Reason #456,186,219 We Still Love Montana: More Critters and Fish….

by Mark McGlothlin on December 6, 2012

in Local's Prerogative

Billings Gazette Outdoor editor Brett French has an interesting piece posted in today’s paper – Wildlife has expanded across Montana in past 50 years.

The graphic above was lifted right out of French’s post online; if you want to research the reference links on the graphic please click through to the original article to do so.

From the graphic it’s a cinch to see that eagles certainly know how to live well, settling along the fabled waterways of the state. Wolves have expanded rather vigorously through the mountainous western 1/3 of the state, an area found attractive by a fairly large contingent of humanoids as well.

From the article:

Montanans are living in wild times.

For proof, just look at the big picture. There are elk, bison and bighorn sheep grazing in the prairie regions of Eastern Montana where they had previously been exterminated. Large predators like grizzly bears, mountain lions and gray wolves prowl the western forests of the state after declining to record lows.

In the state’s rivers, Yellowstone and westslope cutthroat trout, as well as endangered pallid sturgeon, are being planted to enhance their declining populations. Even in towns and cities wildlife are resurging as geese crowd golf course ponds, mule deer nibble on resident’s shrubbery and ducks, rabbits and Merriam’s turkeys commonly strut across manicured lawns.

“One of the reasons I love Montana is that we are one of the few states that still has the full suite of species that were here when Lewis and Clark went up the Missouri,” said Kayhan Ostovar, a professor of biology and environmental science at Rocky Mountain College in Billings.

Not all species are doing well, but many are better off or more prolific than they were 50 years ago. Some species have had to make comebacks simply because humans killed too many of them….

The crowd that we hang around with spends a fair amount of time traipsing around waterways and the backcountry of southwestern Montana. I doubt a single one would argue that at least wolf and bear populations are on the upswing and have been so for a decade or more given the human interactions we hear told of around campfires and beer spigots.

Efforts to recover fish we all know about, and for the most part (thinking of poisoning Cherry Creek as a notable point of discord) most of us rabidly support those endeavors.

Other wildlife restoration efforts have caused and will continue to cause a great deal more…ah, shall we politely say…discussion; there’s a squabble somewhere in the neighborhood about bison, wolves, grizzly or elk just about every day. And start talking about changing river access, as ‘might’ be currently being kicked around in committee for the Madison River’s new management plan, and folks tend to get their dander up.

(I’m probably most worried about preserving another creature, that being the hard-working family farmer and / or rancher who’s being squeezed from just about every direction these days.)

Controversial as some restoration programs might be, and even given the long list of pros and cons you could write, critters and fish make for better neighbors than many a human I’ve known over the years.

Go, Montana critters and fish, go.