Tag Archives: wildlife

Hidden in Plain Sight: Montana’s National Bison Range

Truth time: some of Montana’s most incredible places are hidden in plain sight. One such example is the National Bison Range.

The National Bison Range is located in Moiese, Montana on a small mountain that's connected to the Mission Mountains by a spur.

The National Bison Range is located in Moiese, Montana on a small mountain that’s connected to the Mission Mountains by a spur.

This pile of elk antlers, collected on the range, welcome visitors to the range and its visitor center.

This pile of elk antlers, collected on the range, welcome visitors to the range and its visitor center.

Located just off Highway 93 north of Ravalli, the National Bison Range has 18,500 acres of terrain that’s home to an estimated 350 herd of bison, as well as antelope, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, coyote and black bear. It’s also home to three scenic drives: Red Sleep Mountain Drive, Prairie Drive and West Loop. Since snowfall will soon close Red Sleep Mountain Drive, a gorgeous 19-mile-long one-way road (and one of my favorite drives in Western Montana) that takes visitors through the heart of the range, I grabbed a pal and we headed to the National Bison Range to make the drive before winter arrives.

And while we could definitely tell that fall has officially arrived in Montana, it was such a beautiful day.

Take a look…

Welcome to the National Bison Range!

Welcome to the National Bison Range!

The start of the drives: to the right is Red Sleep; to the left is West Loop.

The start of the drives: to the right is Red Sleep; to the left is West Loop.

This guy slowly made his way along the road.

This guy slowly made his way along the road.

After chowing on some grass, he started making his climb up the mountain.

After chowing on some grass, he started making his climb up the mountain.

The view from the backside of the range on Red Sleep Drive.

The view from the backside of the range on Red Sleep Drive.

Early fall brings incredible weather patterns to Montana, resulting in skies like this.

Early fall brings incredible weather patterns to Montana, resulting in this sky.

This bison was taking a nap. I think.

This bison was taking a nap (I think).

We saw several bighorn sheep along the drive's route.

We saw several bighorn sheep along the drive’s route.

Driving through history and the highest water mark of Lake Missoula, a massive prehistoric lake that covered this area 15,000 years ago.

Driving through history and the highest water mark of Lake Missoula, a massive prehistoric lake that covered this area 15,000 years ago.

This buck's antlers were velvety gorgeous.

This buck’s antlers were velvety gorgeous. He also did a great job blending into the landscape.

Some antelope, trying to blend in. They stood there motionless.

Some antelope, trying to blend in. They stood there totally motionless.

After seeing a handful of bison along Red Sleep Drive, we saw this massive herd as we were getting ready to leave.

After seeing a handful of bison along Red Sleep Drive, we saw this massive herd as we were getting ready to leave.

A few things to keep in mind when visiting the National Bison Range: 
-The bison range is open year-round and each season offers a chance to view wildlife.
-There are three drives on the range: Red Sleep Mountain Drive (open mid-May to early October), West Loop and Prairie Drive. Both West Loop and Prairie drive are open year-round. Learn more about all three drives here.
-Vehicles over 30 feet long are not allowed on Red Sleep Mountain Drive.
-The National Bison Range is an ideal location for viewing wildlife and remember that they are most active at dusk and dawn. The NBR has helpful hints for how and where to photograph wildlife on the range here.
-When visiting the range, take time to explore its nearby communities including Moiese, Ravalli, St. Ignatius and Charlo.
-If you’re looking to overnight near the National Bison Range (allowing for easy access to early morning views and prime wildlife-watching), check out Ninepipes Lodge near Charlo.
-Front gate hours are 6:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
-Cost to visit the range is $5 vehicle.

And if you need a personal guide on your visit to the National Bison Range? Call us (or actually tweet us at @GlacierMT)!

xo,
TT

Montana is Wild: Top Rules and Tips for Safely Visiting the West

You guys, I don’t love writing about sad things on this blog. And I hate telling you about sad things, especially when they happen in the place that I love and adore: the West. But the fact of the matter is this: it’s only mid-June and we’ve already had several negative wildlife encounters and an unfortunate, heart-breaking experience in Montana and Yellowstone National Park.

Always give bears plenty of room and never approach. Photos: GlacierNPS Flickr (Tim Rains)

Always give bears plenty of room and never approach. Photos: GlacierNPS Flickr (Tim Rains)

To date this year, we’ve had visitors approach wildlife and get way too close (examples include selfies with bison, a tourist picking up a baby bison and placing it in his car and a woman being charged and hit by an elk) as they invaded the animal’s space. In addition, Yellowstone National Park had a group of adventure travelers walk off the boardwalk (and film it, for pete’s sake) and most recently, a visitor tragically lost his life when he went off the boardwalk and fell into one of the boiling geysers.

Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods, I was in Glacier National Park earlier this month sitting at The Loop eating lunch when a black bear meandered across the Going-to-the-Sun Road. He was a nice bear who literally paid the 10 of us no mind as he crossed the road, even when a lady started running after him. Yep, you read that right. We were all sitting there marveling at the chance to see a wild bear in Glacier National Park and she ran after him to take a photo. This, my friends, is one of my worst nightmares and we actually had to say these words, “Ma’am, don’t chase the bear. Ma’am! Don’t chase him.” Honestly, I never thought I’d have to tell someone to not chase a WILD ANIMAL in the WILD.

