Tales on the Trails

Montana Wildlife

The areas we traveled in Montana were remote and we were dumbfounded by the variety of wildlife we saw.  Multiple species of deer, big horn sheep, antelope, eagles, osprey hawks and more.  It got to the point that seeing several mature deer yards away became as common as seeing a panhandler in Bakersfield!  I often wondered if everyone just lived in harmony, if they “knew” when they were in season, or if they were just dumb and didn’t understand that humans who live in the wilderness can be predators.  Either way, we were thrilled to see them.

One of the highlights, and I think something that very few people are fortunate enough to see was the lambing season for the big horns.  Big horn sheep live in the rocks about 100 yards from Barneys property and are regularly seen in the road, in the meadows, on the cliffs and one night while we were outside they simply walked down the driveway, a dozen of them!  I followed them and that resulted in the photo where he looks back at me standing next to the SHEEP CROSSING sign.  Sheep speak irony.

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So anyway, we were told that they were ready to lamb and on our way back from a drive we were lucky to see the pregnant ewes bedding down in a protected spot in the rocks.  Several pictures of this are below.  The next morning the lady who lives directly across the road from this spot added to her chalkboard on an easel (she is the sheep whisperer) that 8 lambs were sighted.  The following day, again, coming back from exploring the surrounding mountains we drove the area slowly and were rewarded by seeing less than a day old sheep and their mommas wandering around the rocky ledge.  How on earth we rule this planet when our young can’t walk or even eat without help for years and these things, and so many other animals,  climb rocky ledges within hours has always been a mystery to me!  Opposable thumbs I am told.

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Having lived in this spot for 30 years Barney knew where every critter lived, when it showed itself and was eager to show us.  WAY south on Rock Creek Road, for example, a mile from the road is cliff that soars above a ranchers field.  Mid way up, under an under hang and absolutely safe from any predator sits a bald eagle nest.  What a perfect spot to build a nest, so well protected.  The size of the nest is amazing and you could safely hide a human child in there!  We didn’t see any signs that it was occupied but if they kept their heads down we would have no way to know.

Speaking of nests, a little less remote, on a power pole next to I-90 and the Rock Creek dirt runway, sits an occupied osprey nest.  The chick was inside, his head just visible and daddy osprey spent his days on a branch overlooking the river, watching for fish.  I am told when he spots one his technique is to dive bomb at a nearly straight down angle to snatch him, but we didn’t see this.  Add to the bucket list – go back and sit there with a camera for days until I see it.

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In our next post we off road, find the snow, and a mountain lake.

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