Exposing the Big Game

Forget Hunters' Feeble Rationalizations and Trust Your Gut Feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior

Exposing the Big Game

The Undeniable Value of Wolves, Bears, Lions And Coyotes In Battling Disease


by Todd WilkinsonSUPPORT USGET NEWSLETTERPhoto courtesy NPS / Jacob W. FrankPART FOUR
For over two decades, Douglas Smith and successive teams of researchers have watched wildlife predators hunting for prey in Yellowstone.
The national park’s senior wolf biologist says there is no mistaking the way that lobos identify and target elk. To the human eye, an individual wapiti might appear perfectly healthy yet there is something—almost a sixth sense— that catches the attention of discriminating pack members searching for their next meal.
It might be an elk with arthritis carrying a slight gimp in its gait, or maybe a hint of winter-worn fatigue, a slowness brought on by advancing old age or illness, or perhaps naïve behavior exhibited by the young.
There is no doubt, based on the accrued record of wolf behavior documented in Yellowstone—and the significant body of scientific accounts logged across the continent—that under normal conditions, wolves key-in on prey that is meek, infirmed or vulnerable.
“Wolves pick up on stuff we can’t see. They are most efficient at exploiting weaknesses in prey because their survival depends on it,” Smith told me recently. “They are predisposed, by instinct and learned behavior, to focus first on animals that are easier to kill rather than those living at the height of their physical strength.”
Does having predators on the landscape—wolves, bears, mountain lions and coyotes— provide a protective gauntlet that can help slow the spread and prevalence of deadly diseases?
In particular, with ultra-lethal Chronic Wasting Disease now invading the most wildlife-rich ecosystem in America’s Lower 48 states and spreading coast to coast, are these often maligned meat-eaters, frequently dismissed as worthless vermin in western states, actually important natural allies in battling CWD?

“Wolves pick up on stuff we can’t see. They are most efficient at exploiting weaknesses in prey because their survival depends on it. They are predisposed, by instinct and learned behavior, to focus first on animals that are easier to kill rather than those living at the height of their physical strength.” —Yellowstone’s chief wolf biologist Douglas Smith

While the data and the assessments of most scientists clearly suggests yes, there remains fierce resistance by some to acknowledge the beneficial roles predators play.  At the recent year-end meeting of the Montana Fish and Game Commission, anti-predator biases were on full display, especially toward wolves. They surfaced as the commission pondered its next move in confronting CWD which this autumn entered Montana via sick wild deer for the first time in state history.
Weeks earlier, Ken McDonald, wildlife bureau chief at the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department, raised eyebrows when he claimed the advantages predators bring in weeding out sick prey is merely theoretical and unproved. Dismissing the notion of wolves as effective disease-fighters, he asserted that in order for lobos to truly make a difference in slowing CWD’s advance, they would need to exist in such high numbers that it would be socially unacceptable to humans, namely ranchers and hunters.
In terms of Montana’s strategy for dealing with CWD spread in the state through sick wildlife entering via Wyoming from the south and Canada to the north, McDonald said the state’s primary method of confronting disease will involve enlisting hunters to aggressively harvest animals in emerging CWD endemic zones. The state recently approved the issuance of 1,200 additional B tags to kill deer in areas east of Red Lodge, Montana (the northeast corner of Greater Yellowstone) where six dead deer have turned up CWD positive out of 1300 tested there—four mule deer bucks, a mule deer doe and a white-tailed doe.
Many claim McDonald’s characterization of wolves demonstrates not only a personal anti-wolf bias, which also permeates the thinking of the department, but it shows a lack of understanding and appreciation for the natural history of the species. In other words, it denies what the very essence of a wolf is.
“I was disappointed with Ken McDonald’s nonsensical bureaucratic response,” conservationist and professional biologist Dr. Gary J. Wolfe wrote recently in comments that were widely circulated.
Wolfe is a former Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commissioner appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock. Notably, he is also the former project leader of the CWD Alliance founded by a number of prominent sportsmen’s’ groups and former national president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for 15 years. He is widely respected in hunting circles.
 “While I don’t think any of us large carnivore proponents are saying that wolf predation will prevent CWD, or totally eliminate it from infected herds, it is ecologically irresponsible to not consider the very real possibility that wolves can slow the spread of CWD and reduce its prevalence in infected herds,” Wolfe says. “We should consider wolves to be ‘CWD border guards,’ adjust wolf hunting seasons accordingly, and let wolves do their job of helping to cull infirm animals from the herds.”

