Montana FWP officials euthanized a pair of grizzly bears after they several depredations on llamas, sheep, goat and chickens over time near Whitefish. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
KALISPELL, Mont. — Montana wildlife officials said Tuesday that state bear management specialists killed a pair of grizzly bears near Whitefish that had been involved in numerous livestock attacks.
An adult female grizzly bear was captured on Monday and its yearling captured on Tuesday in the Haskill Basin area.
The animals were euthanized because of a history of killing livestock including sheep, llamas, chickens and a goat.
Last week, authorities killed an adult male grizzly bear in the Dupuyer area after it was suspected of attacking calves across numerous ranches.
The following was sent out by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear management specialists euthanized a pair of grizzly bears after numerous depredations on llamas, sheep, goat, and chickens over time near Whitefish.
FWP specialists captured an adult female grizzly bear on May 31 and its yearling on June 1 in the Haskill Basin area. The decision was made to kill both bears due to their history of livestock depredations and in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The bears most recently entered an enclosure holding numerous animals on private property and killed a llama. The bear pushed through a gate to enter the pen where the llama was located along with other animals, including six wallaroos. FWP staff responded to assist the landowner and continue efforts to capture the bears.
The adult female bear was previously captured and fitted with a GPS radio collar, but the collar was malfunctioning and came off in the summer of 2019. Data collected from the radio collar identified the bear at several sites where sheep, llamas, and chickens were killed around Whitefish. Attempts to recapture the adult female were unsuccessful during 2020.
Earlier this spring, FWP received reports of sheep killed off East Edgewood Drive. Staff with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services set a trap in the area and attempted to capture the bear but was unsuccessful. Cameras set up at the site identified the adult female and yearling. Several days later, the bears killed goats on private property in Haskill Basin. Additional traps and cameras were set but efforts to capture the bears was unsuccessful until most recently. Reports of chickens killed on private property in the area persisted at the same time.
At the end of the session, the Legislature passed a bill that had language inserted at the last minute that basically guarantees hunting outfitters more nonresident hunting clients. Other bills carrying the same language died in committee.
On Thursday, House Bill 637 was on its way to the governor’s desk after the House and Senate voted to pass subsequent amendments on mostly party-line votes on the last day of the session.
Sportsmen’s groups including the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Montana Wildlife Federation are telling their members to ask Gov. Greg Gianforte to veto the bill, partly due language added Tuesday that is a handout to hunting outfitters.
It would give thousands of big game licenses – elk and deer – to nonresidents who agree to hunt with an outfitter, thus exceeding the limit of 17,000 nonresidents allowed to hunt in Montana. It also gives extra preference points for future license drawings to any nonresident who hunts with an outfitter.
Both actions encourage nonresidents to hunt preferentially with outfitters.
These are similar to changes that sportsmen opposed in Senate Bill 143 and House Bill 505. Dozens of sportsmen spoke in opposition to both bills and both were eventually tabled in committee.
On Wednesday, the Montana Wildlife Federation issued a statement saying, “Public hunters made it clear this session that everybody should have an equal opportunity to hunt in Montana, and this provision is just another attempt to put outfitted clients at the front of the line.”
In mid-march, HB 637, sponsored by Seth Berlee, R-Joliet, started as a “clean-up” bill clarifying several definitions and requirements of Fish, Wildlife & Parks regulations, such as who needed nonresident bear and mountain lion licenses, when boats could be used in hunting and reclassifying wolves as furbearers.
Many sportsmen had issues with the bill to begin with, because it did little to preserve Montana’s wildlife resources. For instance, it increased the number of nonresident mountain lion licenses while allowing nonresident large landowners or their guests to hunt lions without a license to use dogs.
Still, the bill flew through the House even though a fiscal note estimated FWP would lose a half-million dollars a year due to fewer nonresidents being required to buy licenses.
The bill was amended in the Senate, adding a section that would increase payments to landowners participating in FWP’s Block Management program.
By the time the Senate sent the amended bill back to the House on April 26, it was getting late in the game. Legislators were already talking about making “Sine die” motions to end the session as the budget got closer to being finished.
