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Medicine Lake
National Wildlife Refuge

A close-up image of this American white pelican shows the bright orange skin around the bird's eye; the bird's beak is the same orange color.
223 North Shore Road
Medicine Lake, MT   59247
E-mail: medicinelake@fws.gov
Phone Number: 406-789-2305
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
This American white pelican is one of over 10,000 that nest on refuge each year, making it one of the largest white pelican colonies in the world.
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Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established in 1935 to provide breeding habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. It lies within the highly productive prairie pothole region and has relief typical of the glacial drift prairie -- relatively gentle rolling plains with numerous shallow wetland depressions. Medicine Lake NWR has been recognized by the American Bird Conservancy as one of the "Top 100 Globally Important Bird Areas in the U.S." and was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1980.

Getting There . . .
Medicine Lake NWR is located north of Culbertson, Montana. From US 2, travel north on Montana Highway 16 for 25 miles to the Refuge entrance. Turn east on North Shore Road and travel 2.3 miles over a gravel road to the headquarters.

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These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The Refuge is home to a diverse array of native prairie and wetland-associated wildlife species. More than 273 species of birds have been seen on the Refuge, and 125 bird species breed here.

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Medicine Lake is located above the ancestral Missouri River channel that flowed north to the Hudson Bay. The last glacial activity forced it to turn its course to the south as the glacial sheet moved down from Canada. When the massive sheet of ice receded, it left a blanket of glacial till resulting in rocky rolling hills with numerous wetlands and marshes.

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Management Activities
The Refuge is managed to closely follow natural conditions of the northern Great Plains ecosystem. Water units are managed at various levels to provide optimum conditions for nesting waterfowl and other water-dependent wildlife. Management of native grasslands is aimed at providing quality nesting cover for waterfowl and native prairie birds. Management techniques mimic historic conditions of wildfire and grassland grazing through haying, grazing, and prescribed burning.

The American white pelican colony is protected from mammalian predators through various management activities. Water levels are kept high in Medicine Lake to maintain natural islands, which provide a barrier from nest predators. Also, a predator-proof electric fence across the base of a peninsula provides secure nesting for not only pelicans, but also for other nesting birds.