BILLINGS, Mont. — Wildlife advocates are asking Montana wildlife officials to ban trapping along much of the Idaho border to protect a cat-sized predator that lives in old-growth forests.
Representatives of five environmental groups said in a petition submitted Tuesday to Montana wildlife commissioners that trapping is a serious threat to the Northern Rockies fisher.
Federal wildlife officials say at least 100 of the animals were killed in Montana between 2002 and 2016. Idaho does not allow trapping of fishers, but 86 were killed by trappers accidentally in that time period.
The fanged predators once ranged at least five states. They’re now limited to an area straddling the Montana-Idaho border. Federal wildlife officials in 2017 said fishers were not in danger of extinction despite worries about habitat loss and trapping.
The Tribal Wildlife Management Program announces the scheduling of a Gray Wolf trapping class for CSKT Tribal members who plan to participate in 2018-2019 trapping activities for Northern Gray Wolves.
Lands within the exterior boundaries of the Reservation are sectioned into three Wolf Management Zones – the Northwest, South, and the Mission Zone. The general hunting season for wolves opened on September 1st in all three Zones and will extend through April 30, 2019 within the Northwest and South Zones. The Mission Zones hunting season will close on March 31, 2019.
Trapping season for the all three Zones will commence on December 1, 2018 and extend through April 30th, 2019 within the Northwest and South Zones, and close on March 31, 2019 within the Mission Zone, to avoid potential captures of non-target bears. Tribal members must also follow Tribal off-Reservation wolf hunting and trapping regulations when hunting or trapping wolves in open and unclaimed areas, which are generally recognized as U. S. Forest Service lands.
Trapping regulations approved by the Tribal Council included the provision that potential trappers attend an informational class on wolf trapping if they have not previously attended a similar class conducted by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Proof of completion of a wolf trapping class, through the Tribal Wildlife Management Program or Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks must be presented to the Tribal Fish and Wildlife Permits Office to receive a wolf trapping permit. The scheduled Tribal informational class will cover topics such as Tribal wolf trapping regulations, appropriate trapping equipment, required marking of traps, setting and checking traps, minimizing the potential to capture non-target species, trapping reporting requirements and properly caring for trapped animals. If trappers would like the trap pan tension of their traps tested, they should bring their traps to this informational class or make alternate arrangements with the Tribal Wildlife Management Program.
Members of the Tribal Wildlife Management Program staff will conduct this informational class on Wednesday, December 12th from Noon to 1:30 pm @ the Mission Valley Power conference room. Please contact Stephanie Gillin, Wildlife Biologist at the Tribal Wildlife Management Program by phone at (406) 675-2700, extension 7241 or by email at email@example.com to sign up.
HELENA, Mont. — A wild wolf known as 926F, dear to the hearts of wolf watchers who visit Yellowstone, was killed by a hunter as it wandered just outside the park last weekend.
A member of the Lamar Canyon pack in the national park’s northeast region, 926F was the daughter of 832F, an alpha female that had become a celebrity, famous for her hunting prowess and for her frequent appearances along the road traveled by tourists in the park’s Lamar Valley.
While wolf biologists called the mother 832F, the she-wolf was famously known as “06” for the year she was born. The subject of the book “American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West,” she was killed by a hunter as well.
“Everybody’s mourning, everybody’s thinking about what to do to stop this madness,” said Karol Miller, who founded a group of wolf lovers on Facebook called The 06 Legacy. “People love the Lamar Canyon Pack and people know 06 from her New York Times obituary. These are the descendants of 06, her legacy. People love those wolves.”
But the killing has renewed calls for a buffer around the park so wolves that live within the safe harbor of Yellowstone and that have little fear of humans cannot be shot if they wander beyond the park’s invisible boundary.
Spitfire, or 926F, chased away a grizzly bear that was trying to steal her kill in 2013.CreditDeby Dixon
While Montana lawmakers have passed legislation forbidding creation of a buffer zone, there is a hunting limit of two wolves in each of two districts adjacent to the northern boundary of the park.
Still, wolf hunting near Yellowstone has been extremely controversial, highlighting the clash between the New West’s ecotourism and the Old West’s hunting to protect game and livestock.
Wolves were restored to the park in the 1990s and quickly grew in number. About 100 wolves belong to 10 packs in Yellowstone, which is considered the ideal park for sightings of the animals as they hunt elk, feed on carcasses and play with their pups. Some 1,700 wolves live in the Northern Rocky Mountain states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
Spitfire, also known as Wolf 926F, was killed legally a few miles outside a park entrance in Montana, according to animal rights group Wolves of the Rockies.
