Gallatin County communities rally around cat found suffering from possible trapping

Vet says “Trapper” may have to lose both legs
Posted: 7:21 PM, Nov 27, 2019
Updated: 1:24 PM, Nov 28, 2019

A cat caught in a man-made trap in Gallatin County is bringing out the best of the community.

“When animals are left to their own devices, you never know what they are going to get themselves into,” says Dr. Holly Cruger, DVM at Foothills Veterinary Hospital.

It all started with the little guy, found on a back porch off of Thorpe Road near Belgrade, dragging his back legs.

“He came in, he had some pretty open wounds that looked like he was tied up or trapped on his back legs, which is where I think we got the name, Trapper,” Dr. Cruger says. “Tiny Tails has taken on this case to do everything we can to make sure that he’s got the best chance he can have.”

A Gallatin County Animal Control officer took the cat to Foothill Veterinary Hospital in Bozeman, where he spent the night.

“One of the infections was so deep, I did not think that it would even have the chance to heal,” Dr. Cruger says.

And that surgery? Already, the cat has had to lose one of his legs.

“He’s in better shape today than he was yesterday,” says Diana Stafford, director and founder of Tiny Tails K-9 Rescue in Manhattan.

Stafford and her volunteers are working to help build Trapper’s road to recovery.

“We try to do our best to make sure that our community animals get health care when they need health care,” Stafford says.

Diana’s group is made up of all volunteers, working to foot Trapper’s medical bill.

But the community, well, the cat’s story reached them quickly, raising around $1,500 in a single day.

“Our community is amazing,” Stafford says. “We do a lot of crying. All of our volunteers do. There’s only so much we can do.”

The veterinarian watching over Trapper says he has a difficult road ahead and could lose his other rear leg.

Yet, Stafford, Dr. Cruger and the community are rooting for him.

“If you see an animal in need, please, please tell someone,” Dr. Cruger says.

“Everybody loves an underdog and this little guy, this little cat is right now an underdog,” Stafford says.

Tiny Tails is already planning a series of fundraisers to help animals like Trapper with their own financial needs.

You can find a full schedule and list of upcoming events on their website.

The Grizzlies Are Coming

A grizzly bear
The Rolling Stone Ranch lies behind a cluster of deciduous trees on the open, undulating plains of Montana’s Blackfoot Valley. Its green barns sit just outside the tiny town of Ovando, which is home to about 80 residents. As a crisp autumn breeze swept by in early October, Jim Stone, the ranch’s owner, greeted me in front of his house with a firm handshake. From his kitchen, he gazed out the window overlooking the valley and gestured across Highway 200. “My neighbor has 13 grizzly bears on his property,” a 21,000-acre spread, he told me. Just two decades ago, that many bears would have been rare.

To protect their livestock from the booming bear population, many local cattle ranchers have installed electric fences. They require less maintenance than barbed wire does and are safer for migrating elk, Stone explained. Since improving his fencing, he no longer has to worry about grizzlies killing his cows and calves.

As grizzlies continue to expand their range in Montana, more communities will have to face the question of how to coexist with them. Strategies such as installing electric fences, distributing special garbage cans, and encouraging communities to share the lessons they learn can help. But the most effective solution may be one of the hardest to achieve: trust between rural landowners and government agencies.

Back in the early 1800s, there were more than 50,000 grizzlies in the Lower 48. But by 1975, after years of hunting and habitat destruction, the population had dwindled to fewer than 1,000, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. With federal protections in place, grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide in northwestern Montana have flourished. Currently, there are approximately 1,000 bears in the area, the largest population in the United States outside Alaska. As a result of this rebound, the federal government considered delisting the population, though that process is now paused in light of last year’s court decision to restore federal protections for grizzlies in and around Yellowstone.

But the grizzly boom has brought with it a rise in human-bear conflicts. In September, for example, four hunters were injured in three separate attacks in southwestern Montana. These encounters are bad news for the grizzlies as well: Last year, about 50 bears were killed or removed from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, a record high for Montana.

Nonprofits such as the Blackfoot Challenge, located in the Blackfoot Valley, are helping communities deal with these conflicts. Stone, who chairs the organization’s board of directors, has helped implement its three-pronged approach to managing grizzlies: building electric fences, moving dead livestock to designated compost plots, and employing range riders to protect cattle. All told, conflicts with grizzlies in the Blackfoot Valley dropped by 74 percent from 2003 to 2013, according to a 2017 case study on the Blackfoot Challenge.

