Massive Bighorn Sheep Found on Wild Horse Island

By Beacon Staff

Wild Horse Island, near the south end of Flathead Lake, is home to a descendent herd of Spanish mustangs, mule deer and over 200 bighorn sheep. It’s the largest island on Flathead and one of 10 primitive state parks in Montana, meaning almost all 2,100 acres of habitat are open to the public but sustained like a wilderness. It’s on this hermetic island that a state treasure was recently discovered: a massive bighorn sheep ram that died of natural causes with the fourth largest rack ever measured in state history. The length and girth combined to measure 204 inches.

“This is such a unique animal. It’s that one in 10,000,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1 Parks Manager Dave Landstrom said while gazing down at the gargantuan skull at his office recently. “For whatever reason, it got so enormous, so much so that only three other sheep have been measured that were larger.”

Though wildlife officials prefer to leave natural treasures alone for visitors to stumble upon, there was no doubt that this one would wander off. FWP has decided to mount the skull and horns at the office in Kalispell for an educational display about the management and history of sheep on Wild Horse Island. The present herd is tied to a group that was planted on the island in 1947. That initial 10 has grown into 228 as of January. As numbers increase, wildlife officials annually transport sheep via helicopter to other areas to maintain a balanced habitat for all wildlife on the island. Visitors have spotted several large sheep over the years, but this latest ram wins the prize.

“We’re proud because we feel it validates the habitat work we’re doing out there as a state park system,” Landstrom said. “We’re hoping that (Wild Horse Island) will stay a good source for bighorn sheep and other wildlife. But it’s also just an amazing state park. It’s a little gem.”

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