With the arrival of spring, Montana’s vast populations of animals and birds reemerge on the landscape
By Dillon Tabish
In Montana, wildlife outnumbers people.
The Treasure State is home to a larger variety of animals than any other state in the U.S., with grizzly bears, moose, wolves, elk, mountain goats, wolverines and more.
As spring arrives with warmer temperatures and longer days, many of these populations are reemerging from their dens and nooks in the mountains to roam the state’s vast landscape. Bears, for example, most often travel down from above 6,000 feet elevation where they hibernate and forage for food in the forests by mid-March and early April. The migratory flocks that color the sky make their way to places like Freezeout Lake and Flathead Lake.
For those who enjoy watching wildlife, this is a spectacular time of year. Northwest Montana is a wildlife watcher’s paradise, with several areas designated for prime viewing opportunities. Glacier National Park is considered one of the richest ecosystems in the world, boasting more than 70 species of mammals and 270 species of birds residing within the park’s 1 million acres of protected scenery. There is the National Bison Range in Dixon. Ninepipe Refuge and Pablo National Wildlife Refuge both provide premier viewing opportunities of migratory birds. Closer to Kalispell, there are several state parks that will likely provide a glimpse of wildlife, as well as the Owen Sowerwine Natural Area.
All together, this state represents one of the planet’s most amazing ecosystems.250 Different types of bird species that call Montana home, including Harlequin ducks, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and, of course, the official state bird, Western meadowlark. 110 Species of mammals that reside in Montana, including bighorn sheep, gray wolves, Canada lynx, wolverines, mountain goats, moose, woodland caribou and the official state animal, the grizzly bear. 85 Different types of fish species with breeding populations in Montana, including bull trout, westslope trout, white sturgeon and the official state fish, cutthroat trout.
1,000 Estimated number of grizzly bears roaming throughout the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, a region that encompasses much of Northwest Montana stretching from Missoula through Glacier Park into Canada. It is the largest single population of grizzlies in the lower 48. 360 Bison roaming throughout the National Bison Range, a protected sanctuary connected to the Mission Mountain Range near Dixon.
300,000 Estimated number of snow geese that gather at the Freezeout Lake wildlife management area near Choteau during their bi-annual migration along the Pacific Flyway in late March.
The average square mile of land in Montana contains 1.4 elk AND 3.3 deer15,000-20,000 The size of the herd of elk that migrates from northern Wyoming into Montana each winter, the largest migratory elk herd in the lower 48.