Magazine article American Forests

Roadside Bighorns

Magazine article American Forests

Roadside Bighorns

Article excerpt

Nothing stops traffic like a 200-pound, full-curl bighorn ram. And that's exactly what happens at's exactly what happens along Montana Highway 200 when bighorn sheep drop down from the steep, rocky mountain slopes to feed in the alfalfa fields in the Clark Fork valley.

Between Plains and Thompson Falls, the highway runs along the Clark Fork of the Columbia River and crosses the home of one of Montana's largest bighorn herds. Along with spectacular scenery, the river valley offers all the essentials that make for perfect bighorn habitat: steep cliffs for protection from predators, south-facing slopes that stay free of snow in the winter, and open, grassy hillsides.

As idyllic as this sounds, the sheep posed a serious traffic problem. To solve it, individuals from federal, state, and local agencies and organizations got together to find a way to permit the public to continue viewing the sheep while keeping traffic flowing safely.

The solution? A wildlife viewing area and interpretive site-created by volunteers.

A state highway patrolman who had spent considerable time breaking up bighorn-caused traffic jams spearheaded the project, with support from the rangers of the Plains/Thompson Falls district in Lolo National Forest. …

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