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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Presettlement Wildlife and Habitat of Montana:
An Overview

Annotation Of Expeditions And Individuals Recording Natural History Notes

Northern Pacific Railroad Surveys, 1871-1873:

The Northern Pacific Railroad Surveys were brief reconnaissances across southern Montana and southern North Dakota over a three year period to determine the most feasible route between Bozeman and Bismarck. The surveys were directed by Colonel D.S. Stanley. The U.S. Army provided armed escorts for the surveyors and naturalists employed on this project. This armed escort totalled 1,900 men, and included Custer and the 7th calvary. Expeditions came from Fort Ellis in Montana and Fort Rice in North Dakota. The areas explored were along the Yellowstone River, north to the Musselshell River, between Fort Ellis and Glendive Creek (present site of Glendive), and then eastward into North Dakota (Figure 22). It was during the 1873 survey that ornithologist J. A. Allen served as the expedition naturalist. Allen was a careful observer of wildlife and habitat conditions found along the survey route and his notes are a valuable record of conditions in 1873. In addition to writing an exhaustive account of birds found on the expedition, Allen also noted mammals collected and seen on the expedition and went on to write a book on bison which contains some original observations of bison along the Musselshell River. Allen also noted a massive die-off of pronghorn during the summer of 1873 during which he estimated he saw nine dead animals for every live pronghorn.

Allen, J.A.  1874.  Notes on the natural history of portions of the Dakota 
     and Montana Territories, being the substance of a report to the 
     Secretary of War on the collections made by the North Pacific 
     Railroad Expedition of 1873, Gen. D.S. Stanley, Commander.  Birds.  
     Proc. Boston Soc. Nat. Hist. 27:3-68.

Allen, J.A.  1876.  The American bisons, living and extinct.  Memoirs of 
     Comparative Zoology, at Harvard College, Cambridge, MA., Vol.4, No. 10.

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