Get Involved

RMEF Jack Fence 512x219

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation members have volunteered thousands of hours to make Lost Trail NWR safer for wildlife.

You too can volunteer for refuge projects by contacting our main office. Give us a call @ 406-858-2216

 


Volunteers and partners are valuable allies of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These individuals and groups are vital to fulfilling the Service’s mission and goals. Each year, they give generously their time, expertise and resources to the National Wildlife Refuge System.  

Volunteers and partners are critical to fulfilling the goals and objectives for habitat and wildlife management on Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge. For more information on volunteering on Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge – please contact our office. 

A Conservation Success Story

One of the biggest supporters of the Refuge in terms of volunteer hours and funding has been the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). For five years after the refuge was established, up to 60 volunteers would spend a weekend in April removing old barb wire fence that was left from previous ranch owners. At the time of purchase the refuge contained approximately 30 miles of interior fence, 10 miles of fence along the county road, and 20 miles of exterior boundary fence. These fences were once important for livestock grazing management prior to refuge establishment; however, they are not necessary for refuge management and are a hazard to large mammals like elk, deer and moose. Wildlife can become entangled in fences, which can cause serious injury or death. Additionally, the refuge can receive up to 3 feet of snow in the winter and these high snow levels may impede movement of ungulates by blocking access under fences.  

RMEF volunteers also came to the rescue of elk and deer on the refuge during the winter of 2005. During the 2004 onsite pre-construction meetings to restore Dahl Lake, two elk and a deer carcass were discovered in the ditch bottom within the first couple hundred yards of where it exited the lake. A closer inspection revealed that these and an unknown number of other ungulates had succumbed to the boggy area when they attempted to cross the ditch. It immediately became apparent that not only was the ditch serving to drain a wetland, but due to its immense size, it was also serving as a migration barrier for ungulates attempting to traverse the valley floor.  

Refuge staff immediately began daily monitoring to make sure no more elk and deer became stuck in the 200 yard boggy stretch at the west end of the lake. From late October until freeze-up in late November, Refuge staff rescued 9 elk.   

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Refuge staff placed plywood on the ground to provide a stable working platform and then pulled the six cow elk by using a 4 inch horse cinch placed behind the front legs. The cinch was tied to a rope and the elk were pulled out by a pickup. The cinch was then released and the elk were free. The three bull elk were pulled out by their horns. No elk died as a result of these rescue attempts.  

In December 2004 it was decided to construct a large 8 foot high wooden jack fence on either side of the boggy area to prevent the elk from attempting to cross through the area. Knowing this effort would be labor intensive, the local Flathead Chapter of RMEF was contacted. On a cold wintering day in January, 24 RMEF volunteers assisted with the construction of nearly .6 miles of a wooden jack fence on the frozen, snow covered boggy area near the outlet of Dahl Lake. The jack fence was constructed over one weekend and since the fence completion, no elk have become mired.  

 Dahl Lake elk fence redline 512x219 

Today, restoration efforts have increased the lake level to where the remains of the jack fence can just barely be seen along the old outlet of the lake. Elk are able to swim across the dangerous boggy area now and can safely make it to solid ground.  

RMEF has also provided vital funding for invasive species control through PAC Grants to the Refuge. These funds have been used to purchase chemicals used to spray refuge grasslands heavily infested with noxious weeds. This effort has improved forage for elk and deer and habitat for a variety of grassland dependent species such as grasshopper sparrows, vesper sparrows and western meadow larks.