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Bigfork, Montana Area Chamber of Commerce

Watchable Wildlife

Everyone expects to see some wildlife during a trip to Montana. Most visitors say they’d love to see a bear, a moose, deer or mountain goat. While we can’t guarantee that everyone will see a bear, we can promise that if you keep a good eye out, you’ll probably spot some our wilder residents.  That’s because Montana has a greater variety of wildlife than any other state in the lower 48. Surrounded by national parks, forests and protected lands, Bigfork is the perfect gateway to a wilderness area equal to the size of the state of Vermont. There’s no better place to watch and learn about the critters that are our neighbors.

Of course, when people think about seeing that bear or mountain goat, they first think of Glacier National Park. The Many Glacier area is known as one of the best places to spot a bear or bighorn sheep.  At Logan Pass, you can often spot mountain goats and sometimes the bighorn sheep. The hoary marmot chatters away while the bald eagle often soars overhead.  On the east side near the park, you might spot antelope on the prairie or a moose in one of the marshes.

A drive around Flathead Lake will reveal eagles and osprey along with deer and a wide array of birds and waterfowl.  A trip to Wild Horse Island is a wildlife watcher’s dream with wild horses, bighorn sheep, deer and bear. At the north end of the lake, the Flathead Lake Waterfowl Production Area is home to migratory and nesting birds. The park is closed from March through July 15 to protect the young but if you look overhead, you’ll probably spot one or more of the osprey that make their home in nests provided by the power companies. The nests can be seen along state Highway 82 connecting Bigfork with Highway 93.

Closer to town, representatives of the Flathead Native Plant Society and the Audubon Society lead nature walks every Saturday along the Swan River Nature Trail. South of Swan Lake, the Sprunger-Whitney Nature Trail provides an easy 2.1 miles for walking and viewing. This trail is located in old-growth forest, making it perfect for bird watching. And for those who love to hike, the Jewel Basin is rich with views, clear lakes and hiking trails for all abilities.

Before you venture out on the trail, we recommend that you stop by the Bigfork Visitor Information center and pick up “A Guide to Ultimate Wildlife Watching”  created by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. This handy brochure provides tips on the safe ways to view wildlife such as:

  • Let the animals be themselves.  Resist the urge to get too close. These animals are not pets and they are not in a zoo.  Disrupting that natural order could be disastrous for the animal and dangerous for the viewer.
  • Use binoculars or zoom lenses to get that close-up.
  • Photographers should use at least a 400 mm lens.  Feature both the animal and its surroundings.
  • Leave no trace. Trash and garbage can be deadly for animals.  Bring along a trash bag and use it.
  • Never feed the animals.  Yes, that chipmunk or marmot may be cute but sharing your lunch with them may harm their digestive systems.  Don’t let them get hooked on handouts. They need to learn to forage for their own food year-round.
  • Do your research.  Check field guides and other publications to learn about the animals’ habitat.  That will help you figure out the best time of day for viewing.
  • Look for the brown and white binocular signs along the highways.  These give a a good indication that wildlife might be nearby.

To obtain a brochure before your trip, just e-mail the Bigfork Area Chamber at

The wonderful thing about this part of Montana is that we share our living space with many wild creatures.  That’s why we recommend that you keep your eye out all the time.  Every road or trail just might be the route to a great viewing experience.

To learn more about Bigfork and its wild neighbors, visit  Media queries may be directed to Carol Beck-Edgar at 406-837-2061.

Listed in Outdoor Recreation

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