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13,309 elk, a three-pound trout,Chief Snow White, and othertales from Yellowstone NP.

The 1929 NPS Director’s report to the Secretary of the Interior states that the recently counted elk population of Yellowstone National Park totaled 13,309.  But how were those elk counted?


In an April 1929 letter to Stephen Mather, Acting Yellowstone Superintendent M. F. Daum reports that “last years’ figures are the first that are authentic.”  He goes on to praise Sam Woodring’s efforts to achieve an accurate count despite encountering “one of the worst blizzards of the season the next to last day, and then, to top it off, he stepped into a pond of ice-cold water up to his waist when he was ten miles from home.” 


Daum details prior counts when “…soldiers used to count elk.  They would take fifteen or twenty men and twenty to twenty-five Airedale dogs, hunt along the North Ridge and have a bear hunt …Once in a while they would count elk through field glasses…Some of these same fellows would go out on Swan Lake Flat every day and count the same elk…”


In a June 1929 letter, Daum reports “…Fishing is exceptional this year…Even a chap from Fresno, California, was so elated at catching a three-pound trout that he claims that Yellowstone is the greatest park in the world and that it contains the best fishing.  That from a native Californian!”


In the same letter, Daum relates Horace Albright’s induction as an Indian chief: “During these ceremonies, Mr. Albright and Mr. Scandrett…were made chiefs in a tribe of Flathead Indians…I believe that the interpreter claims that [Mr. Albright’s] name means Chief Snow White…”


Fittingly, three iconic Stephen Mather photographs have him posed with a fishing success, an American Indian chief, and a collection of Yellowstone elk antlers. 

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