Whatcha Seeing Out There?
Wildlife through the windshield
Late winter is a very good time for wildlife viewing along highway and river corridors. The animals move to the open edges for food that is more easily accessed. Good wildlife viewing opportunities will be within or close to the road right-of-way. The sight of a wintering cow and calf moose or the herd of bighorn sheep can be a highlight of a trip for some and everyday reason why we live where we do for others.
However, the safety of human viewers should be the most important consideration, but it’s often given the least thought. Highway 191 can seem like a bobsled course filled with semis. It is not the controlled traffic of the park roads in Yellowstone or a safari land ride where anything goes to get your photo of the day!
The local sheriff reports are frequented with the antics of visitors, truck drivers and all sorts of locals doing dumb things on 191.
Some common sense is needed if you are going to stop. The posted signs read, “No stopping on pavement.” That means if there is not enough room to pull off the highway all the way across the fog line—the white line on right side of road—do not park there! Find a pullout close by and use it. If you do get the vehicle completely off the road, make sure your passengers don’t just jump out and get right back in the danger zone.
Corners and curves with limited sight distance are another area to pay attention to because the following traffic is sure to round a corner at any minute. A large truck or SUV that speeds around a curve to find a stopped vehicle in the road can be a killer.
The wildlife is in winter mode where they are not as likely to move off quickly as they do in summer or fall. They will move off a short distance and wait until the possible threat is gone. Then they move back to the favorable conditions by the road. Keeping that in mind because it can create viewing opportunities for multiple days.
In addition to the bighorns commonly found just up Highway 64 from the Conoco and further north along Highway 191, the river bank around Greek Creek is a good place to spot moose. Just be smart about it.
Dan Pluth runs Animal Control Solutions (www.animalcontrolsolutionsmt.com) and is an avid wildlife watcher.