Guide to Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens Wildlife: Don’t Call it a Comeback

Flora and fauna have more than returned to the destruction zone—they're thriving.

By Allison Williams May 6, 2020


Cervus elaphus
In 2007 the population got big enough that officials first fed the hooved herd alfalfa to keep them from starving, a food the animals didn't take to well. They then opened areas like the Pumice Plain to limited hunting to thin the herd.

Rainbow Trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss
When the fish were found in Spirit Lake in the 1990s, they were believed to have been mysteriously (and illegally) stocked there by humans. Now scientists think they may have made their way up from the Toutle River naturally, but no one's quite sure.

Prairie Lupine

Lupinus lepidus
As the first known species to return to the Pumice Plain after the eruption, the lovely purple flower did more than prettify; they enriched the soil through nitrogen fixation, allowing other greenery to return faster than expected.

Mountain Goats

Oreamnos americanus
Though the blast decimated the area’s herd, which wasn’t particularly large to begin with, the alpine ungulates are now a common sight to hikers and plentiful enough for Cowlitz tribal members to restart the traditional practice of gathering fallen wool for ceremonial weaving.

Wild Strawberries

Fragaria virginiana
While not one of the most ecologically notable returns, the spring fruit always amazes USGS volcanologist Alexa Van Eaton: “The most gorgeous volcano in the world, so entrenched in our story of the PNW…and it erupts tiny strawberries we can eat.” 

Filed under
Show Comments