“While I don’t think any of us large carnivore proponents are saying that wolf predation will prevent CWD, or totally eliminate it from infected herds, it is ecologically irresponsible to not consider the very real possibility that wolves can slow the spread of CWD and reduce its prevalence in infected herds.  We should consider wolves to be ‘CWD border guards,’ adjust wolf hunting seasons accordingly, and let wolves do their job of helping to cull infirm animals from the herds.”  —biologist Gary Wolfe, former Montana wildlife commissioner and former CEO/president of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Strong evidence seems to bear him out. Not only do predators stalking large game species target weak animals, they can mitigate the impact of disease outbreaks, experts say. Further, by removing sick prey species, predators could, over time, though this is unproved, make herds more resilient and stronger, less susceptible to disease.
While some may doubt this premise, illustrated in literature below, no one has provided evidence suggesting that having robust and stable numbers of predators will not aid in confronting the most rapidly spreading and fearsome new disease in North America.
° ° °
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a region unparalleled in the Lower 48 states. It is known globally as America’s Serengeti for having its full original complement of mammal and bird species, including large native predators, that were here when Europeans arrived on the continent in the late 15th century.  Plus, the landscape these animals inhabit, a 22.5-million-acre mixture of private and mostly public land, is intact—meaning not fragmented and enabling migrations of elk, deer and pronghorn (antelope) to occur and which do not exist anywhere else.
Lloyd Dorsey, conservation director for the Sierra Club in Wyoming, is a hunter and crusader against Wyoming’s operation of elk feedgrounds. This autumn when we spoke about predators and CWD, he had just returned from hunting in the Gros Ventre mountains east of the National Elk Refuge. He told me of how on the morning that he glassed mule deer and bands of elk, he found grizzly tracks in the snow and heard wolves howling a quarter mile away.
Citing reams of scientific studies to back him up, Dorsey says predators play an import ecological role in keeping prey species in check and in serving as vanguards in removing sick animals. Greater Yellowstone’s “predator guild” of wolves, grizzly and black bears, lions and coyotes, he notes, also makes it a draw for wildlife watchers from around the world, helping to fuel a $1-billion annual nature-tourism economy tied to the national parks alone. 
A disease like CWD that stands to significantly harm the health of deer family members over time—deer, elk, and moose—also has potentially grave implications for species that eat and scavenge their remains. In many ways, the biological integrity of Greater Yellowstone’s large mammal populations depends upon the health of its ungulate herds and the biomass they provide in sustaining other species large and small—those with fur and feathers down to the microbial level.  Diseases that threaten to dramatically diminish Greater Yellowstone’s ungulates could have negative, far-reaching consequences for people and the environment.
To date, there is no evidence that CWD can infect predators, humans or livestock, though geneticists who have studied the molecular make-up of CWD prions [misshapen proteins] believe it could change. And a recent study in Canada involving macaques exposed to CWD prions has elevated concerns. Macaques are primates with genes similar to humans.
