Teacher Nikki Eide (center standing) and some of the students take a break during their winter hike. Photo by Brian Baxter, The Montanian

McCormick School in Yaak winter field trip

By Brian Baxter


On Friday, Jan. 10, 2020 students of the McCormick School near the Yaak River were treated to a winter outdoor educational trip focusing on animal tracking and winter ecology. The historic school building is remotely set, and at present there are approximately 14 students aging six to thirteen years old. Local Outdoor Education and Natural Resources Information company Silver Cloud Associates provided an experienced instructor, and along with teacher Nikki Eide and her assistant teacher Katherine, the group headed to the field to explore.

The team applied and sharpened their powers of observation as they hiked through woods habitats in the cool morning air as snowflakes fell. The group found and discussed the tracks of White-tail deer, Snowshoe hare, Pine squirrels, Ravens, and Field mice, and they identified the scat of coyote and deer. Hearing the sounds of a flock of Chickadees, the naturalists talked about how birds stay warm in winter. They also discussed the mutually beneficial symbiotic relationships of animals and plants as they identified Deer moss, Old Man’s Beard lichen, Club moss, and common lichens and algae. The explorers also keyed in on Pileated woodpecker foraging holes, insect larvae tunnels in tree bark, Indian Paint and Redbelt fungus.

The science squad then headed uphill, where they observed forest surveyed property corners, buck rubs, and a large Ponderosa pine black bear clawed tree. By now they were picking up a plethora of sights, sounds, smells, textures, and zoning in on natures signs. The group then headed down for a drink at a freshwater spring, before being treated to a hot lunch prepared by bus driver and host Terry Holmes. A great time was had by all.

Free guided Winter


Montana Wilderness Association is excited to announce that we will be hosting two free guided outings in the Kootenai this winter as part of our Winter Adventures series.

“I’m excited for this year’s Winter Adventures in the Kootenai,” said MWA’s Northwest Montana Field Director Allie Maloney. “Exploring Montana in the wintertime is special, and I’m glad that we can give folks the chance to experience our amazing public lands while they’re under the snow.”

On January 19, Allie will partner with Yellowstone to Yukon’s Jessie Grossman to lead a cross-country skiing adventure to Ross Creek Cedars. Participants will ski along the summer access road to the trail before following a groomed ski track into the cathedral of towering cedars.

On February 8, Allie and Henry Jorden of Friends of Scotchman Peaks will lead a snowshoe adventure along the historic Callahan Creek trail in Troy. Along the way, they’ll talk about the history of Troy and Callahan Creek. Parking is limited at the trailhead, so MWA will offer a shuttle from the Troy Museum to the trailhead. This short two-mile outing is perfect for families.

Both adventures are free of charge, and all community members are welcome. Please remember to bring water, appropriate winter clothing, and a snack. Snowshoes will be provided on the Callahan Creek outing, but participants should bring their own skis, boots, and poles to Ross Creek Cedars. In case of a lack of snow, hike leaders will contact participants in advance of their outing.

Participants can register for the Ross Creek Cedars and Callahan Creek Winter Adventures at www.wildmontana.org/walks. Please contact Allie Maloney at amaloney@wildmontana.org with any questions.

Submitted by Alex Blackmer


Bull Trout

harvest closure in effect on lake Koocanusa

The harvesting of bull trout on Lake Koocanusa is closed in an effort to improve the diminished population of the threatened species.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission on Jan. 6 approved a request from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional biologists to implement the closure while maintaining catch-and-release fishing on the large lake in Lincoln County. Prior to the closure, harvest was limited to one bull trout per license year from June 1 through February 28 with catch-and-release fishing allowed the rest of the year. Anglers were required to have a Lake Koocanusa Bull Trout Catch Card when fishing for bull trout.

Bull trout are listed as a Threatened Species under the Endangered Species Act. Through special arrangements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, limited harvest has been allowed at Lake Koocanusa, Hungry Horse Reservoir, and a catch-and-release fishery is allowed in the South Fork Flathead River.

Due to the threatened status of the native species, FWP prefers to take a very conservative approach to bull trout management while still allowing opportunities for harvest when possible.

Bull trout redd counts in the fall are used as an important metric for measuring fish reproduction and recruitment and are included as part of the requirements for the harvest permit. For the Lake Koocanusa bull trout population, redd counts in Wigwam River in British Columbia and Grave Creek in Montana are important for determining harvest quotas. Over the past six years, redd counts had been fairly steady in both streams. In Fall 2019, spawning redds in both streams declined substantially, prompting concerns that limited angler harvest could have population-scale impacts.

FWP biologists believe it is appropriate to limit harvest until redd counts improve.

Bull trout are native to rivers, streams and lakes in the Columbia (Kootenai, Clark Fork, Bitterroot, Blackfoot, Flathead, and Swan drainages) and Saskatchewan River (St. Mary and Belly drainages) basins. Declines in bull trout abundance and distribution have been caused by habitat loss and degradation from land and water management practices; population isolation and fragmentation from dams and other barriers; competition, predation and hybridization with introduced non-native fish species (lake trout, northern pike, brook trout and others); historical overharvest; and poaching.

Submitted by Dillon Tabish