bighorn sheep


Big Game
The primary big game species found on the refuge include Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and mountain lion. When the Fort Peck Game Range was established in 1936, elk, bighorn sheep and mountain lions were absent, mule deer populations were low and pronghorn were quite scarce. Through the years, reduced big game harvest, reintroductions and management with a wildlife emphasis has resulted in the relatively abundant big game resources present today. 

Little is known about the populations of furbearing species on the refuge. Some furbearer species are regulated by the state (muskrat, beaver, mink, and swift fox, bobcat, and river otter) and others are unregulated (least weasel, long-tailed weasel, short-tailed weasel, striped skunk, badger, raccoon, red fox, and coyote). Though beaver were trapped to near extinction by 1900, they have since recovered and sightings on the refuge are numerous enough to suggest well established populations on the Missouri River and Fort Peck Lake. Although occasionally sighted by refuge visitors and staff, current population numbers of the remaining furbearer species is unknown. Continued hunting and trapping restrictions and improved riparian habitats will provide the basis for increased populations of muskrat, beaver, river otter, and mink.

Small Mammals
olive backed pocket mouse 2There have been a few studies that attempted to identify the composition of small mammal communities in and surrounding the refuge. The Montana Natural Heritage Program has an ongoing study aimed at filling in the distribution gaps for small mammals such as shrews, mice, voles and rats in Montana and includes several sites within the refuge boundary. Bat surveys on the refuge have filled distribution gaps for several species found in central Montana including Townsend’s big-eared bat, hoary bat, eastern red bat and fringed myotis. 

Threatened and Endangered
Black-footed ferrets are listed as an endangered species and were reintroduced on the refuge in 1994. The recovery effort continues and has evolved to include research on sylvatic plague.