By Robert Lucke
Have you driven down a back country road and seen the man in a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks pickup driving, stopping, listening and counting pheasants crowing and then driving on and listening to and counting the crows once more? That would be Al Rosgaard just doing one facet of his job.
Rosgaard is the chief wildlife biologist with the Havre office of Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Born in Williston but raised in Galata, he did not know that wildlife biology was for him until well into his college career.
"I went to Concordia College at Moorhead, Minn. and was majoring in pre med," said Rosgaard. "I knew before I got through there that that wasn't for me, so I went into fish and wildlife management. I transferred to Bozeman and ended up with a bachelor's and master's degree in it."
It wasn't just from there to a FWP job. In Rosgaard's case it took a deer study to hasten the process along.
"My master's project was part of the statewide mule deer study in the Bridger Mountains. I spent two years studying movements and habitat use," said Rosgaard. "That was in 1979 and 1980. Then I spent another couple years in various jobs around the state. One year I was in Big Timber studying black bears in the Beartooth Mountains and another year I was in the CMR game refuge studying mule deer."
Rosgaard laughs when he recalls that, while at the CMR, he lived at what some have called Bohemian Corners and others referred to as Duncan's Drunken Junction. He seems somewhat surprised that he actually survived his year there.
"Then in 1983 I got a wildlife biologist management position in Havre and I have been here ever since," continued Rosgaard.
During that time in Havre, Rosgaard has been a very familiar figure to hunters and wildlife groups throughout north central Montana. He has seen lots of changes in hunting patterns during that time.
"One thing I have noticed is that this seems to be an electronic age. It is a much faster paced world and hunters want information and right now about places they hunt," said Rosgaard. "Most local residents understand what to do, but people have more free time now and are willing to travel long distances and don't have a clue about where to hunt when they get there. That can cause problems. I think they are more dependent on all department personnel providing information. I could sit in my office for seven days a week responding to places people want to go hunting."
Plenty more sportsman groups have sprung up in this area during Rosgaard's tenure as well.
"And all those groups want their interests responded to as far as management of all the resources," said Rosgaard. "Thirty years ago people really watched more and just accepted what was done. These days there is lots more public awareness of what is going on."
Rosgaard sees part of his job to visit as many of the local sportsmen's groups as possible and report on things they need to know regarding FWP upcoming agendas.
Things like block management have helped Rosgaard.
"I think that block management has really worked out well for the sportsmen and landowners. It has made my job a lot easier," said Rosgaard, smiling.
Talk to Rosgaard for 10 minutes and you can tell that he really enjoys getting up each morning and coming to work. Not only that, but he knows exactly why.
"I think there is such a variety of things we deal with. Things are never the same from one day to the next," Rosgaard said. "There are things we do from year to year, but things just keep coming up. We have big horn sheep, elk, deer, a whole host of upland game birds and water fowl, mountain lions, and fur bearers. There is just a whole variety of things we deal with throughout the year."
Rosgaard loves the job right here on the Montana prairies.
"I am not really interested in mountainous country. I think the prairies and island mountain ranges provide a great variety of species. Particularly the birds," said Rosgaard. "Over the years I have become an expert in upland game birds and water fowl. I like dealing with private landowners and besides I really like to see what I am counting."
Another advantage for Rosgaard is that hunting water fowl and upland game birds is his thing. Plenty of those around here.
Lest one think that all of Rosgaard's life is made up of counting pheasants, and dealing with hunter-landowner issues, he is married. He and his wife, Janice, have a nine-month-old daughter, Ashlin.
Rosgaard has some advice for young people wanting to get into fish and wildlife work.
"You need a good solid background in biology, chemistry and higher math in high school," said Rosgaard. "Both MSU and UM have degrees in wildlife biology. It requires a four-year bachelor degree and two more years in getting a master's degree."
And finally, Rosgaard put a handle on viewing his job.
"I view my job as making recommendations. Well, first of all, counting different populations and then making seasons for them and creating and enhancing the habitat for them along with working with private landowners," said Rosgaard. "I am there to provide the greatest amount of recreational opportunity for the resident sportsmen in the state of Montana."
During Rosgaard's tenure in the Havre FWP office, that has certainly been done in North Central Montana. Species to be viewed and hunted and their numbers have increased drastically.