With CWD, Wyoming is perilously burning the candle at both ends and it has implications for Montana and Idaho, Dorsey says. Wyoming and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continue to knowingly operate feedgrounds [read parts OneTwo and Three of MoJo’s series here] which makes the state and federal government guilty of game management malpractice by setting up public wildlife for calamity, he says. 
At the same time, Wyoming persists in destroying a natural ally—wolves—based upon no solid reason other than traditional cultural animosity toward these archetypal animals that earlier generations of settlers took great delight in eradicating to make way for livestock.
“Our understanding of wolves has broadened in an age of greater scientific and ecological awareness,” Dorsey told me. “They are not the animals of menacing myth they were portrayed to be in fairy tales.  We can—and should—co-exist with them for mutual benefit.”
Nonetheless, Wyoming—along with Alaska—is known for having the most notoriously-hostile attitude toward wolves in America. There, in over 85 percent of the state, lobos, like coyotes, can be killed year-round for any reason, no questions asked. Only in the northwest corner of Wyoming within the vicinity of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are wolves classified as a game animal and even there it is state policy to keep their numbers suppressed to please outfitters, guides and ranchers.
Beyond that small zone, they are classified as “predators” and treated as vermin. They can be trapped, poisoned, shot at any and all hours of the day, and targeted by aerial gunners in aircraft. Even if they are not threatening livestock, it’s open season on wolves.
The profound irony is that just as Wyoming condones a campaign of re-eradication against wolves, CWD has been rapidly spreading westward, faster than anyone expected across the state via infected mule and white-tailed deer.Perfect conditions to amplify a CWD pandemic, experts say, exist on the National Elk Refuge and 22 elk feedgrounds operated by the state of Wyoming, many of them on U.S. Forest Service land.
CWD’s arrival is considered imminent. When the disease lands in the Wyoming feedgrounds, where more than 20,000 elk are unnaturally concentrated during winters, CWD is expected to not only take hold but have its spread accelerated due to the widely-condemned management practice of bunching up wapiti. The conditions there are similar to game farms where CWD infections have been devastating.
This point was made in a letter sent December 7, 2017 from the Montana state wildlife commission (read it at bottom of this story] to counterparts in Wyoming, asking the state to take steps to shut down feeding.
“We respect the fact that how Wyoming manages its affairs is up to Wyoming. However, Montana’s ability to combat CWD will depend upon decisions that Wyoming makes about its wildlife management.  Over the long-term, the feed grounds make your wildlife populations less healthy, less stable, and much more vulnerable to a catastrophic disease event,” the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission wrote.  “We implore you to begin the process of looking at alternatives to the present management regime that unnaturally concentrates wildlife in feed grounds each winter and increases the pace at which CWD infects both states’ wildlife populations.”
The letter ends with this warning:  “If we do not address CWD, we will all be culpable in leaving a greatly devalued landscape to future generations.”  Culpable is a word with many connotations.