After the House voted against the bill as amended, House Speaker Rep. Wylie Galt, R-Martinsdale, sent the bill into a special conference on Monday. When the conference committee returned the bill to the House on Tuesday, the outfitter big game licenses were suddenly part of the bill.
Sen. Pat Flowers, D-Bozeman, tried to call attention to the change.
“This is being introduced on maybe the 2nd to last day of the legislature… Senate Bill 143 got tremendous interest,” Flowers said Tuesday on the Senate Floor. “To add this on as a simple amendment to what was a quote ‘agency clean up bill’ is disingenuous and does a disservice to sportsmen and women who don’t know this is happening.”
The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers had already opposed HB 637 because it allowed hunters to pursue black bears and mountain lions on the same day they purchase their tags, setting up an opportunity for less reputable hunters to shoot first and tag later.
Because wildlife is part of the public trust that FWP should manage for future generations, BHA opposed allowing nonresident landowners to hunt lions and bears on their property without a license.
But the outfitter license giveaway was the last straw for sportsmen, according to a BHA website post.
“Both chambers, in record time, passed 2nd and 3rd readings last night- all within the same day as the bill taking an entirely new form, and all without public comment or a public hearing with public testimony. The NO votes deserve our thanks; the YES votes have some explaining to do,” the post said.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill Friday allowing the use of private funds to reimburse wolf hunters or trappers for their expenses — reminiscent of bounties that widely exterminated the species in the last century.
Hunting and livestock groups, and their Republican allies in the legislature, contend not enough of the 1,200 wolves in Montana are being killed by hunters to limit their impact on big game outfitters or cattle and sheep producers.
Last week, Gianforte signed bills to allow the snaring of wolves, in addition to trapping; and another one to extend the wolf hunting season.
Lawmakers have also forwarded to the governor a bill to allow individuals to kill an unlimited number of wolves, hunt at night with artificial lights and night vision scopes and use bait to lure wolves into traps.
In Idaho, a bill that would allow the state to hire private contractors to reduce the wolf population from about 1,500 to 150 is quickly moving through the legislature. It allows the use of night-vision equipment to kill wolves as well as hunting from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, among other changes.
Backers cite cattle and sheep deaths that cost ranchers hundreds of thousands of dollars, while opponents say the legislation threatens a 2002 wolf management plan involving the federal government.
Photo by: National Park Service via AP, FileFILE – In this March 21, 2019, aerial file photo provided by the National Park Service, is the Junction Butte wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park.By: Jacob Fischler – Daily MontananPosted at 8:51 AM, Apr 05, 2021 and last updated 7:51 AM, Apr 05, 2021
A controversial decision in the last months of the Trump administration to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list led to a massive overhunt in Wisconsin this year that Ojibwe tribal representatives said disrespected their wishes.
But there’s no indication yet that the Biden administration will attempt to roll back that move, despite an order the day President Joe Biden took office that departments across the government review decisions from the previous four years that were “damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.” The order specifically cited the gray wolf delisting as one to reconsider.
The season was held in late February after a Nov. 3 Fish and Wildlife Service order removed gray wolves from the endangered species list in all of the lower 48 states, mostly affecting the Great Lakes region. Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains had already been delisted federally.
A Wisconsin judge ruled in February that state law required a wolf hunting season. The state set a limit of 119 wolves that could be harvested by the general public, with an additional 81 reserved for the Ojibwe tribes.
“The second it gets beyond a certain threshold, there’s a quick and irrational desire to hunt them again,” Jennings said.
Jennings’ group opposed the hunt because of biological factors and because of the reverence for wolves in Ojibwe culture.
The animal’s fate is seen as tied to the Ojibwe people, and they view policies throughout U.S. history where the government has sought to remove both Native Americans and wolves as strengthening that shared existence, Jennings said.
“What happens to one happens to the other,” he said. “There’s a mirror prophecy…. And that mirrored history is pretty fresh in the minds of a lot of our tribal nations.”
Although the state was forced by the court decision to hold a hunting season, Jennings said tribes were not meaningfully consulted.
“When you’re pushing for a hunt to happen in a week’s time, you’re essentially saying ‘We’re going to bypass the tribal consultation process,’” Jennings said. “And that’s exactly what tribal communities viewed as happening.”
