Important Bird Areas

National Bison Range

Montana

The National Bison Range was established in 1908, making it one of the oldest national wildlife refuges in the country. It contains nearly 7,600 ha, 76% of which consists of native Palouse prairie. Conifer stands, riparian cottonwoods, and brushy draws combine with the grasslands to provide a rich variety of habitats that support elk, deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, black bears, mountain lions, and 350-500 bison, in addition to a rich diversity of birds.

Ornithological Summary

More than 200 species of birds have been recorded on the refuge. State species of conservation concern that breed here include Bald Eagles, Lewis's Woodpeckers, Red-naped Sapsuckers, Willow Flycatchers, Lazuli Buntings, and Grasshopper Sparrows.

Conservation Issues

Although the Bison Range receives large numbers of visitors in summer, most do not leave the main road, and hiking trails are few. Thus, human disturbance to birds is minimal. The grasslands are in decent shape, but invasive forbs and grasses remain a problem.

Habitat

Most of the Bison Range is covered by native Palouse prairie, with rough fescue, Idaho fescue, bluebunch wheatgrass, and prairie junegrass being the dominant grasses. Forests at the higher elevations consist of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, and those in the lower riparian areas are dominated by black cottowood, quaking aspen, and Rocky Mountain juniper. Shrubby draws contain snowberry, rose, chokecherry, serviceberry, and hawthorn.

Land Use

The Bison Range is used for environmental education throughout the year. Long-term research is being conducted on bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, bison, rattlesnakes and weed control.