While Montana has escaped the intense scrutiny and public rebuke aimed at Wyoming over its operation of feedgrounds and controversial management of wolves, Wolfe and others say Montana isn’t much better with regard to predators.
Recently, another case of CWD was confirmed in a deer near Chester along Montana’s Hi-Line south of Canada.

Currently, only three wolf management units in Montana have strict quotas (two located north of Yellowstone and one west of Glacier National Park). But all others allow unlimited wolf harvest “which is probably not the best ecological strategy for containing CWD,” Wolfe noted. “As a wildlife biologist who spent several years working on the CWD issue, I believe wolf predation is an important tool that needs to be recognized and effectively utilized, along with other tools, as part of Montana’s CWD management plan.”
Wolves, Wolfe says, ought to have their numbers safeguarded in areas that represent the front line of disease. Stable packs can serve as a barrier.  Wolf management units (WMUs) that border CWD infected areas (or have CWD infected herds within the WMU) should have conservative wolf harvest quotas, he notes. Currently, only three WMUs have quotas (313 and 316 immediately north of Yellowstone, and 110 west of Glacier).  All others allow unlimited wolf harvest.
When the argument has been presented to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, it has been met with deaf ears, though Dr. Mary Wood, the state wildlife veterinarian noted in 2016 that predators can play a beneficial role.
° ° °
Humans can invent any fairy-tale-reason they want to despise wolves and justify their elimination, but that doesn’t change the fundamental time-tested nature of the species, says Kevin Van Tighem, a hunter and former superintendent of Banff National Park in Alberta’s Canadian Rockies.  “I don’t know of a single credible biologist who would argue that wolves, along with other predators and scavengers, aren’t important tools in devising sound strategies for dealing with CWD.” Van Tighem says it can be rationally argued that wolves provide the best line of defense since they are confronting infected animals.
Van Tighem told me, just as a dozen other scientists and land managers who hunt have—that once CWD is confirmed in the places where they go afield, they will no longer eat game meat from that area and may stop hunting altogether.
Dr. L. David Mech, the eminent American wolf biologist, has authored or contributed to hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers on wolves and prey. We’ve been talking about wolves since the late 1980s when he came to Yellowstone in the years before lobos were reintroduced. There’s no tangible argument he’s seen that suggests wolves wouldn’t be useful in combatting CWD.
“In the main, the preponderance of scientific evidence supports the view that wolves generally kill the old, the young, the sick and the weak,” Mech said. “There’s so much documented field data behind it.” 
He then made a point that exposes the limitations of relying on human hunters and sharpshooters alone to remove suspected CWD carriers.  Wolves appear to target sick animals that, to the human eye, exhibit no overt symptoms of disease.
“There’s a lot more going on than we can detect,” Mech said. “They are killing animals that most people would say, ‘That animal looks pretty healthy to me,’ but in fact it isn’t.”  Mech stays out of the political fray, though he says the value of predators is clear.  “Based upon everything I’ve seen over the course of my career, I generally stand behind the assertion that wolves make prey populations healthier,” he said. “The evidence to support it is overwhelming.”
In Wolves on the Hunt: The Behavior of Wolves Hunting Wild Prey, Mech, Doug Smith and co-author/editor Daniel R. MacNulty undertook an exhaustive, unprecedented review of scientific studies and observations related to wolf behavior. They cite example after example of how wolves choose prey.  They use intricately-detailed observations based on the work of park ecologist Rick McIntyre and colleagues who have tracked the wolves of Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley for decades. They also point to hours upon hours of accumulated video footage amassed by award-winning wildlife cinematographer Robert Landis who has recorded numerous wolf predation incidents in Yellowstone. 

More: https://mountainjournal.org/predators-and-chronic-wasting-disease?fbclid=IwAR3n6_aqsslqwo_uNx8wVOYnwphj6i6ycMBMYXRlK_pKxWkFj-7Wza7hYD4

First-Ever White Cougar Spotted In Brazil’s Atlantic Forest

February 20, 2021

A series of striking photos of an extremely rare white cougar have recently baffled the Internet. The four images were taken in 2013, but they recently resurfaced as scientists confirmed this was the first ever recorded case of a leucistic puma. The snaps were taken using trap camera in the Serra dos Órgãos National Park, a reservation located in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest.

Image credits ICMBio

Even if albinismm, leucism and even melanism is pretty frequent among wild cats, there have never been records of cougars suffering of these genetical conditions. The reason still remains a mystery for scientists.

“That shows you how extremely unusual it is,” executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Big Cats Program Luke Hunter told National Geographic. “My best guess is that the distant ancestor of pumas was uniformly colored, and that has been maintained in the species ever since. But that’s just a consequence of the randomness of mutation, the roll of the genetic dice.”

This first case of leucism at cougars would have helped researchers to understand why this genetic color aberration occurs so rarely, but unfortunately after the initial encounter back in 2013, the rare animal has never been seen again. “The camera trap monitoring project restarted last year, but we still have no new record of this animal or any other odd-colored pumas,” Cecília Cronemberger de Faria, environmental analyst for Serra dos Órgãos National Park, told National Geographic.

Even they’re a great sight due to their unique, unlikely coloring, wild animals that suffer of albinism, melanism or leucism face a lot of challenges. They are extremely vulnerable in front predators and sadly, they’re frequently rejected by their groups.


WDFW maintains they are the primary responding agency for wildlife issues…

WDFW released a statement in response to the recent billboard by the Stevens County Cattlemen that says “Predator attack? Fight back! Call your local sheriff!” The state agency said they have talked with sheriffs from both Stevens and Ferry County who agree that WDFW is still the primary responding agency for problems with wildlife issues. The statement was written by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Region 1 Director Steve Pozzanghera.

