Wildlife & Habitat

Pond 10 looking southward-photo

Monday September 9th 1805
Set out at 7 A M. this morning and proceeded down the Flathead river leaving it on our left, the country in the valley of this river is generally a prarie and from five to 6 miles wide the growth is almost altogether pine principally of the longleafed kind, with some spruce and a kind of furr resembleing the scotch furr. near the wartercourses we find a small proportion of the narrow leafed cottonwood some redwood honeysuckle and rosebushes form the scant proportion of underbrush to be seen (Meriwether Lewis describing the Bitterroot Valley from the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition [source: University of Nebraska Lincoln website]).

  • Amphibians and Reptiles

    Boreal Toad photo

     "The days lengthen and the earth warms. Snow melts. The ground becomes saturated and changes with each step we take. The solid surfaces of ponds and streams become fluid. The season of activity for amphibians and reptiles is beginning. While skim-ice is still forming at night, spotted frogs congregate, calling for a mate and laying eggs. Often, before all the snow has melted, long-toed salamanders migrate to their breeding pools. Garter snakes emerge from their hibernating dens, mate, and begin to disperse over the Refuge to their foraging grounds. A lone painted turtle climbs onto a half submerged log to soak up the early spring sun. Its olive-colored carapace grayed with mud from its six month sleep buried in the pond bottom" (Refuge Amphibian and Reptile brochure).

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  • Birds

    Red-naped Sapsucker photo

    The refuge was authorized primarily for management of migratory birds and incidental fish- and wildlife-oriented recreation. As such, the refuge serves as a staging and nesting area for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, sandhill cranes, and other migratory birds. Over 240 species of birds have been recorded on the Refuge. Current bird sightings are digitally posted via the Refuge E BIRD widget. Most of the management "target species" identified in the Refuge CCP are birds; the final list of 16 species were selected based on their ability to represent guilds or because they were good indicators of the quality of a specific habitat type.

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  • Butterflies

    Photo of a Silver-bordered Fritillary

    Montana has an excellent diversity of habitat and elevation resulting in a butterfly species list of 212. The Missoula Butterfly and Bug Club has recorded 125 species in Missoula County alone. The Refuge checklist is predicted to grow to about 60 species; keep your eyes peeled and camera ready for the discoveries!

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  • Dragonflies

    Photo of a Cherry-faced Meadowhawk

    "Dragonflies and damselflies are large, stunningly beautiful insects, as readily observable as birds and butterflies" (Dennis Paulson author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West, 2009). Montana had a list of 82 species in 2009. The Refuge is collecting sightings and documenting species; it is exciting doing this baseline groundwork...you too can contribute to this effort. 

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  • Mammals

    Columbian Ground Squirrel photo

     "Mammals rarely call attention to themselves as do birds, which are often brightly colored and sing from treetops or sit entirely exposed on a pond. Mammals, even the larger species, prefer to hide, and they are very good at it" (Mammals of Montana, author Kerry Foresman, 2012).

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  • Plants

    Sand Phacelia photo

     "It is fortunate, perhaps, that no matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all of the salient facts about any one of them" (Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949).

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  • Bitterroot River & Riparian Forest

    Bitterroot River photo

     "Restoration of the physical and biological diversity and productivity of the refuge will require at least some restoration of natural topography, especially reconnecting waterflow pathways or corridors in the floodplain. Restoration of topography and waterflow pathways is important to allow water, nutrients, and animals to move through the system in more natural patterns" (Refuge CCP).

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  • Uplands

    Grassland stand on Uplands photo

     "The intermountain and foothill grassland ecotype, which is found in the Bitterroot Valley and other broad mountain valleys in western Montana, contains some of Montana’s most diverse fish and wildlife habitats" (Refuge CCP).

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  • Wetlands

    Pond 2 Wetland photo

     "Waterbirds using this region are highly adaptable to constantly changing wetland conditions and depend on a regional-scale association of wetlands to meet habitat and forage requirements during stages of their annual life cycle" (Refuge CCP).

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