The Big Hole watershed provides habitat to several ungulate species, including white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), elk (Cervus canadensis), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), moose (Alces alces), and Big Horn sheep (Ovis canadensis).
Elk & Game Damage on Private LandS
Landowners in the Big Hole watershed are interested in elk wintering patterns resulting in elk on private lands. High volumes of elk on working ranches result in grazed haystacks and damaged fences and potentially attract predators to private lands. Vehicle collisions on roads and interstates occur as elk cross low-lying areas. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has tools to offer to help combat game damage issues, and they are willing to work with landowners. Please reach out to them if you have any questions or concerns regarding game damage and possible management actions.
Game damage tools may include:
- Noise deterrents
- Deer D Fence
- Stackyard materials
- Game damage hunts (meant to deter elk from a specific location, not meant to be a large-scale slaughter)
- Management seasons (a game damage hunt for multiple landowners; for both dispersal and population control)
- Kill permits (meat goes to food bank)
- Supplemental game damage permit
So what can landowners do about game damage?
- Allow public access during hunting season:
- Helps manage local populations
- Qualifies landowner for game damage assistance from MFWP
- Be part of MFWP’s season setting process.
- Build wildlife-friendly fences and stackyards (fenced enclosures around haystacks) where it makes sense.
- Reach out to MFWP to access fencing materials and/or assistance to purchase and assemble materials.
Big Hole Moose population trends
The moose is an iconic and beloved species in the Big Hole watershed, but according to MFWP’s 2016 Montana Moose Report, their population in the Big Hole is declining.