The timing of Wisconsin’s hunt, when females may be pregnant and wolf pelts are not as valuable, added a layer of disrespect, the group said in a statement before the season opened.
Representatives for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources did not return messages seeking comment Friday.
Managing large carnivores
Government management of large carnivores like wolves is often controversial. The animals can pose a danger to people, livestock and the livelihoods of ranchers.
“Wolves are strong, smart and vicious predators,” Luke Hilgemann, the CEO of Hunter Nation, the organization that sued the state to force a wolf season, wrote in a March 19 op-ed for the Wisconsin State Journal. “Wolves are to be respected and revered. But too many of any species — particularly predators — can wreck the entire ecosystem.”
In neighboring Minnesota, wolf populations have remained strong since before the animal was listed on the federal endangered species list, said Dan Stark, a large carnivore specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The population has hovered around 2,700 for the past three years, about double the 1,250-1,400 goal that federal authorities set.
“Anything we can learn about what methods were allowed or what steps were taken to manage and provide the controls for that season closure could help inform us as we develop or if we adopt a proposal for a season,” he said.
Minnesota DNR policymaking committees include tribal members and formal tribal consultation is also part of the process, as is consultation with people concerned about wolves preying on livestock, Stark said.
The department’s review of its wolf management policy was slowed by the pandemic, Stark said. A review committee would likely have a plan ready for public review in the summer and a final recommendation in the fall.
Jennings said there was no indication of how the federal government might act. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is the first Native American person to hold that office, but tribal communities understand her job goes beyond their concerns, Jennings said.
Other than citing the gray wolf in the executive order, the Biden administration has not given any other sign it intends to undo the delisting, which could be a lengthy process.
“What we’re seeing this session is an all-out war against wolves,” Nick Gevock, the conservation director for MWF, said. “We support ethical wolf hunting, but this is something different. This is a purposeful effort to drive their numbers to a bare minimum.”
Gilles Stockton, the president of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, said the state’s official tally of around 870 wolves is likely an undercount. The animals are overpopulated throughout the state and are a threat to livestock producers, he said. Hunting is an important tool in managing that threat, he added.
The group didn’t have a position on the specific bills the Legislature has passed, but said “more aggressive methods are necessary and should be allowed.”
Many in western Montana, where wolf populations are more plentiful, have advocated for similar measures for years, Gevock said. But with the state now led by a Republican governor after 16 years of Democratic control, the chances of enactment are greater.
Gevock said the governor’s office has not said if it will veto the bills.
State authorities fined Gianforte earlier this month for killing a wolf without first taking the proper training course.
It’s here. SB314 “The Wolf Extermination” bill will he heard and voted on Tuesday afternoon, 4/13, in the Montana House of Representatives. It will then have a final hearing and vote most likely the following day before dying or going to Governor Gianforte.
SB314 by Rep. Bob Brown mandates the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission reduce wolves in our state down to the bare minimum, but no less than 15 breeding pairs in order to avoid re-listing. It enables them to do so by the “most liberal” and unethical methods such as hunting over bait, killing latter stage pregnant wolves, night hunting, night vision scopes, multiple wolves on one tag, and of course indiscriminate cruel traps and snares. One can easily anticipate killing contests inclusive of wolves.
Passage of SB314 will mean ~85-90% of wolves in Montana will have a legal and unjust target on their backs. Yet, they are having no difficulty killing wolves in Montana. Every year they break a new record. This 2020 wolf season was no exception. Hitting a new high, over 325 wolves were reported killed by trapping and hunting. This does not account for poaching, SB200 landowner wolf kills, highway mortality, etc. in which an estimated 500 wolves are killed every year in Montana. Depending on who is talking, Montana’s estimated wolf population is between 800-1200 wolves, or was.
SB314 takes the other trap and kill wolves bills, HB224 Wolf Snaring, HB225 Extended Wolf Season, SB267 Wolf Bounties, passing into law now in our state with Governor Gianforte’s signature and ties them all up in a bow requiring the Wildlife Commission implement these means, methods, and more, to exterminate wolves in Montana….but avoid the Feds.