“Public safety is always the number one priority at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), just like at law enforcement agencies. Any incident involving wildlife is taken very seriously. WDFW responds to reported wildlife incidents by first dealing with the immediate situation and then working with those impacted on ways to prevent future conflicts with wildlife,” the statement said.

“WDFW also works cooperatively with area sheriffs’ offices and other local law enforcement on a daily basis. All northeast Washington agencies refer wildlife calls to WDFW. I have spoken with sheriffs Brad Manke and Ray Maycumber from Stevens and Ferry counties, and they agree that WDFW is the primary responding agency for problem wildlife issues.”

“Citizens can report wildlife incidents through their Fish and Wildlife Office at 877-933-9847, Washington State Patrol, and their Sheriff’s Office. In an emergency situation, please call 911.”

Florida panthers suffering from mysterious disorder affecting their ability to walk, officials say

An inexplicable crippling disorder appears to be affecting some Florida panthers, puzzling wildlife officials who are working to determine what is ailing the endangered animals.

The Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission (FWC) this week announced some of the state’s big cats — namely kittens —  have “exhibited some degree of walking abnormally or difficulty coordinating their back legs.”

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So far, FWC officials said they have confirmed neurological damage in one panther and one bobcat, but noted at least eight other panthers and one adult bobcat are also “displaying varying degrees of this condition.”

Trail footage from three counties — Collier, Lee, and Sarasota — shows some cats exhibiting the disorder. In one clip, a kitten loses its balance; its hind legs seem to simply give out. It manages to get up, albeit slowly, before trotting off after its mother.

Officials said the disorder, as of now, seems to be limited to those counties.

While officials have ruled out a number of diseases and possible causes, an exact cause for the cats’ “abnormal gait” has not yet been discovered, Michelle Kerr, a spokeswoman for the state agency, told Fox News.

That said, there are suspicions, which include “a variety of toxins and infectious disease,” she said.

“One of these potential causes is bromethalin, a rat pesticide, commonly used in the United States to control rats,” Kerr added, noting the FWC “does not currently have information on any poisoning efforts.”

Florida panthers, the state’s official animal, are a subspecies of pumas, which once had the “largest range of any land mammal in the Americas,” the wildlife agency says. The Florida panther is the only puma subspecies that exists east of the Mississippi River.

There are just 120 to 230 adult Florida panthers — one of the two wild cats found, the other being the bobcat  — in the state, according to the FWC, which makes the condition currently affecting some of the cats more of a concern.


Conservation efforts beginning in the 1970s and 1980s helped save the cats from extinction. At that time, there were an estimated 20 to 30 panthers in the state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.

Today, Florida panthers are primarily threatened by habitat loss and cars and highways, among other challenges, according to officials.

Manitoba trapper sorry after cougar caught in snare

Gerry Sherman found the endangered animal in a snare near Gilbert Plains, Man. last week

The cougar was pulled from the trap sometime between Dec. 28 and Dec. 31. (Supplied)

A Manitoba trapper is sorry a rare and protected animal species was caught in one of his snares.

Gerry Sherman went out last week to check his snares in Duck Mountain Provincial Forest near Gilbert Plains, Man., and at first thought he snagged a wolf. But when he got closer, he realized it was something else — a cougar, a rare species that used to live in Manitoba but was driven out of the province.

“I wondered what I was supposed to do because I knew it was a [protected] species,” Sherman told CBC. “The proper thing that I came up with was take it out of the snare and take it home and once I got home I called Manitoba Conservation.”

Sherman is a registered trapper and uses the provincial forest, which borders Duck Mountain Provincial Park, with permission.

He said a pair of Manitoba Conservation officers came and picked up the animal on New Year’s Day and were very understanding about the whole ordeal.

“I am really sorry that it happened,” Sherman added. “Nobody likes to catch endangered species.”

“I am really sorry that it happened” – Gerry Sherman 

Bill Watkins is a wildlife biologist with the province. He confirmed the wild cat was caught sometime between December 28th and 31st.

