Unseen places — Montana ranches

We passed through a portion of south central Montana on our drive back to Minnesota, and stopped to drive around a beautiful ranch southwest of Bozeman.  Off the beaten track, it turned out to be a great place to see wildlife.

Looking up the canyon divide where the ranch property begins at Gallatin Gateway, Montana.

Turner Enterprises owns the 100,000 acre Flying D ranch, a haven for wildlife and for bison production.

The ranch runs between the Gallatin and Madison Rivers. I imagine there is some good fishing there.  Not a bad place to live either.

A couple of Sandhill Cranes called to us as we drove by.  The wildflowers were in bloom in the prairie areas.

A Hoary Marmot (relative of the woodchuck) called to us from atop his rock next to the road.

I’m not sure which grouse species this is, but this little hen really didn’t want to get off the road in front of our car.

From a high viewpoint on the ranch, we could just make out a scattered buffalo herd in the distance.  Was this what it looked like 150 or more years ago, when Native Americans scouted for buffalo?

Turner Enterprises conducts annual bison round-ups to select animals to harvest for the market. There are probably 5000 animals scattered through the ranch.

Elsewhere on Montana byways, along another ranch road, we watched a Red-tailed Hawk buzz a Bald Eagle sitting on a fence post.

The hawk (far upper right corner) made a couple of dives at the Eagle, but then circled overhead and left it alone.

This bird might have been sickly, because it’s feathers look shabby and it never moved while we drove right up next to it. Lead poisoning is not uncommon in raptors here, if birds scavenge deer or elk carcasses with lead shot fragments embedded in the flesh.

7 thoughts on “Unseen places — Montana ranches

  1. I do love Montana and have been there many times. You have captured some spectacular pictures of Montana’s wildlife – thank you for sharing your vacation with all us bloggers. I love the wide open spaces of the West – where I grew up. Thanks Sue

    • Thanks for your kind comments. I do love those wide open spaces, and would love to spend more time in Montana on another trip. So much to see!

  2. I know Turner owns a lot of land, but I haven’t kept track of how many separate ranches that entails. We visited one in southeast Colorado when I was working on the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas project. We got to see some bears while we were on the ranch. I’m not so sure one person needs to own so much, but at least he seems to be a pretty good steward.

    • I think he owns about 20 ranches, varying in size from tens of thousands of acres to hundreds of thousands. He is setting up a conservation plan for all of the ranches, to be held in their natural ecological state, managed for bison grazing (and production) and also for wildlife including bears, wolves, eagles, etc. Professional biologists are writing the plans and overseeing its implementation on each ranch. So, actually, I’m glad he bought all those ranches, and is going to keep the land wild for the future.

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