In response to an email with the data, science, and our objections to SB314 we sent to all Montana Representatives, today, we already heard back from one. Rep. Gunderson, HD1, Libby, Montana. Gunderson Steven <email@example.com> Tue 4/13/2021 To: Trap Free Montana Public Lands TFMPL Thanks for reminding me of the many reasons to vote for Senator Brown’s bill!!
We have not received a reply in requesting his reasons.
Call the front desk and leave a message for up to 5 Representatives urging a NO on SB314. 1-406-444-4800
Also today, Tuesday, the 13th, HB367, by Rep Paul Fielder, Senate Fish & Game hearing is this afternoon and we will be testifying against it. They meet at 3pm. HB367 is to amend our Montana constitution making hunting, fishing and trapping a right and the preferred methods to manage wildlife in our state. In 2004, Montana voters overwhelming supported amending the constitution to preserve the opportunity to hunt and fish, not to trap. If this reaches the Senate floor and passes with 34 out of 50 Montana Senators it will go before Montana voters in November 2022.
Do not let up on contacting and urging our Montana Senators to Vote NO on HB367 a significant far reaching Constitutional amendment disastrous to wildlife and that will cost us a small fortune to defeat if it winds up going to the voters.
Not only did Montana Governor Greg Gianforte poach an elk in the year 2000, but recently he has trapped and murdered one of the most federally valued and protected animals in America: Yellowstone wolf #1155. He has gotten off the hook with a slap on the wrist and shows no remorse for his sickening actions. Additionally, he recently signed a bill to ban sanctuary cities in Montana even though there aren’t any sanctuary cities here. Not only is that a waste of time and tax money, but it threatens our county-by-county government system.
Another proposal of Gianforte’s is to remove a hefty amount of funding from Montana public schools, which threatens Montana’s history of having the highest high school graduation rate in the nation. He also wants high schoolers to take computer programming instead of a foreign language. After working in Montana retail myself and having to ask another employee to translate for a customer and I multiple times, this does not seem like a well-thought-out proposal, especially since Montana’s economy heavily relies on tourism. We should be prioritizing Mandarin and Spanish education over computer programming, especially since today’s high schoolers already know LOTS about technology.
Please sign and share this petition if you believe Greg Gianforte has disgraced Montana’s culture and needs to resign. It has been made clear that his intentions for Montana are not in the people’s interest, but in his own.
WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, AUTHOR AND CONSERVATIONIST JIM BAILEY SIZES UP WHAT HE CALLS “THE FULL CATASTROPHE” REGARDING MONTANA LEGISLATURE’S BACKWARD ATTITUDE TOWARD BISON. WILL THE CONTROVERSIAL GOVERNOR
by Jim BaileySUPPORT USGET NEWSLETTERBailey writes: “Currently, there are no public-trust wild bison, year-round, in Montana. Two bills in the Montana legislature would prevent any restoration of the species, as wildlife, in the state. While touting ‘protect public lands’ as a smokescreen, Montana lawmakers are betraying their public trust responsibilities to manage a resource for all people. They are bulldozing a whole history of bison conservation efforts into the refuse pile of the ‘once best place.'” Opinion guest essay by Jim Bailey Bison are the official land mammal of the United States. They are on the flag of the US Interior Department, they appear on the insignia of the National Park Service, they were featured on one side of the buffalo nickel and, in Montana, the skull of a bison, as portrayed by famous Western artist Charles M. Russell, was showcased on the Montana collectible 25-cent piece. Bison were once the most abundant large land mammal in the world. Their great numbers, their basis for a renowned Native American horse culture on the Great Plains, and their demise are legendary parts of American and Montana histories. But, two bills moving through the Montana legislature and headed for the desk of Governor Greg Gianforte would undo years of attempts to securely recover this iconic species, widely loved by the American people, as a wildlife species. The vast majority of plains bison are being domesticated in private herds for commercial purposes. Many tribes have bison herds, managed to fulfill important needs of Native Americans. American conservation herds in parks and refuges are mostly small, on small ranges, and most are managed with domesticating interventions, much like livestock. But, there are no public-trust, wild bison year-round in Montana. (Yellowstone bison are only seasonal visitors to Montana from most of the park encompassed by Wyoming.) As wildlife, bison are a natural resource jointly and cooperatively managed by state and federal legislatures and administrations having trust obligations to benefit all the people, including future generations. A long history of federal and state legislation, policy and planning, has been established to guide and constrain bison management – to benefit and protect the people. These actions, listed below, have included decisions under federal and state laws developed under agencies representing over a million Montanans and over 300 million American citizens who own Montana wildlife. House Bill 302 would permit any county commission in Montana to veto any publicly analyzed