The organisation shared the news on its Facebook page on Wednesday.
Spitfire was previously the alpha female leader of the Lamar valley wolfpack.
Her mother was also killed by a hunter in 2012 and Spitfire was credited with keeping the pack together after her death.
Both animals were stars in an area described by Yellowstone officials as a “wolf-watching mecca”, which attracts animal lovers from all over the world.
The hunter who killed Spitfire was acting legally according to The Dodo, as it is currently hunting season for wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the states that Yellowstone covers.
Wolf hunting licences in Montana cost just $19 (£15) for residents and $50 (£39) for others, according to the Wolf Conservation Centre.
The predators were reintroduced in Yellowstone in 1995 but remain at the centre of a debate in the US between conservationists who argue that the US wolf population needs protection, and hunters and farmers who argue that rising predator numbers are out of control.
Two hunters have been rescued in Beaverhead County after serious ATV accidents around the opening of general hunting season. Both rescues involved helicopters, one from the Montana Army National Guard and one from Life Flight.
According to Sheriff Franklin Kluesner II, the first call came in Friday at 12:27 p.m. The caller said his 58-year-old brother was unable to move after an ATV accident in the south end of the Gravelly Mountains. The men were scouting hunting areas for the next day when the accident occurred, Kluesner said. The caller hiked about a mile and a half from his brother to find cell service.
Kluesner said his office was able to help the caller determine his location coordinates through a cell phone app, which showed he was near Fossil Creek, over 60 miles southeast of Dillon — a two or more hour drive for emergency vehicles.
After learning their location, Kluesner said Life Flight was requested and a helicopter was dispatched from Rexburg, Idaho. Ground support was also dispatched, including a local search and rescue team and an ambulance from Lima.
About 90 minutes after receiving the call for help, the injured man was transported via Life Flight to a hospital. Kluesner believes the man is from North Dakota and is at a hospital in Bozeman as of Wednesday afternoon, with serious injuries.
Two days later, Kluesner’s office received three more search and rescue calls within a few-hour time frame. One was from a woman concerned about her husband, who returned back to his camp shortly after she called; another was from a group of people whose truck slid off of a road west of Lima, and were assisted by Bureau of Land Management rangers in the area; and a third resulted in a full deployment of local search and rescue volunteers, along with assistance from the Montana Army National Guard.
Around 1 p.m. on Sunday, the Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a woman who said she hadn’t heard from her 69-year-old husband since Saturday afternoon. The woman told law enforcement she had driven to his campsite Sunday morning, about 15 miles south of Dillon, but did not find him or his ATV. The man had planned to hunt in the area.
Kluesner said after his office spoke with the woman, Beaverhead Search and Rescue volunteers began a ground search for her husband while aircraft searched overhead. The hunter was not located on Sunday.
An expanded search resumed early Monday. At this time, Kluesner’s office looked at what other resources they had available. The search and rescue team decided to call the Montana Army National Guard, which promptly deployed a five-person crew via Blackhawk helicopter from Helena. The helicopter arrived in the area around noon.
At 1:30 p.m., the ground crew located the missing hunter, who had spent 44 hours pinned beneath his upside-down ATV in a ravine. The crew called the National Guard helicopter, which landed in the area, stabilized the man and transported him to Barrett Hospital and Healthcare in Dillon. Kluesner said the man is now at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula with serious injuries.
In the last four years Kluesner has been sheriff, he said he’s seen a steady increase of ATV use in Beaverhead County. This has also led to an increase in accidents.
“We have a lot of areas where you can still use four-wheelers and side-by-sides, which have become very popular,” Kluesner said. “But they aren’t that stable and do have the potential to cause real serious injuries.”
Kluesner went on to say these injuries are especially concerning when hunters and other recreationists ride into the backcountry, where they become harder to reach and there is little to no cell service. He said his office was extremely lucky to have access to Life Flight and Montana Army National Guard teams to rescue the two injured hunters, and he is proud of the collaboration that went into finding them.
“Helicopters are invaluable in these situations. They (helicopter flights) are expensive endeavors, but there’s no price you can put on a human life,” Kluesner said.
A Paradise Valley company is seeking a permit to house two black bears in a roadside menagerie near Emigrant, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
The agency is seeking public comment through June 30 on an environmental assessment for the Mayfield Roadside Menagerie, north of Emigrant, owned by Jason Mayfield.