But in the small town of Condon, in nearby Swan Valley, where tall conifers rather than rangelands dominate the landscape, the residents face different problems. One of the biggest challenges is teaching people how to manage backyard bear attractants, such as garbage cans and chicken coops, says Luke Lamar, the conservation director at the nonprofit Swan Valley Connections. The organization offers electric-fencing installation, bear-resistant garbage containers, property consultations, and educational events. Once a bear knows where to find free food, it tends to return to the area, Lamar says. “That cycle will most likely continue until the bear is caught and removed by agency bear managers or by other means, such as a resident shooting the bear.”

Communities have different reactions to grizzlies and may need different methods to manage them. Sara Halm, a graduate student at Idaho State University, is interviewing people who live in three Montana communities to learn how grizzlies impact their rural towns. Many locals are scared for their children, who can no longer play outside alone the way their parents once did. For some, electric fences help lessen that fear. But fences make other residents feel confined. “This is deeper than just an economic issue of protecting people’s livelihoods,” Halm says. People have to redefine their relationship with the environment and wildlife.

This post appears courtesy of  High Country News.

The Next Yellowstone: A Hunter’s Paradise

  OCT 23, 2019

In northeastern Montana, a controversial group of millionaires and billionaires is trying to build a privately-funded national park. The group is purchasing ranches, phasing out the cattle, and opening the land up to genetically pure bison and other wildlife.

It’s called American Prairie Reserve. But as we’ve heard in our series, “The Next Yellowstone,” most long-time locals are bitterly opposed to the idea. Still, there are some supporters.

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Listen to the full documentary here.

PARTS: How Big Money Is Building A New Kind Of National Park | A Privately-Funded Park For The People | Save The Cowboy, Stop The American Prairie Reserve |  A Hunter’s Paradise | The Bison Is A Symbol Of God

I find myself in Justin Schaaf’s black Toyota Tundra heading down a two-track dirt road. Schaaf, 27, looks like a high school linebacker. His head is shaved and he’s wearing cargo pants. He’s taking me to one of his favorite hunting spots. While he works as a train conductor for the local railroad, his passion is hunting.

“If I’m not hunting I’m thinking about hunting and planning hunts, and when I’m sitting in the motel for work or when I’m sitting at home in the recliner I’m looking at maps, looking at Google Earth,” he says.

He’s always trying to find the perfect place to hunt.

As the road peters out, Schaaf pulls over. We grab some water and begin hiking in. It’s not big game hunting season yet, so we’re just scouting.

“We’re hoping to see some elk. Definitely some bighorn sheep. I have seen some pretty good mule deer in here,” he says.

We climb over sweet clover and sagebrush. This seems like an easy place to get lost but I’m not worried because Schaaf has lived in eastern Montana all his life. His great-great grandparents homesteaded just a few miles south of here near the Musselshell River. They lasted about 40 years before quitting and heading into town.

“They didn’t have enough land to support the ranching that you need and I don’t think the farming was cutting it at all,” he says.

It was a fate suffered by a lot of homesteaders out here. They couldn’t produce enough food or money to survive. As eastern Montana’s population continues to decline, Schaaf thinks it’s time to try something different.

“Is a little shot of tourism, capitalizing on hunter dollars, bringing more hunters into this area, will that make the difference?” he asks.

He thinks it might. After all, Schaaf is a young guy who stayed in eastern Montana precisely because of this wild country in his backyard.

“I can make more money in other places but it’s the outdoors, being able to pull my pickup up here and not talk to anyone and go for a hike all day long, that keeps me here,” he says. “Opportunity to just roam, I think, is enticing to young people.”

So-called rural recreation counties are growing faster than counties that don’t have a lot of hiking, hunting and fishing opportunities, according to the non-profit Headwaters Economics.

And here’s an important point: unlike a traditional national park, American Prairie Reserve allows hunting.

We don’t spot any wild bison. They’re mostly confined to privately-owned reserve lands north of us. But we do see a big herd of elk, about 45 cows and calves.

“That’s a crapload of elk,” Schaaf says.

It’s getting hot and the hike is grueling. We stumble up steep ravines and past stands of ponderosa pine. Schaaf says he understands that American Prairie Reserve is funded by rich people, some who made millions helping finance industries that degrade the environment.