and examined proposal for local bison restoration, even on federal land. House Bill 318, in narrowly redefining “wild bison” in Montana law, would disqualify all possible plains bison for use in restoring any population of public-trust, wild bison in the state. Both of those bills 302 and 318 would ignore, duplicate, violate or render meaningless the following Montana history regarding bison restoration:Mandates in Article IX of the state Constitution to care for natural resources and objects of historic, cultural and recreational value; and to preserve the opportunity to harvest wild game. Legislative guidelines in MCA 87-1-216, developed in response to the constitutional mandate, providing requirements for restoring public, wild bison in Montana. The Montana Environmental Policy Act, MCA 75-1-103, for making difficult decisions. Abundant public effort under MEPA could simply be vetoed and wasted, with little county analysis or explanation. Twelve years, (so far) of effort and expense by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to develop a statewide plan for restoring at least one herd of public, wild bison in the state. Three polls demonstrating that 70 percent of Montana voters support bison restoration on the Charles M. Russell Refuge. For restoration of public-trust—getting wild bison established on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge—house bills 302 and 318 would ignore, preclude or render meaningless the following federal mandates, plans and policies (again, set in bold for emphasis)The mission statement of the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The mission statement of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s cherished National Wildlife Refuge System. The Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997. The U. S. Department of Interior’s recent Bison Conservation Initiative. The National Environmental Policy Act, for use in decision-making. The ability of the Russell Refuge to achieve its overall goal of restoring natural ecosystems on the Refuge, as stated in the Refuge Plan. House Bill 302 would duplicate existing requirements for notifying rural counties and citizens of the details in any plan for restoring wild, public bison in Montana. Any proposal for bison restoration must be developed under either or both the Montana and National Environmental Polcts and under MCA 87-1-216. These laws provide all citizens with detailed project analyses and abundant opportunities to comment. Rural counties are not being discriminated against in this public outreach.“Domestication is the most serious threat to the future of bison as a wild species,” Bailey writes. “The vast majority of North American plains bison exist in privately-owned commercial herds where they are being domesticated by replacing natural selection with human-determined selection, augmented by genetic effects of small population sizes.”For example, the current MEPA process to develop a state plan for restoring at least one herd of public, wild bison has been ongoing for 12 years, with abundant public outreach and input, including public hearings around the state. A preliminary review by Adams and Dood, 2011) and the current, interim “programmatic” plan and impact statement include abundant information on diverse issues related to bison restoration. This information, developed by professional biologists and others, has been widely available. Likewise, under the NEPA process, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge Conservation Plan was developed with public outreach and input. Public hearings were held in 6 Montana towns and cities. House Bill 302 would allow a local government, representing perhaps only 1000-5000 Montanans, to preclude the needs and privileges of the majority of citizens of the state and the nation, as these needs and desires are provided for under existing statutes. In contrast to the small numbers of citizens in many rural counties, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks received over 21,000 public comments in response to the 2015 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for bison conservation and management. Also, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service received over 23,000 public comments during scoping and over 21,000 Public comments on the draft conservation plan for the CMR Refuge. Again, three polls of citizens have shown that about 70 percent of Montana voters support restoration of public-trust, wild bison on the CMR Refuge. House Bill 302 would duplicate existing legal requirements for protecting private property, while restricting private and public property rights for many citizens. Private landowners cannot be discriminated against with restoration of wild bison. Existing law (MCA 87-1-216) does not permit Fish, Wildlife & Parks to allow wild bison on any property where the landowner does not accept them. Further, this law requires Fish, Wildlife & Parks to compensate for any damage caused by wandering bison. Among many other requirements, it minimizes possible transfer of disease from wild bison to livestock and requires a pre-restoration public hearing in any affected county. In contrast, HB 302 could prevent any landowner who would accept wild bison from enjoying that option, limiting private property rights. Moreover, HB 302 could prevent the majority of Americans and of Montanans from restoring a native species, with its important ecological functions, on their public property. House Bill 302 would be an imprudent precedent in negating the role of