Any person wishing to keep, in captivity, one or more wild animals for the evident purpose of exhibition or attracting trade must first secure a Roadside Menagerie Permit from the state of Montana. A USDA Class C Exhibitor’s permit is a prerequisite for permitting.
The facility has been built and is ready to receive the two bears and will be operated in conjunction with Camel Discovery along Highway 89.
The facility has an interior and exterior portion. The interior is constructed of poured concrete for the floor; partitioned cages constructed of welded wire and pipe; insulated walls; and water, electrical and gas services. The interior has ample room for food preparation and veterinary care if needed.
The exterior fencing is constructed of chain link fencing with four strands of charged electrical wire along the top. A secondary fence within the primary fencing is made of four strands of charged electrical wire attached to t-posts.
The proposed menagerie is in near proximity to the owner’s residence and doors and gates are to remain locked at all times to prevent escape of the bears or entry by unauthorized individuals.
The environmental assessment is available on FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov. Click on the News tab and choose Recent Public Notices.
Comments can be submitted online or mailed to Attn: Mayfield Roadside Menagerie; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Enforcement; P.O. Box 200701; Helena, MT 59620.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that a bear attacked a hunter along the East side of the Hungry Horse Reservoir over the weekend.
FWP is investigating the Sept. 24 attack, which took place in the Twin Creek area near the reservoir. The hunter who was attacked – an adult male – was apparently involved in what FWP is initially calling a “surprise encounter” in a very bushy area.
The man was injured, and drove back with his hunting partner to a hospital for medical attention. The two did shoot at the bear during the encounter, and the bear ran off.
The Region One FWP Wildlife Human Attack Response Team was dispatched to the area immediately upon notification. Details about the attack, including the type of bear involved and the injuries the victim incurred, were not yet available.
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meets in Polson, Montana this week to consider last steps toward removing Montana’s largest population of grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List.
IGBC members meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to possibly adopt the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem conservation strategy, the blueprint directing how state wildlife agencies would manage grizzlies if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delists them.
FWS has already removed about 700 grizzly bears in the three-state area known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the endangered list. Wyoming Game and Fish Department has proposed selling hunting licenses for at least 22 grizzlies this fall. Idaho has a quota of one male grizzly for hunting. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks commissioners opted to skip a grizzly hunt in 2018 over concerns that pending lawsuits against the delisting might block a fall hunt.
On Friday Idaho Fish and Game Dept. announced its system for a grizzly hunting lottery, with applications accepted between June 15 and July 15. The drawing is limited to Idaho residents with a valid state hunting license who must pay a nonrefundable $16.75 application fee and prepay the tag fee of at least $166.75. Unsuccessful applicants will get their tag fees refunded.
About 1,000 grizzlies live in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which spreads along the Rocky Mountains from the Canadian border with Glacier National Park south almost to Missoula. They are considered geographically and genetically distinct from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem bears.
If the IGBC members approve the conservation strategy on this week, it may form the basis of the federal delisting rule set to be published later in 2018.
“It essentially commits the agencies to follow the spirit of the conservation strategy,” said IGBC spokesman Dillon Tabish. “This isn’t the end of the public opportunity to comment. Any actions they (the participating agencies) would have to take must follow public process.”
FWS Grizzly Recovery Coordinator Hillary Cooley said the final delisting rule remained a ways off.
“We’ve got an initial draft, but it has a lot of review to go through,” Cooley said on Friday. “We don’t have a specific date right now, other than by the end of 2018.”
Cooley explained that while the IGBC executive committee’s endorsement is important to the federal rule-making process, the individual agencies, such as the National Park Service, state wildlife managers and Blackfeet and Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal governments, sign separately.
The federal delisting rule sets mortality limits for how many bears may die before Endangered Species Act protections might be re-imposed. The conservation strategy guides local wildlife managers in how to avoid that situation.
“If a state or tribe decides to hunt at some time, that’s their business,” Cooley said. “What matters to us is they stay within the mortality limits, no matter what the cause.”
The strategy has received extensive criticism of its methods for measuring bear population trends, habitat quality and allowance of hunting opportunities. Mike Bader, an advocate for keeping grizzlies under ESA protection, said the new strategy appeared legally vulnerable.
“They’re just rushing this through as fast as they can,” Bader said on Friday. “I don’t think they’ve dotted the i’s or crossed the t’s on what the grizzly bear needs.”
