an electric blanket, perhaps helping to warm the bison. More importantly, snow melts in these thermal areas and grasses are exposed, making it easier for bison to graze. When the snow is deep, a bison will use its giant head like a plow to clear away the snow and expose the grass below. (Follow this link to see a picture of a bison using its head like a snow plow.)

 

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