Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Astonishing Migrations

By the time this hen steelhead completes its spawning run, up the Columbia, Snake and Salmon Rivers to      Stanley, ID it will have traveled 900 miles, negotiated a dozen dams, dodged commercial nets as well as the efforts of countless anglers litterally lurking around every bend. Ditto the Chinook salmon soon to follow. While both runs are but a shadow of what once was--numerous accounts tell of salmon packed in the upper Salmon River such "you could walk across their backs"--and comprised largely of hatchery reared fish still...

Native bull trout have been known to migrate up and down stream nearly 150 miles between home water and spawning sites. While Arctic Grayling have been known to cover 75 miles of river in a few days apparently with nothing more in mind than satisfying an itch to wander.

Pronghorn migrations aren't quite so spectacular and not nearly as long winded but...Consider those spend part of the year in and around Crater of the Moons National Monument in Idaho and the rest of the year about 180 miles east in southwest Montana; or the roughly 300 mile trek the continent's most unique big game animal makes twice a year between southern Alberta and Saskatchewan to the Missouri Breaks country well south in Montana.

Sandhill cranes arrive in Montana each spring having completed the long arduous round-trip from southern New Mexico and Arizona. Recently a radio-implanted long-billed curlew took off from just north of the Missouri Breaks and flew south 1200 miles in just 26 hours!! While each spring tens of thousands of snow geese set down on Freezeout Lake staging for the next leg of their long migration from Texas to beyond the Arctic circle.

Each spring mule deer and elk arrive in the Big Hole having spent the winter up and over the jagged peaks of the Beaverhead Range into Idaho. The mule deer you see this summer in the Wise River country will not likely be there when the shooting starts in mid-October, most having already boogied to winter range over the hill in Idaho.

As spring morphs into early summer songbirds filter into the northern Rockies and High Plains from as far away as Central and South America. Only to wing it south once again with the first hint of fall frost.

Migration is truly astonishing. If you haven't already get out there and bear witness. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

And OK, should you wonder where to start in Montana, why it just so happens that's exactly what my book Great Places Montana is all about. I know I know, shameless self-promotion...what can I say.

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