the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission to determine policy for conserving and managing state wildlife. House Bill 318 would disqualify all possible plains bison for any transplant to restore public, wild bison in Montana. Aside from redefining “wild bison”, HB318 amends MCA 15-24-921 to clearly exempt tribal bison from the per capita livestock fee. Redefining wild bison is not necessary for this purpose. Under HB 318, a wild bison: has not been reduced to captivity; has never been owned by a person; has never been taxed as livestock; nor is the offspring of a bison once taxed as livestock. These proposed redefinitions of “wild bison” have no basis in biology. There is no reason why the past ownership of a bison, or its parents, should disqualify and animal from initiating a new, wild herd. In particular, HB 318 at least implies that a wild bison is one that has never been in captivity. Since the vast majority of plains bison, including conservation herds in public ownership, are fenced-in, mostly small herds on small ranges, and the very few unfenced herds would have to be captured for months or years of quarantine or inspection and for transportation, HB 318 would disqualify all possible plains bison for use in restoring a public wild herd in Montana. No bison, anywhere, would clearly qualify to be used in restoring bison as wildlife in Montana. House bills 302 and 318 would expedite gradual disorganization and domestication of the wild bison genome.The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has concluded that large herds of bison subject to the full range of natural limiting factors must be of pre-eminent importance to the long-term conservation, global security and continued evolution of bison as wildlife. The Alternative is gradual domestication of the species (Gates et al. 2010). As large, highly mobile grazing mammals, restoration of bison as wildlife has been difficult. In the USA, most conservation herds of bison are small, genetically inadequate, limited to small ranges, and managed much like livestock. Gradual deterioration of the wild bison genome is underway in a domesticating process including loss of genetic diversity. It is a national goal of the US Department of Interior’s Bison Conservation Initiative to forestall this deterioration of wild bison. This will require restoring at least one large herd on a large, diverse landscape. Realistically, this will require a large area of all or mostly public land where conflicts with private interests, especially livestock production, can be minimized. For plains bison, the best option, anywhere, for such restoration of wild bison exists on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. The CMR Refuge is the largest federal refuge within the historic range of plains bison. Seven rural counties include some of the CMR Refuge. HB 302 would allow one county commission, representing a few thousand citizens, to prevent achievement of global and national goals for conserving bison as a wild species.Observes Bailey, “The Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in east-central Montana is the largest refuge within the historic range of plains bison. But the refuge has no bison and lacks the diverse ecological effects of this keystone species. Despite mandates in federal law and policy, the Refuge Management Plan cedes the right to restore, or not restore, wild bison to the state of Montana.”House bills 302 and 318 would prevent diversification and enhancement of rural economies with opportunities from bison-based hunting and tourism. Thirty-three contiguous counties in eastern and north-central Montana have been losing population for many decades. Most lack a critical population necessary to support a comprehensive county government, adequate health care, emergency services, quality education, communication facilities and other infrastructure. Poverty levels are the highest in the state. Livestock production has remained the primary economic foundation for these counties, and this industry has opposed any projects that might compete with cattle production. Under the requirements of MCA 87-1-216, a large herd of public-trust, wild bison could be restored with minimal or no negative impacts on the livestock industry, especially if bison are reestablished on the CMR National Wildlife Refuge. Bison restoration has potential to augment and diversify local economies by enhancing tourism and with monies spent during months-long hunting seasons for lodging, meals, supplies and outfitting services (Sage, 2017). Either HB 302 or HB 318 would prevent bison restoration in these counties, perpetuating an economic strategy that has failed for decades. House bills 302 and 318 would justify and encourage independent federal action to restore wild bison on the CMR Refuge.The Fish and Wildlife Service and its refuge system are mandated to collaborate and cooperate with the states in the management of wildlife on federal lands. However, the states’ trust responsibilities for wildlife are subordinate to the federal government’s statutory and trust obligations over federal lands and their integral resources (Nie et al. 2017). Federal agencies have often abdicated this responsibility and authority to the states. HB 302 could be an ultimate expression of Montana’s obstinacy and lack of cooperation for restoring bison, a keystone species, on the CMR Refuge. This may lead the Fish and Wildlife Service to fulfill its legal mandates by exercising its ultimate authority and proceeding with bison restoration without state approval.
