Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one of more than 560 national wildlife refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that were established to protect, enhance, and restore the Nation's wildlife heritage. Covering 12,383 acres (19 square miles), the Refuge is located on the western edge of the northern Great Plains, 50 miles east of the Rocky Mountains and 12 miles north of Great Falls, Montana.
Location and Contact Information
Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Western Montana National Wildlife Refuge Complex. A Complex is an administrative grouping of two or more refuges, wildlife management areas, or other refuge conservation areas that are managed from a central location. Refuges are grouped into complexes because they occur in a similar ecological region, such as a watershed or specific habitat type, and have a related purpose and management needs. Despite its name, Benton Lake is actually a 6,000-acre shallow wetland created by the last continental glacier thousands of years ago.
What We Do
To help plants and wildlife, Refuge staff uses a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully considers any management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation.
Waterbird use on the Refuge is highest during fall and spring migration periods both in wet and dry periods. As more of the basin is flooded in both the spring and fall, critical migration habitat is provided as stopover areas for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and other species of birds of prey, songbirds, rails, and blackbirds. Over 6,000 acres of intact, northern mixed-grass prairie provide annual habitat for grassland birds for fall and spring migration and breeding.
Mammal species diversity and abundance on the Refuge is tied to wet and dry cycles. The relative abundance and productivity of wetland-dependent species like muskrat and mink tracks along with long-term hydrological and vegetative dynamics. Many mammal species use the uplands such as coyote, American badger, porcupine, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and pronghorn as they move into the area for forage and breeding.