“It’s what we refer to as bycatch,” he said. “There’s no way that a trapper could control the animals that wander into the trap. It was set for wolves so everything is completely legitimate.”

Watkins said that while the find was concerning, it could be a sign that the cougar population is recolonizing Manitoba. The animals were very rare in the province up until about six years ago.

Now, there are two to three sightings per year. A sign, according to Watkins, that they could be repopulating. The latest estimates pegged the population in Manitoba at fewer than 50.

Sherman said it’s the first time he’s heard of a cougar being caught in the Duck Mountains. He believes the animal will be stuffed and put on display at the Duck Mountain Interpretive Centre near Minitonas, Man., once it’s been inspected by a biologist.

“It’s a magnificent animal,” he said. “Anyone destroying these animals at will should be punished. On an accidental catch like this there is really nothing anyone can do.”

Not the first time

It’s the second time in just months that a cougar has been accidentally caught in Manitoba.

A female cougar was caught and killed near Boissevain, Man., on Nov. 21.

Watkins, at the time, said it is possible that the animal wandered up from North or South Dakota.

Cork cougar reports prompt animal welfare group to set traps

‘It is a very large cat and the reports we’ve received have been too credible to ignore’

File photograph of a puma. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

File photograph of a puma. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

An animal welfare group has set up traps and surveillance cameras after receiving several reports of a cougar or puma being seen in parts of Co Cork over the past fortnight.

Vincent Cashman of the Cork Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animalssaid the reports they had received of a cougar being seen near Fountainstownand Crosshaven had yet to be confirmed.

However he said that while the sightings were “out of the ordinary but not impossible”, the CSPCA felt that they had to give them credence such was the adamant belief of those who contacted them.

Speaking on the Neil Prendeville Show on Cork’s Red FM, Mr Cashman said it was possible that a cougar or puma had been brought into Ireland illegally as a pet and escaped from its owner.

“We’ve had no confirmation yet this is a puma but the people we have been dealing with are very credible – it is a very large cat and the reports we’ve received have been too credible to ignore.”

Mr Cashman said cougars are solitary animals and tend not to confront people and while they had received no reports of any sheep being attacked, cougars could live off smaller animals like rabbits.

Male cougars can roam over areas of up to 300 square miles while females can cover areas of up to 200 square miles but the CSPCA had targeted the locations of reported sightings to set up cameras.

“We have trail cameras set up in areas where this animal has been seen passing so as soon it passes, it starts filming so we have it on film and we have infra red as well so it picks it up at night as well.”

Mr Cashman said that the CSPCA was continuing to monitor the trail cameras and ultimately hoped to trap the animal and establish what exact species it was, but that could take some time.

“Our ultimate goal is to trap it but at the moment, there are too many rabbits around and plus there’s a bad bout of myxomatosis going around, so catching rabbits is much, much easier now.”

“When the myxo dies off a little bit, and the rabbit population normalises, then he may find getting food a little bit harder and so he may be encouraged towards our traps,” said Mr Cashman.

Gardaí in Togher, with responsibility for the Crosshaven and Fountainstown areas, said that they had received no reports of cougars being seen in the area or any reports of cougars going missing.

The nearest wildlife park to Crosshaven and Fountainstown is Fota Wildlife Park on the other side of Cork Harbour but Fota does not have cougars. It does keep lions, tigers and cheetahs.

There have been numerous reports of large cats being seen in the wild throughout Ireland in recent years, with several reports of pumas or panthers being seen in various parts of Northern Ireland.

In June 2017, the PSNI posted a warning on its Facebook page about sightings of a possible panther in the Newry area and urged people not to approach the animal if they saw it.

The PSNI and the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals began hunting for a suspected puma in August 2003 after a large animal killed a pedigree ram on a farm in Co Antrim.

According to Stephen Philpott of the USPCA, there were also sightings of wild cats around the same time in Derry and Tyrone, where a newborn calf was killed on a farm near Cookstown.

South Dakota man sentenced on state, federal hunting charges


RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota man accused of illegally baiting a mountain lion with dead deer has been sentenced on state and federal charges.

