Posted: Jul 2, 2012 7:19 PM by Chet Layman - MTN News
Updated: Jul 3, 2012 9:07 AM
BOZEMAN- The Gallatin Mountain Range stretches for more than 70 miles, unobstructed by human-made structures, from 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 have simply called the area home.
Flying is the easiest way to visit the Gallatin Mountain Range. The mountains run north from Yellowstone for about 75 miles until it ends in the Hyalite area south of Bozeman.
Scientist Steve Gehman has studied much of the wildlife in the Gallatin Crest for years. He said the area's diverse meadows, forests and waterways create a "tremendous diversity" of plant life.
"Really, it's some of the best wildlife habitat in North America," Gehman said.
His years of study have produced some surprises, like mountain goats, which have 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 we saw along the crest," he said. He thinks mountain goats are out competing bighorn sheep for the grasslands and steep terrain both specie prefer.
The trip was thanks to EcoFlight, a non-profit group that helps researchers and conservation groups attain that view only available from above, and Bruce Gordan piloted the plane.
Gehman said the trip is always a rush.
"As an old mountaineer, you know, I don't get up there as often as I'd like these days," he said. "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."
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 clicking here.