“Town Crier” newsletter – Briefs from the Region (2) – 6/22/20
Prairie waterfowl areas have become increasingly rare due to new development, reports the Billings Gazette. Today, they are able to thrive in an overgrown marshland now called Big Lake Wildlife Management Area, adjacent to Wheat Basin, which used to be a pre-Dust Bowl boomtown just 20 miles northwest of Billings. Now, all that’s left of the community is the outline of foundations from now-vanished homes and businesses. The last vestige of the town’s presence—the old grain elevator—burned in a 1997 fire. Big Lake now provides nesting and stopover sites for as many as 20,000 waterfowl in good years and up to 30,000 shore birds. A seasonal wetland or mudflat, the area is also home to mule deer, pronghorn, ground squirrels, burrowing owls and rattlesnakes that burrow under rock outcrops.