“I do worry where that money comes from,” he says. But dirty money doesn’t just come from the private sector. He points to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program that takes royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling and pumps it back into parks and public lands.

“It’s helped my kid’s playground and it’s provided hunting opportunities for me,” Schaaf says.


Sanders County woman accidentally shoots daughter while hunting

Hunting / hunter stock photo

A Sanders County woman earlier this month accidentally shot and wounded her 10-year-old daughter in a grouse hunting accident, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. It was believed to be the first hunting-related shooting incident of the year.

Wayde Cooperider, FWP outdoor skills and safety supervisor, told Lee Newspapers on Tuesday the woman was unloading her .22 magnum on Oct. 11 when the firearm inadvertently discharged a round through the vehicle door, striking her daughter. The girl was transported to the hospital, Cooperider said.

The Sanders County Sheriff’s Office is conducting the investigation. Sanders County Sheriff Tom Rummel did not return a call from the Missoulian seeking further information on the girl’s condition and the investigation.

General rifle season begins in Montana on Oct. 26 for deer and elk. On Tuesday, Cooperider warned residents to be rigorous about their firearm safety measures.

“Be extra cautious,” he said. “Please unload your firearms away from your vehicle.”

Do not transport loaded firearms, and if hunting with another party, check each other’s firearms to make sure they are unloaded, Cooperider added.

The woman was with her children hunting forest grouse, he said. Her children were in the backseat while the vehicle was parked. When she got out to harvest a bird, she was unloading the firearm and it went off, Cooperider said. Another vehicle was approaching during the time of the accident, he said.

While Cooperider believes this is the first hunting-related shooting incident in 2019, he said its possible others have gone unreported.

“Montana is not a mandatory reporting state, which means I find out about this stuff either through our wardens or the news media,” he said.

Just last week, a Helena man was sentenced to nearly 3 1/2 years in state prison for an accidental fatal shooting after a hunting trip in 2018. Gregg Trude pleaded guilty to the charge in September, admitting he had placed a loaded firearm on the backseat of his truck before it discharged and killed Helena Dr. Eugene “Buzz” Walton.

Last hunting season, Montana experienced more hunting-related injuries and deaths than the past several combined, FWP said in an Oct. 18 release.

In the release, Cooperider reminded hunters of the four firearm rules taught at every Hunter Education course: “Always point your muzzle in a safe direction. Always treat every gun as if it were loaded. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire. Always be sure of your target and beyond.”

“The merits or practice of walking around with a chambered round when big game hunting can be debated extensively,” Cooperider said in the release. “However, I believe it should always come down to ‘best safety practice.'”

Footloose Montana hosts trap-release workshop

trap stockimage

A trap-release workshop will be presented from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, at St. Anthony Parish Center, 217 Tremont St.

Learn what to do if your pet steps in a trap, learn first aid, hands-on trap release practice, trapping regulations and what to carry with you to rescue your pet.

Sponsored by Footloose Montana, a nonprofit group educating concerned citizens about traps on public lands. Call 406-282-1482 or visit

Reward for info on shooting of pelicans along Montana river

Montana wildlife officials are offering a $1,000 reward for information in the shooting of possibly dozens of pelicans along the Bighorn River. Photo: NBC Montana

Montana wildlife officials are offering a $1,000 reward for information in the shooting of possibly dozens of pelicans along the Bighorn River.

State game wardens have reported retrieving about a dozen dead pelicans along a stretch of the river downstream of Yellowtail Dam. The river in that area is popular among fly fishers.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Robert Gibson says the birds are being killed with a shotgun.

Officials believe dozens more may have been shot and killed this summer in the same area. Gibson says that estimate is based on dead birds seen but not retrieved by wardens and reports they’ve received.

Pelicans are a protected under federal law as migratory birds.

The reward is offered for information that leads to the conviction of those responsible. Call 1-800-TIP-MONT.

Hayden man attacked by grizzly last year makes Animal Planet television debut tonight

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 4, 2019, 7:50 p.m.

