Bison in Yellowstone National Park.
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-2.0)

Montana is known for tall mountains, deep valleys, and expansive forests, but most of the state is comprised of vast prairie landscapes that were once home to thundering herds of American bison. Scientists and historians believe that bison in North America numbered between 3 and 6 million prior to their government-ordered extermination in the late 1800s. Millions of bison were slaughtered simply for their tongues and hides.

Trumpeter swans, Harriman State Park, ID.
Charles R. Peterson (CC-BY-NC-2)

What native Montana bird can weigh up to 30 pounds and have a wingspan of eight feet? Here's a hint: it's not the bald eagle. These characteristics, in fact, belong to the trumpeter swan.

This unique bird, the largest waterfowl in North America, faced extinction a century ago in the United States, and would have vanished if not for the efforts of wildlife groups and government agencies. The total number of trumpeter swans has increased steadily since then. However, in certain areas of the western United States, populations are declining again. The trumpeter swan is an impressive and fascinating native Montana bird which may once again need our help.


Mar 14, 2014

3/15/14: This week on "The Plant Detective:" Hoodia, native to the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa, works as an appetite suppressant by telling the brain that the stomach is full without affecting the rest of the body's functioning. After a long legal battle, the San bushmen of the Kalahari won a settlement for traditional claims to the knowledge of the plant.