In April 1995, some 17 Canadian gray wolves bolted from their acclimation pens into a new life in Yellowstone National Park, the first time these animals had set foot in the ecosystem since the last animal was shot in 1926. Ten years on, their numbers hover around a healthy 300, although their continued popularity with wildlife-watchers and park visitors sadly hasn't done anything to endear them to many ranchers and hunters.
Credit: Gray wolf (Corbis)
Scattered 600 miles off Ecuador's west coast and consisting of 13 major islands and a fleet of smaller ones, the Galapagos have evolved into a surreal, volcanic landscape populated with a wide range of fearless, unique fauna. Observe the courtship rituals of waved albatrosses and the territorial challenges of sea lions. Other wildlife sightings include fire-red Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas, flourishing turtle nesting colonies, and the famous blue-footed boobies.
Credit: Blue-footed booby, Galapagos (PhotoDisc)
Named for the black markings on their fins, blacktip reef sharks have stout bodies and a pointed snout. The World Conservation Union currently lists the species as near threatened, as they are targeted by numerous commercial fisheries for the value of their fins and meat, eaten in many Asian countries, and their hides, which can be used for leather.
Credit: Blacktip reef shark (PhotoDisc)
Spring and summer are peak tourism seasons for Katmai National Park, with the onset of milder temps, plants coming into full bloom, and the brown-bear population congregating to feast on salmon. More than 2,000 brown bears populate this southwest Alaskan wilderness, and visitors flock to the riverbanks to watch the massive animals catch their dinner.
Credit: Alaska brown bears (PhotoDisc)
Costa Rica, or the 'Rich Coast,' may be smaller than West Virginia but it is home to more species of mammals and birds than the United States and Canada combined. Braulio Carrillo National Park, just 15 miles northeast of San José, provides spectacular viewing opportunities of some of the country's 850 bird species across a rugged patchwork of volcanic mountains and dense evergreen forest.
Credit: Macaw (Weststock)
The Peron's tree frog is sometimes referred to as the 'maniacal cackle frog,' due to a distinctive call that consists of a series of guttural, drill-like notes. This frog also has some distinctive physical features, including its cross-shaped pupils, a silver iris, and the ability to change color quickly between day and night.
Credit: Peron's Tree Frog: Australia Tourism
Named for the Mkhuze River, which defines its northern and eastern boundaries, the Mkhuze Game Reserve is a wildlife-watcher's dreamland. First established in February 1912, it is home to over 380 species of birds, the endangered black and white rhino, impalas, giraffes, zebras, and more. There is even an 80-foot-high fig forest for those needing a little shaded escape.