National Geographic : 1991 Aug
MARY MEAGHER YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK That's not just a bison in the spotting scope research biologist Mary Meagher holds-it's a last vestige of frontier. Yellowstone holds some of the few free-roaming bison left in the country. They are doing well, perhaps too well. After the park opened to winter use in the 1960s, snowmobiles opened roads that made it easy for bison to forage. The herd increased to perhaps 3,000. BOBBY MATTOS HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK It takes the nose-in-the-wind instincts of a hunter like Bobby Mattos to find a feral pig (right). Pigs were introduced to the Big Island to provide meat for early settlers. The most destructive pests in the park, their appetite for plants threatens the last relics of native trop ical forest. In 1981 the pig wars began. Forest was fenced off section by section, and the pigs were hunted in an effort to reclaim the park for native vegetation. Dogs track the pigs but can lose their way in the thick jungle or slip into NationalPark Service at 75 Pressed for space, bison leave the park and are shot; some ranchers fear strays may infect their cattle with brucellosis. The bison overpopulation confirms Meagher's belief that "too many people in a park cannot help but impact nature." Intricate business: balancing bison and people. She sides with bison. "We need wild bison as reference points. Scientifically and spiritually." 30-foot-deep cracks obscured by vegetation on the lava terrain. So they are fitted out with radio collars (as was photographer Cary Wolinsky, a precau tion against losing him). So far 20,000 acres have been recov ered, though some 2,500 pigs remain at large. When he's not hunting, Mattos pulls up exotics-introduced plants that overrun the indigenous flora. And bit by bit, natives like the 'ohi'a-lehua trees and hapu'u tree ferns spring up and flourish as a corner of native Hawaiian rain forest is reclaimed.