Charles M. Russell
National Wildlife Refuge
Lewistown, MT 59457
Phone Number: 406-538-8706
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|For centuries, people have been awed by the wildlife and landscapes found on Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo by Don Jones)|
Continued . . . Uplands are dominated by sagebrush grasslands that transition through ponderosa pine and Rocky Mountain juniper to river bottoms fringed with Great Plains cottonwood and sandbar willow. This landscape, locally known as the "Breaks," provides excellent habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.
The Refuge is famous for its elk population which was reestablished in 1951 from a Yellowstone National Park herd. Mule deer are the most common and widely distributed large mammal species. White-tailed deer are found in lesser numbers along the Missouri River. Bighorn sheep were also reintroduced and are found on the Mickey and Brandon Buttes. Nearly 240 species of birds have been identified on the Refuge, including sage grouse, mountain plover, and western meadowlark.
Black-tailed prairie dogs play an important role in the prairie ecosystem. Thirty species of wildlife, including the endangered black-footed ferret, depend upon prairie dog colonies for at least part of their nutritional or habitat requirements. UL Bend NWR is the site of an ongoing effort to rescue one of North America's most endangered animals, the black-footed ferret. Captive-raised ferrets were released on UL Bend NWR in 1993, and their numbers have been slowly building since then. Large black-tailed prairie dog towns, upon which ferrets depend, are concentrated on UL Bend NWR. Also, magnificent sage grouse displays can be seen in early spring at UL Bend NWR as birds gather on traditional leks to breed.
On Charles M. Russell NWR, shortgrass prairie is intermixed with sagebrush communities, and intermittent streams cross through these habitats. These habitats provide homes for a variety of wildlife on the Charles M. Russell Wetland Management District. Water presence in existing wetland basins, though sporadic, provides productive wetland habitats for a variety of wetland-dependent species. Common birds in these areas include the waterfowl and passerine species associated with the Great Basin, raptors, and some rarities, including mountain plovers, peregrine falcons, and long-billed curlews.
Mammalian species include pronghorn, mule and white-tailed deer, coyotes, and a host of furbearers. Additionally, several of the satellite refuges enjoy healthy populations of sport fish, including rainbow trout.
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