The Pryor Mountains may look like a desert, unwelcome to all but a few hearty forms of life.
But an intense search earlier this month turned up 710 species of plants and animals living in the Crooked Creek drainage and Red Pryor Mountain area.
Dubbed a “BioBlitz,” the project enlisted the help of nearly 80 agency and academic scientists, students and citizen scientists to look for as many inhabitants of the Pryors as possible, July 6-8.
Researchers were divided into specialized teams that fanned out over some of the Pryors’ most rugged terrain to document plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, spiders and pollinators such as bees and wasps.
Some teams worked at night to look for nocturnal species such as bats and scorpions, said Kayhan Ostovar, a Rocky Mountain College professor who organized the blitz.
Several teams investigated areas around caves, looking for rare and sensitive species that live in that unique environment.
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Continuing research on information collected during the event may turn up species that weren’t known to have lived in the Pryors or Montana before, or even those that haven’t been documented anywhere, Ostovar said.
Despite the desolate look of the Pryors, particularly in a year of drought, the blitz showed that the rugged area teams with a diversity of species, he said.
Previous blitzes have recorded species living in Yellowstone National Park and the American Prairie Reserve in north-central Montana.
The event was sponsored by the Yellowstone River Research Center at Rocky Mountain College, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Pryors Coalition and the Montana Wilderness Association-Eastern Wildlands Chapter.
The blitz is a good way to collect data about species, at little cost, that can be used by agencies managing the Pryors, Ostovar said.