Bison conservation and the future of bison as wildlife are not merely a local or state issue. The state of Montana, especially the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, have a unique and important role to play in preserving a future for public-trust, wild bison. Under HBs 302 and 318, Montana will fail to fulfill an irreplaceable opportunity to conserve a wild resource that is a unique component of global biodiversity.
In conclusion, any proposal for a Montana bison restoration project must be developed by professionals and abundantly vetted under MEPA and MCA 87-1-216. HB 302 adds nothing to this comprehensive process. However, a county veto of a professionally developed and vetted bison restoration plan could be based upon a narrow sample of public goals, by commissioners having no staff to evaluate complex biological issues. Either house bills 302 or HB 318 would almost certainly prevent any restoration of public-trust wild bison in Montana, preempting economic opportunities in many rural counties, ignoring the desires and statutory privileges of most citizens of the state and nation, and disregarding a host of state and federal legal mandates and policies. Bison conservation and the future of bison as wildlife are not merely a local or state issue. The state of Montana, especially the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, have a unique and important role to play in preserving a future for public-trust, wild bison. Under HBs 302 and 318, Montana will fail to fulfill an irreplaceable opportunity to conserve a wild resource that is a unique component of global biodiversity. In 1910, William Hornaday of the Smithsonian Institution proposed a preserve for wild bison on the south side of the Missouri River in Montana. In Congress, he was thwarted by the Montana Woolgrowers Association. Now, 111 years later, we still have no herd of public, wild bison in the state. Citizens of Montana and the nation must be heard. If Montana’s obstinacy toward bison restoration offends you, contact Governor Greg Gianforte at mt.gov, phone 406-444-3111, or write him at PO Box 200801, Helena, MT 59620-0801. Silence is complicity. EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information, visit the Montana Wild Bison Restoration Coalition and the Buffalo Field Campaign. Mountain Journal welcomes a rebuttal to Bailey’s essay provided it is based upon science and established fact.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte trapped and killed an adult black wolf, like the one pictured, near Yellowstone National Park on February 15. The wolf, 1155, was born and radio-collared within the park.JIM PEACO / NPS
Montana’s newly elected Republican governor violated state hunting regulations when he trapped and shot a collared wolf near Yellowstone National Park in February, according to documents obtained by the Mountain West News Bureau.ListenListening…4:12
While wolves are protected inside Yellowstone National Park, it’s legal to hunt and trap wolves in Montana – including wolves that wander beyond the park’s boundaries – in accordance with state regulations.
Gianforte violated Montana regulations by harvesting the wolf without first completing a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued the governor a written warning, and he promised to take the three-hour online course March 24. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte
According to Montana’s wolf hunting regulations, “A person must attend and complete a wolf-trapping certification class before setting any trap for a wolf,” and the state-issued certificate “must be in possession of any person setting wolf traps and/or harvesting a wolf by trap.”
The course gives would-be wolf trappers “the background and rules to do so ethically, humanely, and lawfully,” the course’s student manual states.
John Sullivan, Montana chapter chair for the sportsmen’s group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said the governor should’ve known about the certification requirements.
“He has been hunting and trapping for a long time and I would be surprised to learn that he didn’t know better than to complete that education,” Sullivan said. “We hope that he apologizes to the citizens of the state for circumventing the process that we all have to go through.”
“It’s difficult to fathom accidentally not taking that class,” he added. “When you go to buy your wolf trapping license online it clearly states that trapper education is required.”
The governor’s spokesperson, Brooke Stroyke, said in an emailed statement that “after learning he had not completed the wolf-trapping certification, Governor Gianforte immediately rectified the mistake and enrolled in the wolf-trapping certification course.”
The governor did have all the necessary hunting licenses to harvest a wolf, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Greg Lemon.
“Typically, we approach this sort of incident as an educational opportunity, particularly when the person in question is forthright in what happened and honest about the circumstances,” Lemon said in an email. “That was the case here with Gov. Gianforte.”