The Rapid City Journal reports 21-year-old Mason Hamm of Rapid City recently pleaded guilty in federal court to hunting with an unregistered firearm and was sentenced to eight months in prison. He admitted killing a mountain lion in January 2016 using a rifle with a silencer that wasn’t registered to him on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives database.

Hamm also was sentenced to serve four days in jail on state hunting misdemeanors to which he pleaded guilty.

Hamm’s hunting companion, William Colson VI of Rapid City, was sentenced in February to probation, banned from hunting for nine years and fined $11,000.


This story has been corrected to show that the silencer was not registered to Hamm on the ATF database, not that the silencer was not registered with the agency.


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press

Montana outfitter pleads guilty to illegal mountain lion hunts

In one of the snowiest years on record, crews are working overtime to clear the streets. (David Murray/The Tribune) Wochit


The owner, operator and outfitter for a Plains big game hunting business pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court to illegally offering mountain lion hunts in areas in which he wasn’t permitted to offer such pursuits.

Ernest Jablonsky, of Big Game Pursuits, changed his plea as part of a deal signed earlier this month. As part of that deal, prosecutors agreed to drop two other charges, including conspiracy to illegally hunt and kill mountain lions, and false labeling, as well as a separate case, which stemmed from another illegal mountain lion hunt from the same year.

Jablonsky’s case at hand was filed after authorities learned he had offered to take two Wisconsin men, including co-defendant Jeffrey Perlewitz, on a mountain lion hunt in December 2013. According to court documents, Jablonsky did not have a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service to legally guide such hunts on national forest lands, according to court documents.

“I took Mr. Perlewitz where I did not have permits to take money for it, and he paid me for it,” Jablonsky, 51, told U.S. Magistrate Judge John Johnston on Tuesday.

More: Outfitter, clients accused of illegal Montana mountain lion hunt

More: Montana outfitter to plead guilty in illegal mountain lion hunt case

Court documents state Jablonsky also told the Wisconsin hunters to tell Montana hunting officials that they didn’t use a guide or outfitting service. Additionally, Jablonsky allegedly did not report the hunters when he turned in his own industry reports.

His sentencing has not yet been set.

Perlewitz is now the last person indicted on related charges to have not accepted a plea deal, as court records indicate he is expecting to take the case to trial.

Furious mountain lion tries to MAUL hunter after being caught in trap


TERRIFYING footage shows the moment a mountain lion tried to maul a hunter after it became caught in his trap.

The video shows the deadly beast hissing wildly at the man as he approaches.

Its front paw is stuck inside the hunter’s cage and it begins writhing around in a desperate attempt to escape.

The fearless bloke tries to restrain the big cat with a noose, but it immediately attempts an attack.

Despite the clear danger of getting too close to the predator’s teeth, the man continues his efforts.

The mountain lion attackingNEWSFLARE

TERRIFYING: A mountain lion tried to maul a hunter in a heart-stopping video

Shocking moment hunter KICKS wolf before it runs for its life

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He eventually manages to lift the noose over the mountain lion’s head and pins it to the floor.

It continues to claw wildly but the hunter keeps his cool and is able to release the trap.

The clip – filmed in Helper, Utah, US – ends with the cat running off into the wilderness.

The man later explained how he was setting traps for bobcats and coyotes and the mountain lion’s capture was a complete accident.

It’s not the first time some of nature’s most dangerous animals have tried to attack their human counterparts after being caught.

A wolf appeared to come back from the dead to attack a hunter after it was kicked in a heart-stopping video.

Montana outfitter to plead guilty in illegal mountain lion hunt case


In the most recent case of poaching in the Great Falls area, three deer were shot and killed and left northwest of town. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks turns to the public for help in cases like this.Wochit

A big game outfitter reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors regarding illegal mountain lion hunting practices uncovered by authorities in 2013. He will be the fourth of five men charged in the matter to accept a plea agreement.

