National Bison Range Wildlife Refuge
Spend some time up close with these majestic animals, the embodiment of the wild west. Click here to download the Bison Range Brochure with Map.
The National Bison Range is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It was established in 1908, making it over 100 years old, and one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation.
The 18,500 acre range was established to support a population of American bison. It is home to about 350-500 of these animals. Other large wildlife found on the Range include elk, white-tail and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, black bear, coyote and ground squirrels who share the area with 350 to 500 bison. Over 200 species of birds also call this home including eagles, hawks, meadowlarks, bluebirds, ducks, and geese. Because of its open grasslands, the Bison Range is a place for the public to enjoy some excellent wildlife observation and photography.
Other nearby areas administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service include Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge and Pablo National Wildlife Refuge. These areas contain irrigation reservoirs located on Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal lands. There are excellent opportunities to view waterfowl, bald
eagles, herons, cormorants, and a wide variety of song birds.
The best place to start your visit is at the Visitor Center. Here you will find informative displays and handouts, restrooms, videos, a bookstore, and staff to answer your questions. Pay entrance fees here.
Fees are charged during the summer (mid-May to late October). The Range is part of the U.S. Fee System and accepts Golden Passes and Federal Waterfowl Stamps. Pay fees at the Visitor Center. Camping is not allowed and the Range is closed at night.
The Bighorn Sheep viewing site is a highway pull-out with informational signs about Bighorn Sheep. It is located along a field where sheep are frequently seen. Here is a unique opportunity to see Bighorn Sheep in their native environment.
It ain’t football these rams are playing in the fall, but their headgear is as good as any helmet worn in the NFL.
It’s Bighorn Sheep mating season in Montana and these big boys mean business. Weighing up to 300 pounds, they charge their rivals at 20 miles per hour, butting heads in a struggle for herd dominance. This violent sport can be heard miles away as their distinctive curved horns collide.
One of the best places to watch the big game is the Koo-Koo-Sint Bighorn Sheep Viewing Area just outside of Thompson Falls, Montana. It is part of the Lolo National Fortest, and the area has interpretive signs that describe the natural history of the bighorn sheep, their habitat, and the geology of the valley.
Bighorn Sheep used to be found throughout the West from Canada to Mexico, but today they can only be seen in a few areas. That is what makes Koo-Koo-Sint so remarkable. During the peak viewing months of October through December anywhere from seventy to one hundred bighorn sheep may be grazing in the mountain meadow just off Highway 200.
The Bighorn Sheep, related the Old World Ibex, are exceptionally social. Or at least the females are. After spending the summer together in high, craggy cliffs, they travel down the mountain as winter approaches to forage for grasses and leaves. The rams, which have been off on their own since the spring, join up with the ewes in this high mountain meadow just as they go into their rut. And that, shall we say, is when the game begins.