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November 8, 2018



The south side of the Clark Fork River between Paradise and 14-Mile Creek is a site for a potential transplant of bighorn sheep from Wildhorse Island in Flathead Lake, according to Fish and Game Department (F&G), wildlife biologist Bob Henderson of Thompson Falls.

The area above Cascade Campground on the Paradise-St. Regis cutoff is a traditional bighorn sheep range. “Oldtimers in the area tell me that sheep were in the area until the early 1900s,” Henderson reported.

Hunting and losses to trains gradually wiped out the herd.

“We’re hoping to get about 25 to 30 animals to plant in this area,” Henderson said.

Currently F&G biologists estimate Wildhorse Island has from 100 to 150 surplus animals in its herd. Last winter it was estimated there were 250 bighorns on the three-square mile island. Biologists estimated the island can support a maximum of 75 sheep.

The burgeoning sheep population in the Thompson River drainage and near Bad Rock was started with a plant several years ago in Munson Creek.

A number of sportsmen have requested bighorn plants for their area. In addition, there has been a huge increase in the demand for sheep hunting permits.

This season, permits were issued for killing seven mature rams and 15 ewes from the three Thompson River-Munson Creek herds.

F&G personnel hope that if the proposed sheep plant on 14-Mile Creek takes as expected, in several years more hunters will get an opportunity to bag a bighorn.

In 1979, 41 sheep were transplanted from Wildlhorse Island. The sheep are doing very well at their new range. In the two lambing seasons on the cutoff they have increased to over 80 head. When David Thompson came through this area sheep were seen up in the rocks and were inaccessible for food.

EXCERPTS FROM “A History of Plains Ranger District and Vicinity”

May, 1933

Word has just been received by the Supervisor of the Cabinet Forest that requisitions for fish planting totaling about 645,000 fish to be planted within the Cabinet Forest during the 1933 season have been approved, subject to the condition that there fish available to fill applications. The requisition for fish in Cabinet Forest include the following streams and waters: Prospect Creek, Vermilion River, Lower Thompson River, Bull River, Twelve Mile Creek, Little Joe Creek (both forks), Swamp Creek near Trout Creek, Graves Creek, Elk Creek near Noxon, Cherry Creek, Pilgrim Creek, Tamarack Creek near St. Regis, Big Creek, Little Thompson River, Marten Creek, Dry Creek near Thompson Falls, Rock Creek near Noxon, Lower and Upper St. Regis River, Bear Creek near plains, Two Mile Creek, Deer Creek near Haugen, Chippy Creek, Deep Creek near Thompson Falls, Clear Creek, Ward Creek, Silver Creek, Semen Creek, and a number of others. The fish will be received from Federal Fish Hatchery of Bozeman.

1937: From about 1935-37 the Forest Service and the Fish and Game Department trained crews, including some CCC boys, to study wild game including elk, deer, sheep and goats.

They have studied each one as to their eating and grazing habits during spring, summer, fall and winter and their migration during the seasons. There were records kept of the kinds of bushes, brush and grasses that elk ate. Some of these bushes are a must which these animals need, as well as the grass. If there isn’t enough in one area, they have to move or range farther to find what they want. Elk usually are found ranging farther and higher up during summer and fall months and most of the time they stay in timber.

The elk stay in higher country on the Forest Service land unless snow gets deep and then they move down lower and onto private lands to find grazing.

The white-tailed deer, of which the Plains area has most, like the thick brushy creek bottoms and lowlands, while the mule or black-tailed like it higher on the mountain sides in timbered country.

The deer shed their horns in late winter months and grow new ones by spring. Elk and moose shed their horns about the same time as deer.

Mountain sheep and goats like the high rock slopes and mountain tops. Sheep and goats feed on the same grasses and new shoots on bushes as the deer and elk.

There was a time when much of the Forest Service land was grazed so heavily with sheep and cattle that it left very little for the wild animals in winter. Now the Forest Service controls the grazing with permits. They do not allow over grazing so there is ample feed in most areas for game in winter.


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