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Montana WILD saw a record number of visitors in 2023

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Posted at 12:12 PM, Jan 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-10 14:12:04-05

HELENA — 2023 was one of the busiest years for Montana WILD.

The FWP education center saw 17,000 walk-in visitors to the exhibit hall, over 2,000 participants in their public programs, over 5,000 students attending virtual field trips and over 4,000 students at the center for field trips.

“School groups that are coming, mostly 4th through 12th grader students, that are coming with their classroom and coming here for a day-long field trip of conservation education,” said Corie Bowditch, the Montana WILD Program Manager.

New programming for school groups in 2023, included learning about the Endangered Species Act and programs focused on mammals using skulls.

New public programs included nature journaling, bear safety and wildlife yoga.

Montana WILD also focused on updating their exhibit hall this year, which included updating their taxidermy animals as well as their live animals.

These include turtles, fish and even a snake.

“Some of the coolest things we have here are the live animals that people can see. So, we have some really incredible fish tanks and in one of the fish tanks we actually have a Pallid Sturgeon, an endangered species that people can get right up close to and observe,” said Bowditch. “We have a Rubber Boa. Which is a native Montana Boa Constrictor.”

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Montana WILD also houses the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

Here they can help orphaned and injured wildlife with the hope, of one day, releasing them back into the wild.

Sometimes the animal can’t be released and some of those animals become education animals.

“Our volunteers do walk around with our education birds every weekday morning from about nine to ten or ten-thirty, so people can come and get right up close to Great Horned Owls and Falcons and Hawks,” Bowditch said.

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They say by allowing the public to see and interact with these animals they hope to encourage the conservation and respect of the various species.

“So, if you’ve never been to Montana WILD, I would definitely encourage people to come by. It’s free, it’s open Monday through Friday, eight to five. A great place to come and escape the cold and dark of winter and just to be able to see wildlife in a whole new way,” said Bowditch.