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
  • Hazing
  • 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
  • Herders
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.


Ungulate Resources

MFWP 2016 Moose Report (PDF)

MFWP Moose Populations & Monitoring

Montana Outdoors: Moose

Ecology and Management of Mule Deer and White-tailed Deer in Montana (PDF)

MFWP Montana Statewide Elk Management

MFWP Elk Management Plan

MFWP Antelope

MFWP Big Horn Sheep Conservation Strategy

MFWP Moose Sheep and Goat Hunting Guide

Wild Sheep Foundation: Separation is Part of the Solution

Montana Field Guides: Mountain Goat

Targeted Elk Brucellosis Surveillance Project Update

APHIS: Facts About Brucellosis (PDF)