Ernest Jablonsky, a Plains outfitter with Montana Big Game Pursuits, is scheduled to plead guilty next week to federal charges related to an illegal mountain lion hunt in 2013 near Prickly Pear Creek on U.S. Forest Service lands, prosecutors said in court documents filed Friday.

In exchange, prosecutors said in court documents they will dismiss charges stemming from a February 2013 mountain lion hunt near White Sulphur Springs, when authorities alleged Jablonsky also committed illegal practices like guiding without a permit and telling hunters to lie to state hunting officials about his involvement.

More: Outfitter, clients accused of illegal Montana mountain lion hunt

Jablonsky, 51-year-old outfitter at Montana Big Game Pursuits, is one of five men indicted in 2017 on federal charges relating to the two hunts. After his change of plea hearing, scheduled for Feb. 26, he will join three of those men who have taken plea deals in their respective cases; one man continues to fight charges, according to court records.

According to court documents, Jablonsky summoned two Wisconsin men, including co-defendant Jeffrey Perlewitz, to Montana in December 2013, when he reportedly had an open schedule for new outfitting clients. Jablonsky, court records say, did not have the required special use permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service to legally guide or outfit mountain lion hunts on federal land, where he and the Wisconsin hunters drove his pickup around the remote roads looking for cat tracks on Dec. 13 that year.

James Day, according to court records, worked the hunt as a hound dog handler, and successfully treed a lion, which Perlewitz shot and killed with his bow. That day he paid Jablonsky $1,500 for the hunt, but when he checked his lion in with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks the next day, Perlewitz reportedly said he had only used the services of the dog handler, and that his hunt was not outfitted.

In his required report to the Montana Board of Outfitters, Jablonsky never listed Perlewitz as a client, according to charging documents.

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The plea agreement in Jablonsky’s case has been sealed, but federal prosecutors in court documents wrote that Jablonsky is willing to plead guilty to unspecified charges in the case following the hunt with Perlewitz in exchange for their dismissal of a February 2013 hunt near White Sulphur Springs.

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Perlewitz is the only defendant in the case who has not taken a plea deal offered by federal prosecutors. In January, a judge granted a time extension requested by both parties to continue preparing for trial.

Perlewitz was indicted on Oct. 23 on charges including conspiracy to illegally hunt and kill mountain lions, illegal sale of outfitted mountain lion hunts and false labeling; in total, he could face a possible 15 years in prison and more than $250,000 in fines.

Day, the dog handler, pleaded guilty on Dec. 19 to the illegal sale of mountain lion hunts, which carries a possible five-year prison sentence and a maximum $250,000 fine. His sentencing has been set for April 3.

Mitch Theule, a guide with Montana Big Game Pursuits, pleaded guilty on Feb. 12 to aiding and abetting the interstate transport and possession of an illegally killed mountain lion, which carries a possible one-year prison term and maximum $10,000 fine. His sentencing has been set for June 13.

Theule’s case stems from the February 2013 near White Sulphur Springs, when Jablonsky, Day and Theule reportedly brought Richard Ceynar, of North Dakota, mountain lion hunting on national forest land where Jablonsky did not have the permits to outfit or guide.

According to court documents, the four men, and an unnamed associate of Ceynar, went hunting on Feb. 7 and late that afternoon treed a lion near the top of a steep mountain. Day and Theule reportedly went up the mountain by snowmobile, while Jablonsky and Ceynar got stuck on a different route. As Jablonsky and Ceynar traveled to the tree on foot, they communicated with the others with two-way radios, charging documents state.

When Ceynar shot the treed lion, it was past legal shooting hours, according to court documents. Additionally, authorities say Theule had illuminated the lion with a headlamp while Ceynar shot.

Like the case with Perlewitz’s hunt, Ceynar reported to FWP that his hunt was not outfitted, according to court documents. And when the North Dakota hunters paid Jablonsky for the hunt, the memo on the check read “two elk hunts.” Prosecutors allege they did so at Jablonsky’s direction.

Ceynar pleaded guilty on Dec. 22 to conspiracy to interstate transportation and possession of an illegally killed mountain lion. His sentencing is set for April 6.