Bader noted that seven NCDE grizzlies have died in the past few weeks, including four that were hit by vehicles on roadways. He said the strategy made overly optimistic assumptions about how fast grizzly numbers are growing, which could prove disastrous if conditions change unexpectedly.
A federal judge in Missoula has scheduled an August 31 hearing on challenges to the Greater Yellowstone grizzly delisting. Wyoming’s proposed grizzly hunting season starts right after that, and could be derailed if the judge rules to keep the bear federally protected or requires more time for review.
One issue the lawsuit raises is whether FWS can remove protection from some distinct population segments of bears (such as the Greater Yellowstone) without dooming recovery in smaller areas such as the Cabinet-Yaak or North Cascades ecosystems. A similar lawsuit involving delisting gray wolves around the Western Great Lakes ordered FWS to take a much harder look at how removing protections from one population segment might affect the others.
Tabish said the final 144-page strategy has an appendix with about 60 pages of responses to past public comments. Tuesday’s meeting will further discuss how the NCDE and Yellowstone ecosystem bear populations might link in the future.
The executive committee plans to tour the National Bison Range and some other parts of the Mission Valley affected by grizzly activity on Wednesday.
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.
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.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) has decided not to hold a Yellowstone-area grizzly bear hunting season this year. This is welcome news and makes a lot of sense. We applaud the agency’s decision and want to do everything we can to work together to avoid any need (or excuse) for a grizzly hunting season in the future.
Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) “delisted” grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem—an area that includes portions of southwestern Montana, northwestern Wyoming, and northeastern Idaho. This means that in those areas, Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears have been removed and the states could now hold limited hunting seasons.
Wyoming plans to move forward with a grizzly hunting season this year. Idaho will likely discuss the issue during its Fish and Game Commission meeting next month. We are encouraged that, in the meantime, Montana has shown restraint and decided not to hold a hunt in 2018.
In her comments recommending against a hunt this year, FWP Director Martha Williams emphasized focusing on managing grizzly bears for long-term recovery and conflict prevention. She explained that FWP will be “continuing to work hard at responding proactively to bear conflicts and educating people and communities in grizzly country how to be bear aware.”
Indeed, FWP’s wildlife specialists have long worked with communities like Missoula to prevent human-bear conflicts. And the agency’s website has a veritable library of practical advice about living with bears, such as how to recreate safely in bear country, avoid bear attractants, and use bear spray.
This is critically important work for bears and humans alike. Emphasizing conflict prevention is the exact direction that grizzly bear management in Montana should continue to take, whether grizzlies are protected under the Endangered Species Act or not. In recent years, NRDC has collaborated with ranchers, conservation colleagues, and state and federal wildlife managers—including FWP—to reduce conflicts with large carnivores like grizzlies. We look forward to supporting and partnering with FWP in the coming years to do even more.
In the meantime, FWP’s decision not to hunt grizzlies makes sense for multiple reasons. After more than 40 years on the list of threatened and endangered species, Yellowstone-area grizzlies were removed less than a year ago. The population remains completely isolated from any other grizzly bear population. It also remains too small to ensure long-term genetic health. Rather than killing these bears as soon as we can, we should stay focused on helping them further recover.
In addition, litigation over FWS’s grizzly delisting rule is ongoing. Shortly after the final rule was published, a federal appellate court rejected an identical approach taken by FWS to delist Western Great Lakes wolves. As we’ve told the agency, this means FWS—as the Court required it to do with Great Lakes wolves—should rescind its grizzly delisting rule, start over with any proposal to delist Yellowstone grizzlies, and re-list the bears in the meantime. Until these legal challenges and shortcomings are resolved, it makes little sense to even consider a hunt.
Grizzly bears are Montana’s state animal. They are the emblem of our wildlife management agency. They are one of the reasons I feel so proud and fortunate to have grown up in this state—and so humble when I head into its mountains. We don’t need to hunt these magnificent creatures. Instead, by working together and being proactive, we can figure out how to protect property and keep livestock, and ourselves, safe in grizzly country. We can figure out how to reconnect Yellowstone-area bears with their nearest neighbors to the northwest. It will take work. But as Director Williams herself has reflected, “the honor of living in one of the few remaining states with healthy grizzly populations makes that effort more than worthwhile.”
This blog provides general information, not legal advice. If you need legal help, please consult a lawyer in your state.