Lemon said the warning was a “typical operation procedure” and the governor was allowed to keep the skull and hide. As governor, Gianforte oversees Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and appointed its director earlier this year. Gov. Gianforte trapped and killed the wolf on land owned by Robert E. Smith’s Point of Rocks Ranch, LLC, according to location data obtained by the Mountain West News Bureau.
Word of Gianforte’s wolf-kill violation comes as the Republican-controlled Montana Legislature appears poised to send to his desk bills aimed at aggressively reducing the state’s wolf population through hunting and trapping. One would reimburse wolf trappers for the costs they incur, which critics call a “bounty.”
The incident highlights the polarized and overlapping debates in the West over how to manage growing wolf populations and trapping’s role – if it has one at all – in wildlife management. A decade after wolves were stripped of Endangered Species Act protections in the Northern Rockies, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are asserting aggressive wolf management policies, while Colorado voters recently decided to reintroduce wolves to the Western Slope.
Meanwhile, the New Mexico Legislature last week approved a bill banning the use of wildlife traps, snares and poison on public lands across the state, likely joining the growing number of Western states that have outlawed the practice increasingly viewed as cruel.
“It’s clearly not an ethical chase,” said Mike Garrity, executive director for the nonprofit environmental group Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Ethical hunters try to have a clean shot so they kill the animal instantly. Trapping obviously doesn’t do that. They suffer for a long time and who knows how long that wolf was trapped before the governor went out and killed it.”
Wolf 1155 was born in Yellowstone National Park and was issued a radio collar by wildlife biologists in 2018, according to park spokesperson Morgan Warthin. Collars allow scientists to track the movements – and deaths – of wolves. 1155 was initially a member of the Wapiti Lake pack but is now considered a “dispersed male,” which means it had wandered away from the pack to find a mate elsewhere.
Yellowstone wolves hold a special place in the nation’s heart, according to Jonathan Proctor, director of the Rockies and Plains program for the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife.
“People from all over the world come to Yellowstone specifically to see these wolves,” he said. “The fact that they can be killed so easily, right on the edge of the park in the state of Montana, for only a few dollars for a permit to trap a wolf – it makes no sense, either ecologically or economically.”
There are about 94 wolves living within the park, according to data from last year. Warthin said this was the first Yellowstone-collared wolf to be killed by a hunter or trapper this year.
Gianforte killed 1155 on Feb. 15. It’s unclear when Gianforte first laid the traps. State regulations require that trappers check their traps every 48 hours and report wolf kills to FWP within 24 hours. Trappers also have the option of releasing a collared wolf.
This is the second time Gianforte’s personal actions sparked controversy. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault after he body-slammed a reporter from the British newspaper The Guardian. He was sentenced to community service and anger management.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
I’ll keep this short and to the point. I applaud all of our county commissioners and the other letter writers who wrote enlightened and reasonable letters in the Feb. 19 Express. Trapping is inhumane. Period. The proponent organizations with benevolent-sounding names are complicit in the cruelty of trapping, as is Fish and Game, which claims that even sign posting is too burdensome. Are they kidding?
Blaine County especially objects to trapping, as evidenced by the unanimous opinions of our county commissioners who represent us. Trapping might be justified in the Alaskan bush where there are no groceries or clothing stores, but not in a civilized state and county where one can buy anything they need locally or online. I also expect that our tourist economy will suffer when visitors don’t want to spend their money in a place that allows such immoral activity that is a clear danger to recreationalists and their kids and dogs. This is the 2020s, not the 1800s.
As principal deputy director of FWS, Williams will oversee a federal agency tasked with managing wildlife and habitat across the country, and in charge of more than 150 million acres of land in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The agency also administers the Endangered Species Act.
At FWP, Williams was at the helm of fishing and hunting policy in Montana. That agency also guides how the state deals with federally-protected species like grizzly bears, bull trout and Canada lynx, andother thorny wildlife issues such as managing the spread of chronic wasting disease and brucellosis.
Williams was the first female director of Montana FWP. She was appointed to that position in 2017 by former governor Steve Bullock. On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Gianforte nominated the agency’s new director — Hank Worsech, a 17-year FWP employee who most recently served as license bureau chief.