Montana Wildlife

Swan River

“Swan River”, Woodblock Print

As many of you know, I live in Santa Barbara, California. But at least twice a year, my husband and I load our dogs into our motor home and drive to Bigfork, Montana outside of Glacier National Park. There, we have a small “cabin” situated on the Swan River where we have been coming for the past 20 years. We absolutely love this second home of ours that looks out over the river, a forest of trees, and the Swan Range of the Rocky Mountains What I particularly love about this place is not only the solitude and great beauty that surrounds us, but also the wildlife inhabitants of this land.

I have always been fascinated and inspired by all species and kinds of wildlife. As you might expect, different species live in the Santa Barbara area than live in and around the Swan River Valley. For example, grizzlies who used to call California home, are often seen in this area and I have even seen one swim across the river. Occasionally we see moose and beavers visit us and help remove some of our trees. I’ve watched lively river otters playing in the water. From our property, we cautiously observe black bears and their cubs roaming the forest that surrounds us (black bears are also found in Santa Barbara’s backcountry). One Spring, a beautiful red fox made her den in a thicket, where I could see her come and go as she brought food to her young. And white-tailed deer (which we do not have in California) are very prevalent throughout this area, and seldom does a day go by without seeing them.

Birds I rarely see in Santa Barbara are common here. Every Spring we usually see the stately adult bald eagles (we do live on a road named Three Eagle Lane) teaching their young to fly and hunt for food. The most common birds we see here are Canada geese. We hear them honking early in the morning and late in the evening. We see goose and gander (Mom and Dad) in the river with their Goslings teaching them to swim, and in the sky as they teach them to fly in formation. Each Spring we have seen at least one pair of sandhill cranes sitting on their nest. I usually see four different species of fresh water ducks with 8, 10, or 12 baby ducklings swimming behind in the water trying to keep up with Mom. We occasionally see osprey fly down the river hunting for fish. In our trees, we will frequently see ravens and the very large pileated woodpecker (several times larger than species we have in Santa Barbara). We also have large flocks of Wild Turkeys wandering through the woods, and I hear many types of song birds that I am unable to identify. Needless to say, Montana wildlife is varied and very exciting to watch.

However, most people, especially those living in cities, do not have an opportunity to see this wonderful array of wildlife as we have in Montana. In Santa Barbara, we have different animal life, but to have the privilege of seeing them at all, is very rare in today’s urban world. Wildlife lived here long before humans, but as we all know, species are disappearing at an alarming rate. I am very concerned that our younger generation will grow up and only know the animals they see in a zoo. Because of this, I started the Creekspirit Wildlife Foundation in Santa Barbara in 2003 in the hope that we could bring a knowledge of our wildlife to both children and adults through different educational programs. Hopefully this Blog will help in a small way to keep our fragile species of wildlife in the forefront of our minds so that future generations will have the privilege of knowing them as we have.

P.S.: If you are able to visit the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature in Solvang, California, I recommend you check out their new exhibition of animal art, in all different media , “Animals from A to Z”.,



One comment on “Montana Wildlife

  1. Hi, Patti! I really enjoyed your blog about Montana wildlife and your beautiful woodblock scene of the river and the bear. You are right! We don’t see too many bears in our urban setting. Thank you for bringing us a bit closer to nature.


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