All of these stories are not meant to cast shame or embarrass anyone; instead they’re meant to educate.

Perhaps the worst part about the examples listed above is that they could be have been avoided by following the rules and regulations that are in place to not only protect us as visitors to these special places, but to protect wildlife, their habitat and the ecosystem in which we all live.

The fact of the matter is that the West is still wild. One of the best things about visiting the wild places that still exist in Montana and Wyoming is that we’re able to experience raw, true, genuine nature.  To do that, it’s important that we follow the rules, guidelines and regulations that are put in place to help everyone have a wonderful time in Montana, Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

Here are some rules to remember when visiting the West…

Stay on designated trails, pathways and boardwalks. Always.

Boadwalks are put in place to give us safe access to viewing geysers, hot springs and rushing waterways.

Boadwalks are put in place to give us safe access to viewing geysers, hot springs and rushing waterways. Photo: YellowstoneNP Flickr

View wildlife from your car or from a safe distance. For bears, you should stay at least 100 yards (the length of a football field) away, while you should stay at least 25 yards away from other large animals, including bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes.

This visitor is WAY TOO CLOSE to the bears. Photo: YNP Flickr

This visitor is WAY TOO CLOSE to the bears. Photo: Yellowstone NPS Flickr

Do not approach wildlife. Even for a selfie. Truth time: Yellowstone and Glacier are not zoos. The animals who live here are wild and there are no barriers between you and them. Never, under any circumstances, approach wildlife. Also, don’t touch or pet them. Ever. Deal?

Let wildlife know you’re nearby. When hiking, be sure to hike in a group, carry bear spray, stay on designated trails and make noise at regular intervals. This messy-haired girl likes to sing (you’re welcome bears and humans) and say “hey bear” loudly at regular intervals or clap my hands as I walk along. PS: Do us all a favor and don’t rely on bear bells as your noisemaker. Most of them are not loud enough.

For more information, you can read more safe wildlife viewing tips here and here.

Wishing you all safe travels this summer,
TT

Safely Viewing Montana’s Wildlife

As you probably know by now, Montana is a wild place. She still holds an element of magic and mystery and is unapologetically untamed and undiscovered.

And I don’t know about you, but I love her for it. After all, that’s part of her charm. As a wild place, it probably comes as no surprise that Montana is home to plentiful forms of wildlife. From the bison in Yellowstone National Park to grizzly bears and moose in Glacier National Park, Montana is a place where you can see wildlife in their element. And chances are — if you spend enough time outdoors — you will encounter wildlife.

If you’ve been online this week, you’ve likely seen the photo of a hiker and a grizzly bear on the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park. If not, take a look below…

Photo courtesy: Philip Granrud

Photo courtesy: Philip Granrud

This image, taken by Montana photographer Philip Granrud, shows a hiker and a bear on the same trail, with the hiker moving off of the trail and onto a rock ledge. The backstory is that the hiker and the grizzly bear were walking toward each other on the trail and spooked each other. The hiker, thinking quickly, moved out of the path of the bear and is waiting about 10 feet below the trail for the bear to pass. Once the hiker moved out of his path, the bear moved speedily along the trail and deeper into the park (read the full story from the Missoulian), while the hiker returned to Logan Pass. While it’s quite the story, it’s one that ended well for both the grizzly bear and the hiker.

As I’ve often told friends and family that are visiting Montana, wildlife actually want to avoid us as much as we want to avoid them. This is why you often don’t see bears on trails (they don’t want to see our sweaty faces) and why rattlesnakes literally rattle to warn you that they’re nearby. Just imagine if you were a mama bear with her cubs. Would you really want a group of people in ridiculous styles of clothing (remember you’re a bear – all types of clothes are ridiculous to you) sneaking up on you when you’ve just put your little one down for a nap? My guess is no.

To help us all have positive encounters with Montana’s watchable wildlife, I’ve rounded up a few tips and recommendations for when you’re exploring Big Sky Country.

View wildlife from your car or from a safe distance. For bears, you should stay at least 100 yards (the length of a football field) away.

Do not approach wildlife. While they look cute and cuddly, remember that they are wild animals. No offense, but they don’t want to hug you. If you’re taking photos, use a telephoto lens. Do not approach wildlife for a better photo.

Let them know you’re nearby. When hiking, be sure to hike in a group, carry bear spray, stay on designated trails and make noise at regular intervals. This messy-haired girl likes to sing (you’re welcome bears and humans), say “hey bear” loudly at regular intervals or clap my hands as I walk along. PS: Do us all a favor and don’t rely on bear bells as your noisemaker. Most of them are not loud enough.

Be mindful of where you’re hiking. Right now bears are filling their tummies on wild huckleberries, cow parsnips and moths. Just think of it like this: You are in their kitchen. You wouldn’t go into the kitchen of someone you don’t know and just start helping yourself without making a sound, right? Nope, you wouldn’t. You’d announce yourself loudly, survey your surroundings and let them know that you were there. And if they’re there? Well, you just move along. After all, you don’t want to invade their space.

Don’t mess with mama. Never feed or harass any kind of wildlife and don’t come between a mama and her baby. This applies to moose, bears, goats, deer, mountain lion, etc.

Three cheers for safety (says the girl who loves being safe more than candy).

xo,
TT

Additional safety tips for bears can be found here, while tips for viewing other wildlife can be found here.