Tongue River (Montana) - Wildlife and Fisheries

Wildlife and Fisheries

The Tongue River Valley, before it reaches the Big Horn Mountains, is part of an extensive drainage basin which is an environment in which wild game thrives. In this area of rolling prairies, sandstone outcrops and Ponderosa pines, there are plentiful numbers of whitetail deer and mule deer, many of trophy quality. Antelope are found throughout this area. On the more southern tributaries, particularly in the Custer National Forest area, there are growing herds of prairie elk, an animal originally native to the plains of eastern Montana. Throughout the area are upland game birds, notably pheasant and grouse, and increasingly abundant flocks of wild turkeys.

The headwaters of the Tongue located in the Big Horn National Forest, in the Big Horn Mountains provide resources for deer, elk, bear and mountain lion hunting.

The grey wolf is an issue if not yet a reality in the Tongue River Basin, and there have been unconfirmed sightings of wolves in the more remote areas of the basin. Livestock, particularly sheep and calves, are vulnerable to wolves and, according to reports, livestock suffered significant depredations by wolves and coyotes in the last part of the 19th and the first part of the 20th century. This led to a war on these predators, with bounties paid by livestock associations and state agencies. By the mid 1930s wolves had been exterminated completely in the Tongue River basin (and indeed throughout the stockgrowing west). Times changed, and sympathy grew for the wolf, as well as his cousin the coyote. Since the release of wolves in Yellowstone Park in 1995, there has been increasing concern by stockgrowers in surrounding areas that wolf packs would migrate out of the Park to cattle country and re-establish themselves where the pickings were better. In cattle and sheep country like the Tongue River basin, the debate about wolf reintroduction is ongoing and far from resolved.

The Tongue River Reservoir is popular among fishermen for a variety of fish. Very large catfish have been caught at the reservoir. In its upper reaches above the Tongue River Reservoir, and extending into the Big Horn Mountains, the Tongue River is fished for trout. Follow the footnote for six access points in Wyoming, five of them in the mountain section of the Tongue.

The Tongue is a Class I river from Tongue River Dam to its confluence with the Yellowstone River for public access and for recreational purposes.

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