Like the wildebeest of Africa's Serengeti, the annual elk migration to and from the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area (WMA) each winter attracts a myriad of wild followers. Bald and golden eagles, mountain lions, lynx, weasels, magpies, ravens, coyotes, gray jays, even small rodents, and ticks all form part of a procession of predatory, scavenging or parasitic wildlife linked to elk herds.
The Blackfoot-Clearwater WMA has become one of western Montana's premier elk winter ranges. In the 1940s, only a few elk mingled with 1,200 cattle and 6,000 sheep. Today 1,400 elk migrate from their summer wilderness home in the Bob Marshall Wilderness to spend the winter on land where cattle grazing is carefully prescribed. Elk in winter need native grasses for food, forests for shelter from wind and deep snow, and a haven from human disturbance.
To protect the elk from disturbance in the winter, you must watch from pullouts along Highways 83 or 200. Scan the grassy slopes with binoculars at dawn or dusk in December, January or late March.
This WMA is open to the public during May 15-November 15. Reprinted from brochure “Blackfoot Valley Wildlife Viewing Guide.”