Owl Research Institute at Ninepipes

At the southern most point of the Rocky Mountain Trench, the Pleistocene’s glacial assault ground to a halt, and the receding ice bled into rich terminal moraine.

The melt left behind a vast stretch of bogs, fens and marshes, scattered between pot-holed ponds and islands of grassland -- a place now known as the Ninepipes Wildlife Refuge.

Located within the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwest Montana, the area hosts a biotic party of plants, insects, fish, reptiles, mammals and birds. The revelry includes megafauna celebrities such as mountain lions, grizzly bears and Rocky Mountain elk, right alongside bald and golden eagles, peregrine and prairie falcons, and the festivities even boast a restored population of trumpeter swans.

One character, curtained by the fall of night, perches silent just off stage. You can almost imagine Denver Holt, director of the Owl Research Institute (ORI), turning a spotlight on the quiet, mystical face of owls.

Following the Trench through the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, this riparian corridor offers critical nesting habitat, and provides a significant “flyway” for migrating raptors, all within sight of Holt’s ORI wildlife blinds.

Many owl species visit the Ninepipes area: long-eared, short-eared, great horned, barn and, occasionally, even snowy owls. In the surrounding Crown region: northern pygmy, northern saw-whet, western screech, and flammulated owls can be found.

For more than 25 years, ORI has been conducting scientific research, investigating the ecology, natural history and habitat relationships of owls. Such long-term studies have been otherwise scarce, and the world’s 225 species of owls have remained shrouded in myth.

ORI’s pioneering work has achieved international recognition for research, education and conservation. The Institute’s work has been published in many scientific papers and journals, featured in books and movies, even commanded the cover of National Geographic Magazine.

But despite the academic acclaim, still the outfit runs on muddy boots and fieldwork.

At ORI, habit of observation remains as significant as genetic sampling, and northwest Montana offers the best of all worlds for that outdoor work. Researchers have ready access to field sites, and conduct citizen-science programs that provide visitors, volunteers and participants an excellent in-the-field experience for wildlife observation.

From the fens and fields of Ninepipes, Holt has extended ORI’s range deep into Glacier National Park, where 13 owl species have been known to haunt. Because owls ignore national boundaries, the Institute’s mission reaches throughout the Crown of the Continent and beyond.

If you're interested in volunteering or getting involved email: owlinstitute@hotmail.com

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Location

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Nearby
Latitude: 47.4550809 Longitude: -114.1379499 Elevation: 2997 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Cate Turner-Jamison

Type of Wildlife Often Seen

Many owl species visit the Ninepipes area: long-eared, short-eared, great horned, barn and, occasionally, even snowy owls. In the surrounding Crown region: northern pygmy, northern saw-whet, western screech, and flammulated owls can be found.

Places and Pointers for Viewing

How to find an owl nesting in the Crown:

Most owls are nocturnal predators, hunting mice and voles under cover of night. Once you know their evening habits, perch yourself in a quiet spot and listen carefully for their resonant calls. At dawn and dusk, look for their silhouettes on telephone poles and in snag trees.

In daylight, owls typically rest in well-concealed spots, such as tree cavities and thick evergreens. At the Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge, owls often nest in shelter-belt thickets of hawthorn and evergreen, which cut across the open fields and marshes. Many roost in the lower branches, close to the tree trunks near eye level. To find them, search the forest floor for owl pellets or tell-tale white droppings, and then look up. And don’t forget your binoculars, because wildlife is always best viewed from a distance.

Or, if you really want to see an owl, join one of ORI’s field workshops. The Institute’s mission is three-fold – to study owl ecology, to share scientific research, and to educate the public. Holt’s team provides hands-on programs, workshops, classes and conferences, designed to foster ecological awareness.

Driving Directions

The Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Mission Valley of northwest Montana, 55 miles north of Missoula, Montana on Highway 93.

Comments

How do I volunteer in the summer?

aidan p. morgan, 2/5/2016

is your owl research institute the location of Charlo's osprey nest? I love to watch them on explore and would love to find their location on google earth. I would greatly appreciate your help. joe from Wilmington North Carolina

Joseph Floyd, 8/24/2016

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