Have you ever been driving down the highway, minding your own business, when suddenly you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror? It’s a feeling that can strike fear into the heart of any driver, but imagine how you’d feel if the person in the cruiser pulling you over was a member of the Montana Highway Patrol.
You read that right – the Montana Highway Patrol is no ordinary group of law enforcement officers. Not only do they have to deal with the usual fare of speeders and reckless drivers, but they also have to contend with the wildlife that roams the state. From curious moose to determined elk, nothing seems to be off-limits for these dedicated officers.
So buckle up, because we’re about to take a ride through the wild and woolly world of the Montana Highway Patrol.
The Wilds of Montana
Before we delve into the antics of the Montana Highway Patrol, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the setting for this particular tale. Montana is a vast and sprawling state, home to towering mountains, sweeping prairies, and dense forests. It’s also home to an unbelievable amount of wildlife, including bears, wolves, and herds of big-horned sheep.
In short, driving in Montana can be an adventure all on its own. But things get downright crazy when you throw the Montana Highway Patrol into the mix.
The Men and Women of the Montana Highway Patrol
First things first, let’s get to know the people keeping the roads of Montana safe. The Montana Highway Patrol is made up of over 260 sworn officers, spread out across the state. These men and women are responsible for enforcing traffic laws, investigating accidents, and responding to emergency situations.
But as we all know, no two days on the job are ever the same. For the officers of the Montana Highway Patrol, that means dealing with everything from minor fender benders to full-blown wildlife encounters.
A Day in the Life
So what exactly does an average day on the job look like for a Montana Highway Patrol officer? Well, strap in, because this is where things get interesting.
Picture this: you’re cruising down the highway, keeping an eye out for speeders and weaving drivers. Up ahead, you see a parked patrol car and a group of officers standing around, looking at something on the side of the road.
As you approach, you realize that “something” is a massive grizzly bear, calmly munching on some roadside grass. The officers are keeping a safe distance, but they’re also keeping an eye on the bear, just in case it decides to make a run for it.
If you’re lucky, that’s as close as you’ll ever get to a wildlife encounter on the Montana highways. But for the brave men and women of the Highway Patrol, that’s just another day at the office.
Wildlife on the Roads
Of course, wildlife encounters are far from rare in Montana. From deer darting across the road to bear cubs scrambling up trees, the state is rife with animal activity. And when those animals cross paths with cars, things can get hairy (pun intended).
According to the Montana Department of Transportation, there were over 1,600 wildlife-related accidents in the state in 2019 alone. That’s a lot of fender benders caused by creatures big and small.
But what happens when the animal in question isn’t just any old deer or raccoon? What happens when you’re faced with a moose, one of the largest and most unpredictable creatures in the state?
Moose on the Loose
There’s a reason why moose are sometimes referred to as “1000-pound bullets”. These massive creatures can run up to 35 miles per hour and have been known to charge when they feel threatened.
So imagine you’re driving down the highway when you suddenly see a moose standing in the middle of the road. What do you do?
For the officers of the Montana Highway Patrol, the answer is simple: you stop that moose in its tracks.
It’s not uncommon for the Highway Patrol to receive calls about moose on the highway. In fact, they even have a special technique for dealing with these situations. It’s called “hazing”, and it involves using sirens and lights to scare the moose off the road.
But sometimes, even hazing isn’t enough. That’s when the officers have to get creative.
In one famous incident, a moose had wandered onto a busy highway and refused to budge. The officers tried hazing, but the moose simply stared them down. That’s when one officer had an idea: he played a YouTube video of a male moose grunting and snorting.
To the amazement of everyone watching, the moose on the highway perked up and began to move away from the sound. It’s not often that technology comes in handy during wildlife encounters, but in this case, it saved the day.
Elks on the Road
If you think moose are tough to deal with, just wait until you encounter an elk. These massive creatures can weigh up to 1000 pounds and have a habit of charging when they feel threatened. In fact, elk are responsible for more wildlife-related accidents in Montana than any other animal.
So what’s a Highway Patrol officer to do when faced with an angry elk? Well, it turns out that sometimes all you need is a little bit of patience.
In one incident, an elk had wandered onto the road and was refusing to budge. The officers tried hazing, but the elk simply glared at them. That’s when they decided to wait it out.
For hours, the officers sat in their patrol cars, watching as the elk lounged in the middle of the road. Finally, after what must have felt like an eternity, the elk got up and wandered off into the woods.
It’s not the most action-packed encounter, but it just goes to show that sometimes the best way to deal with wildlife is to be patient and let them make the first move.
The Top Ten Craziest Montana Highway Patrol Encounters
If you think moose and elk are wild enough, just wait until you hear about some of the other things the officers of the Montana Highway Patrol have encountered over the years. From escaped circus animals to massive snowdrifts, these officers have seen it all. Here are ten of the craziest encounters we could find:
The escaped circus elephant: In 2012, an elephant named Boo Boo escaped from a circus and went on a rampage through the streets of Butte. The Montana Highway Patrol was called in to help contain the situation.
The runaway snowmobile: During a massive snowstorm, a snowmobile went careening down the highway at breakneck speeds. The Highway Patrol chased the runaway vehicle until it finally crashed into a snowbank.
The escaped buffalo: In 2005, a bison escaped from a local ranch and went on a rampage through the streets of Billings. The Montana Highway Patrol was called in to help capture the wayward animal.
The stolen combine harvester: In 2019, a combine harvester was stolen from a local farm and taken on a joyride down the highway. The Montana Highway Patrol finally caught up with the thief after a high-speed pursuit.
The drunk bulldozer driver: In 2018, a man was arrested for driving his bulldozer down the highway while under the influence of alcohol. The Highway Patrol had to use a spike strip to finally stop the wayward driver.
The frozen iguanas: During a winter storm, a shipment of iguanas being transported down the highway froze solid. The Montana Highway Patrol was called in to help revive the reptiles.
The stranded family: During a massive snowstorm, a family became stranded in their car on the side of the road. The Highway Patrol went above and beyond to make sure they were rescued safely.
The giant tumbleweeds: In 2020, the Montana Highway Patrol had to clear massive tumbleweeds off the highway, causing havoc for drivers.
The red high-heeled shoes: During a traffic stop, the officers discovered a pair of red high-heeled shoes in the car. The driver claimed they belonged to his “secretary”, but the officers had their doubts.
The stubborn horse: In one unforgettable encounter, a horse refused to get into its trailer and instead decided to ride shotgun in the front seat of a patrol car.
It’s safe to say that the Montana Highway Patrol has seen some things over the years. From hazing moose to chasing runaway snowmobiles, these officers have proven time and again that they’re up to any challenge.
And let’s not forget the wildlife that makes Montana such a unique and beautiful place to live. For the officers of the Highway Patrol, dealing with moose, elk, and other creatures is just another day on the job.
So next time you’re driving down the highway in Montana, keep an eye out for flashing lights. Who knows what kind of adventure you might stumble upon?
Table: Montana Highway Patrol Encounters
|Stolen combine harvester||2019||Unknown|
|Drunk bulldozer driver||2018||Unknown|
|Red high-heeled shoes||Unknown||Unknown|
- “Montana Highway Patrol.” Montana Department of Justice, dojmt.gov/highwaypatrol/.
- “Montana Highway Patrol Encounters: The Craziest Acts of Service.” BenDaviesBlog, 15 Aug. 2018, bendavies.co/montana-highway-patrol-encounters/.