KZBK.COM 6/29/12 Flyover Done To View Gallatin Crest

Jun 29, 2012

Outdoors

Flyover done to view wildlife of the Gallatin Crest

Posted: Jun 29, 2012 PM by Chet Layman

The Gallatin Mountain range is unique in that it stretches for more than 70 miles without man-made obstructions from inside Yellowstone National Park to the foothills around Bozeman. Disputes continue over who should have access to this area, known as the Gallatin Crest, but for eons wildlife of all shapes and sizes has simply called the area home.

By air is the easiest way to visit the Gallatin Mountain Range. The mountains run north from Yellowstone for about 75 miles until ending in the Hyalite area just south of Bozeman. However, much happens in those 75 miles as far as wildlife is concerned.

Steve Gehman has studied much of the wildlife in the Gallatin Crest for years.

"As we saw from the flight a tremendous diversity of vegetation and topography really creates a lot of micro-habitats for animals as well as generally great habitat when you get that mixture of meadows, forests, put a lot of water in there and really it's some of the best wildlife habitat in North America," Gehman said.

His years of study have produced some surprises. One of those is the mountain goat, which has only been seen in the Gallatin since about 1990. Gehman says the population has grown beyond anything he'd expected.

"The fact that mountain goats came on to the scene was a big shock for the bighorn sheep because they are direct competitors, they eat a lot of the same food and there's a limited amount of that prime habitat like was saw along the crest. the grasslands, the steep cliffs that provide escape terrain that sort of thing. So it's possible we have some data that would indicate it's possible that mountain goats are out competing bighorn sheep in some areas."

The flyover was handled by EcoFlight, a non-profit group that helps researchers and conservation groups attain that view only available from above.

The pilot was Bruce Gordon.

"It's always a rush to fly over the mountains. As an old mountaineer, you know, I don't get up there as often as I'd like these days. But I'm still thrilled by the wildness of it all and when I see it from the air and the possibilities of continuing that wildness I'm very excited about it," Graham said.

Gehman's research was prepared for the Wilderness Society in 2010, and the information on grizzlies was updated May of this year. His 40-page research document is available by going to gallatinwrp.org.

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