Learn about migratory birds at this year's Raptor Fest.
If you've seen the film Winged Migration, you may already be familiar with the humbling feeling that comes with really noticing the remarkable endurance of migratory birds. And if you haven't, you're in the right place to witness the beauty first hand: the Bridger Raptor Festival has the best seats in town (and they're free).
Up to 17 different species of raptors (birds of prey) make their way through our area each year, with the golden eagle making up the largest group. According to the National Park Service, golden eagles fly 3,000 to 4,000 miles every year, from as far north as Denali National Park in Alaska to as far south as Mexico. During September and October, Hawk Watch International and the U.S. Forest Service maintain a raptor monitoring station on the ridge above Bridger Bowl, as the area is a big pit stop in the largest known migration of golden eagles in the lower 48 states.
The Bridger Raptor Festival's main event is held at the Jim Bridger Lodge at the base of Bridger Bowl Ski Area in early October. Take Highway 86 to the Bridger Bowl parking lot, then follow the 1.5-mile marked trail to the viewing ridge. Events include live birds, exhibits, kids’ activities, raptor identification talks, and Native American storytelling, dancing, and drumming. Bring binoculars and be prepared for changing weather.
Other raptor-related activities include the Annual International Wildlife Film Festival, and the Bridger Raptor Hike. You can even get a Montana Raptor Center license plate through the Montana DMV.
For more festival information, contact the Montana Raptor Conservation Center at 585-1211 or the Montana Outdoor Science School at 582-0526.