After being attacked by a grizzly bear last October,  Bob Legasa has started working with Counter Assault. Here he is pictured demonstrating how to use the company’s bear spray. Legasa’s story will be featured on Animal Planet’s “I was Prey” on Wednesday. (Bob Legasa/Freeride Media / COURTESY OF FREERIDE MEDIA)
After being attacked by a grizzly bear last October, Bob Legasa has started working with Counter Assault. Here he is pictured demonstrating how to use the company’s bear spray. Legasa’s story will be featured on Animal Planet’s “I was Prey” on Wednesday. (Bob Legasa/Freeride Media / COURTESY OF FREERIDE MEDIA)

Nearly a year ago, Bob Legasa was bloody and broken in the Montana backcountry, the unfortunate recipient of the maternal fury of an adult grizzly bear.

“It certainly was something I hope I don’t have to endure again,” Legasa said this week. “As far as the emotional and physical aspect of it, I’m lucky that I didn’t get mauled. That I wasn’t being rag dolled and tossed around. It was short and sweet. Or fast and vicious.”’

Tonight, Legasa will relive his Oct. 13 experience on national television. The Hayden resident’s story will be featured on Animal Planet’s “I Was Prey” show.

This is what happened: As Legasa and his partner, Greg Gibson, walked through tall sagebrush – between 6 and 8 feet – they startled a grizzly bear cub and its mother.

The mother bear tackled Legasa. Gibson, of Sandpoint, sprayed the bear with bear spray. The bear dropped Legasa, but not before breaking his arm with her mouth and clawing his face. She then started to charge Gibson. Gibson sprayed the bear again and she retreated.

Covered in blood and nearly blind from the spray, which had blown into their faces, both men hiked out.

In February, Legasa traveled to New York for an interview for Animal Planet’s show. Legasa, who owns his own outdoors media company, said he hesitated when first asked to participate. He worried that the show would overdramatize his experience or put an “anti-hunting” spin on it.

After being attacked online by hard-core vegans last year, he wondered if appearing on a television show would again make him a target. Ultimately, he decided to do it, reasoning that it provided him a good platform to spread a few important messages.

“Hunting has been in a weird limelight lately,” he said. “It seems like there are more people that are understanding hunting … but then there are also … some activist groups that are really going hard on trying to cut down or stop hunting.”

1 / 3

In February, Hayden resident Bob Legasa was interviewed by Animal Planet for their show “I was Prey.” Last fall, Legasa was attacked and injured by a mother grizzly bear while bowhunting for elk in Montana. The episode featuring Legasa will air Wednesday Sept. 4, 2019. (Animal Planet / COURTESY)

Legasa hopes to emphasize on the show that he hunts for many reasons. He loves being in the mountains and the challenge of stalking prey. He enjoys the pride and accomplishment of killing an animal that provides food for him and his family.

Showing the diverse reasons people hunt is a job many hunters are increasingly taking upon themselves. Only 5% of Americans 16 years and older hunt, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study published in 2017. Fifty years ago, 10% of Americans 16 years and older hunted. Those decreased numbers mean that fewer people, especially in urban areas, know anyone who hunts.

“I was hoping that I could at least get a positive message across in that respect,” Legasa said.

In addition to burnishing the reputation of hunters, Legasa hopes to reiterate the importance of carrying bear spray, for hunters and nonhunters alike. Since his attack, he’s done promotional and testimonial work for Counter Assault bear spray, “preaching that bear spray works.”

“It should be the first line of defense,” he said. “It just gives you a better option than shooting.”

In Legasa’s case, if the two hadn’t had bear spray, they would have been out of luck. Because the bear was on top of Legasa, Gibson wouldn’t have been able to safely shoot the bear with his handgun.

With hunters and hikers heading to the hills this fall, that message couldn’t be more important.

As for Legasa, he’s mostly recovered from the attack last year. While he still has some residual pain from where the bear broke his arm, it hasn’t slowed him too much. Emotionally, he said the fallout has been minimal. Although recently, he did have his first bear-related dream.

“It wasn’t a nightmare, but there was a bear running at me,” he said. “It made me think for a second.”

That won’t stop him from hunting this year. In a week, he’s again heading to Montana for 12 days of bow hunting for elk.

“I’m going to get back on that horse and ride,” he said. “This is in my DNA. Being in the mountains is good for my soul. I’m just counting the days until I get back out there.”

FWP kills mountain lion found near Helena’s Centennial Park

MTN News File Photo

HELENA – A mountain lion found in Helena city limits has been killed and removed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The Helena Police Department reported the mountain lion was spotted at NorthWestern Energy property on the 1300 block of Last Chance Gulch around 7:30 a.m.

