Hundreds of outdated wooden signs from Montana State Parks and Fishing Access Sites have been recycled to house birds and bats around the state.
Over the years, as outdated, worn or vandalized parks and fishing access site signs were replaced with new aluminum ones, Doug Frazier and Morgan Dollinger, the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' parks maintenance team in Missoula, stashed the old wooden signs away, certain they would find a good use for them.
With the signs finally filling nearly every available space, they needed a recycling plan and wondered if making birdhouses might be their answer. Wildlife viewing is one of the most popular activities available at state parks and FASs.
The two men consulted with Kristi DuBois, FWP native species coordinator in Missoula, and received a flurry of information and assistance. It turned out Frazier and Dollinger had a good idea and just the materials they needed to make a difference for birds and bats.
DuBois works with the state’s popular “watchable wildlife” including blue birds, loons, and bats—the same species assisted when Montana taxpayers check the soaring eagle symbol to make a tax-deductible contribution to Montana’s nongame wildlife programs.
Inspired, the Missoula area region state parks maintenance team worked the winter of 2002 to transform hundreds of recycled wooden signs into over 230 houses for blue birds or other cavity nesting birds, 30 bat condos, 12 wood duck nest boxes and over 30 bird feeders.
Last spring, nearly 100 of the birdhouses were placed at state parks and FASs in the Missoula area and others went to parks and FAS managers in the Bozeman, Great Falls and Billings.
The wood duck nesting boxes are available to individuals and organizations with a suitable site on a pond or river in the Missoula area. Geese, flickers, goldeneyes, robins and squirrels will also use the nesting boxes. The boxes can be obtained from the FWP Missoula region office.
The single and multiple bat condos will be used to help save existing bat colonies around the state.
For example, in Great Falls bats have taken up residence in an abandoned building that will eventually be converted into a public facility near a state park. Bats are important in the ecosystem because they devour millions of bugs and pollinate plants. So, the state parks staff there plans to install bat condos to safely lure this colony of bats away from the building.
The bird feeders Frazier and Dollinger built are being adapted by Jamie Jonkel and other FWP bear managers with a pully system to fill them and keep them safely out of a bear’s reach. FWP’s bear management specialists consult with property owners on bear conflicts and say that eliminating bird feeders entirely is best for grizzly and black bears, but some landowners are reluctant. That is where the pully-operated bird feeders come in.
In the end, Frazier and Dollinger got a lot of mileage out of an unwieldy pile of outdated signs and benefited birds, bats and bears.
To learn more about bear friendly bird feeders, contact Jamie Jonkel, FWP bear management specialist in the Missoula area at firstname.lastname@example.org , or call 406-542-5508. Or, call the nearest FWP region office for a bear management specialist in your area.
For information on building bat condos and houses for cavity-nesting birds, contact Kristi DuBois at email@example.com , or call 406-542-5551.