‘Montana UFOs’: Helena author traces history of sights in state

Joan Birdhas written a book called 'Montana UFOs and Extraterrestrials: Extraordinary Stories of Documented Sightings and Encounters.'
Joan Birdhas written a book called 'Montana UFOs and Extraterrestrials: Extraordinary Stories of Documented Sightings and Encounters.'

Joan Birdhas written a book called 'Montana UFOs and Extraterrestrials: Extraordinary Stories of Documented Sightings and Encounters.'
Joan Birdhas written a book called ‘Montana UFOs and Extraterrestrials: Extraordinary Stories of Documented Sightings and Encounters.’

Helena author Joan Bird has a Ph.D. in zoology, and her career has been dedicated to the natural world, including work for the Montana Environmental Information Center, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the Nature Conservancy.

In her new book, she makes her case for the existence of phenomena born far from the Treasure State’s terra firma: extraterrestrial lifeforms.

Bird writes in the introduction to “Montana UFOs and Extraterrestrials” that, although she’s a scientist, she is comfortable with the notion that there are some things science just can’t explain. She’s also had a lifelong fascination with bits of information that don’t seem to belong. “Unidentified flying objects,” or UFOs, certainly fall into that category.

That attitude led Bird to a field known among its practitioners as “ufology,” and ultimately to the writing of “Montana UFOs.”

Montana, it turns out, has been the scene of some of the most significant unexplained occurrences involving UFOs, dating back more than 70 years. Two in particular, a 15-second, color film shot by Nick Mariana in Great Falls on Aug. 15, 1950, showing two silvery spheres in flight; and an incident in 1967 in which 10 Minuteman missiles were deactivated in their silos while a UFO hovered overhead, are considered of primary significance.

Bird examines the former incident in her first chapter, and uses it as a jumping-off point for a review of official U.S. government reports on the subject. At first, she says, Air Force researchers were told their jobs were to “debunk” all sightings, and to convince people that conventional explanations existed for all such reports.

Later reports, such as the 1953 “Project Blue Book” report, were more circumspect, leaving many sightings in the “unexplained” category, a more-or-less tacit acknowledgement of their validity, according to Bird.

She chose to publish the book “because I think it’s a real phenomenon, but also because of people’s fears of sharing stories.”

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Her presentations in Hamilton and Missoula will b