An employee saw the cat in the bushes near a building entrance.

Interim Police Chief Steve Hagen stated in a news release that “immobilizing and relocating mountain lions located in urban areas is not a safe/feasible option so lethal means are used.”

The HPD, animal control officers, and FWP all responded.

-Reported by Jacob Fuhrer/MTN News

Editorial: Build public credibility by making Grizzly Advisory Council transparent fromthe start

Missoulian May 8, 2019

It speaks to Montanans’ high interest in grizzly bears that 157 individuals
have been nominated to serve on a grizzly bear advisory committee that may
have 20 seats at most. Now comes the difficult task of whittling down the
lengthy list of volunteers.

Gov. Steve Bullock is already committed to ensuring the committee
encompasses the widest possible range of perspectives and a comprehensive
variety of expertise. But Bullock must also take pains to make his selection
process as transparent as possible, and to fully explain to the public the
reasoning behind his picks. At a minimum, the names and qualifications of
the volunteers need to be posted on the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
website. That way, when the eventual selections are made, people can see for
themselves just how representative the council is.

After all, the advisory council will represent the general public on
critical grizzly bear management matters, an issue of looming importance as
the bears face the likely loss of federal protections.

Montana shares responsibility for four grizzly recovery zones, each of which
is home to its own unique challenges. Moreover, on top of the regional
distinctions, a key component to successful recovery involves connecting
genetically isolated populations. The council must therefore consider how to
promote healthy bear populations while also finding effective ways to reduce
conflicts with humans.

According to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website, the advisory
council will consider how best to:

. Maintain and enhance human safety

. Ensure a healthy and sustainable grizzly bear population

. Improve the response to conflicts involving grizzly bears

. Engage all partners in grizzly-related outreach and conflict prevention

. Improve intergovernmental, interagency, and tribal coordination

That’s a tall order, and to that end, the members of the council clearly
should come to the table prepared to share expertise on bear behavior – but
also human behavior. Montanans across the state will need to learn how to
safely share a home with grizzly bears.

As FWP Region 2 Supervisor Randy Arnold noted in a recent Missoulian news
article: “There are a lot of folks who will soon be dealing with grizzly
bears who have not been a part of this conversation.” The governor’s
advisory council offers an opportunity for these folks to have their
concerns considered and answered before any major problems arise.

But Governor Bullock must first reassure the public that no legitimate
concern will be ignored, and no voice will go unheard. He can get started on
the right foot and set a clear expectation of transparency throughout the
process by being open with the public as he selects the members of the
Grizzly Bear Advisory Council.


A study led by Susan Solomon found that the CO2 we add to the atmosphere
every day remains there for centuries, “so that atmospheric temperatures do
not drop significantly for at least 1,000 years<<

Hunter reportedly shot at person he thought was Bigfoot

A Montana man who was out target shooting became a target himself when another shooter unloaded a barrage of gunfire at him after mistaking him for Bigfoot, authorities said.

The 27-year-old shooter told authorities he was putting up targets outside Helena on Sunday when bullets started flying toward him, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said, according to the Idaho Statesman.

One round came within three feet of the victim and another whizzed by even closer, he told police. The man said he ran behind nearby trees for cover and eventually confronted the shooter, who was driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck.

“I thought you were Bigfoot,” the victim says the shooter told him, according to Dutton. “I don’t target practice — but if I see something that looks like Bigfoot, I just shoot at it.”

Once the man assured the gunman that he wasn’t Bigfoot — an ape-like creature said to inhabit wooded areas in the Northwest — the shooter advised him to wear an orange vest in the future.

But Dutton noted that “there was some question about the veracity of the report” because the victim who spoke to police a day after the alleged incident couldn’t provide a physical description of the shooter.

Police checked the area but didn’t find the pickup truck, ABC Fox Montana reported.

After local media reports of the man’s story, a woman said she had a similar experience in which she had been shot at by a man in an F-150.

“We’re working to find this person,” Dutton said. “It is of great concern that this individual might think it’s OK to shoot at anything he thinks is Bigfoot.”

If the reports are true, the shooter could face charges, Dutton said.

But the chief said he didn’t think the public at large was in danger, noting that “it seems to be a localized event to one geographic area.”

According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, there have been 46 sightings in Montana since 1978. In 1993, three backpackers spotted a massive upright animal running on two legs through the Gallatin National Forest.