PROJECTS AT WILD HORSE ISLAND
The Wild Horse Island Unit of Flathead Lake State Park receives around 20,000 visitors annually who seek world-class wildlife viewing opportunities. In 2019 and 2020 we worked on several immediate project opportunities that improved wildlife habitat, improved park access, and enhanced the visitor experience.
Ponderosa Pine encroachment and noxious weeds invasion threatened the Palouse Prairie that serves as the forage for the island’s wildlife; mule deer, bighorn sheep, and the namesake wild horses. Before Ponderosa Pine encroaching saplings grew to a larger, more difficult size to manage, Montana Conservation Crews were hired to hand thin these small saplings, thus conserving the grasses and forbs that sheep and deer depend on. Additionally, crews hand pulled and sprayed noxious weeds, most notably Canada thistle and knapweed.
Additionally, we worked with Montana State Parks staff to replace old landing site signage with new, aesthetically pleasing kiosks. These new kiosks are fabricated out of logs harvested from the island that create a unique aesthetic.
Providing clear, consistent information to visitors as they arrive to the park at one of six boat landing sites and again along trails as they traverse the island is critical to establishing appropriate human behavior and minimizing negative interaction between humans and wildlife. As visitation to Montana State Parks and Wildhorse Island increases, implementing cost-effective measures to protect wildlife habitat and ensure visitor safety will prove to be a very worthwhile investment.