Former FWP Director Appointed To U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service

Montana Public Radio | By Nick MottPublished January 20, 2021 at 5:55 PM MST

Former Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Martha Williams was appointed on Wednesday as second-in-command at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Biden Administration. William’s replacement within Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte’s cabinet was also named today.

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.

Beavers Lose in Beaver Creek Park

from Footloose Montana

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Living up to its namesake, Beaver Creek Park, the largest county park in the country, has beaver. However, despite no cost offerings, those entrusted to the park’s management, are dead set the beaver are overpopulated and need to be trapped.

At 10,000 acres, Beaver Creek Park, is located 10 miles South of Havre, Montana in Hill county. It was designed for recreation. The park is 17 miles long by 1 mile wide with Beaver Creek running through it. There are 2 lakes for fishing, a 3.5 mile interpretative “Beaver Paw Nature Trail” and numerous camping opportunities. In the fall, cattle are put in the park.

An old-time trapper has trapped beaver in Beaver Creek for decades and at a reported kill rate of 180 beaver on average annually. He has simply grown too old to continue. That lead to Beaver Creek Park board member, Renelle Braatan, stepping up her ongoing wildlife advocacy on the board and for many months requesting the Park board and county Commissioners exploration into non-lethal alternatives to trapping beaver.

Dave Pauli with Humane Society of United States, out of Montana, proposed a grant to fully fund the installation and maintenance of beaver deceiver/s in 2-3 of the worst identified areas in the park for beaver activity. It would provide a cost effective non-lethal alternative demo site with potential added benefits to education, tourism, wildlife watching, and replication elsewhere.

In March, Trap Free Montana learned of the park happenings. We actively operated under the radar so as not to alert trappers and see this non-lethal opportunity turn into a perceived trapping war. Trap Free Montana conducted outreach to various beaver experts, encouraged and  read some exceptional letters to the park board and Commissioners, coordinated and participated in conference calls and recommended we try to have  certain diverse experts be available for the pending board meeting on May 4th.

Due to the approaching grant application deadline, and with our growing concern the grant proposal would be voted on at the upcoming meeting, Trap Free Montana, last minute, produced a sign on letter from our research. We included pertinent information written and reviewed by a handful of the very knowledgeable participants. We emailed it to the interested parties and dozens of our various random supporters mainly across Montana. We managed to quickly exceed our goal of 50 individuals signing on to the letter in time for it to be sent to the board and Commissioners prior to the meeting. Thank you to those who signed!

Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent little mattered even with the experts, Dave Pauli, Skip  Lisle, and Torrey Ritter who were on the call for the meeting for questions and answers Monday eve.  The Park board goal was not to eliminate conflicting beaver activity, even at no cost to them. Their goal was evident … to eliminate beaver!  Dave Pauli’s repeated past outreach to help to move the grant forward had been ignored. Instead, Commissioner Mark Peterson motioned to “decline the grant at this time.” Stating, there “needs to be a plan in place first.” His motion passed 5:3. Joining, Renelle Braatan, in opposing the motion were Commissioner McLean and Commissioner Wendland.

Other options for healthy ecosystem management including a no cost consultant and the formation of a natural resource committee were denied in the past. Trap Free Montana advocated for tree wrapping and were told park visitors do not want to see fences around the trees.

Wonder how attractive the park visitors would find drowned and crushed trapped beaver?

Renelle’s term on the board is now up. The Hill County Commissioners will almost certainly not re-appoint her so they can continue operating status quo, including trapping, and silence her once and for all. Given the pandemic and economic challenges, future grants may be harder to come by.

The Montana Trappers Association is based out of the nearby town of Havre. Annually, they hold their youth trapping camp in Beaver Creek Park. They are just biting at the bit to continue to teach little kids how to trap and destroy all these readily available beaver.

We thank Renelle Braatan, Dave Pauli, and the others involved, including locals, in their attempt to make positive change for beaver and Beaver Creek Park.

We are asking you, in your own words respectfully express how you feel about the Beaver Creek Park board and Hill County Commissioners decision to oppose even free offerings for effective conflict resolution and their decision to continue to destroy their namesake,  beaver.

Contact the Hill County Commissioners:

Chair. Mark Peterson –  Note he opposed the grant proposal.

Vice Chair. Diane McLean –

Michael Wendland –

Please thank the latter two for voting to support the grant proposal.

Contact Beaver Creek Park: 1-406-395-4565

Write a review for Beaver Creek Park on the search engine

Write a review on Beaver Creek Campground

Comment online to the Havre Daily News article:
Park Board declines grant for non-lethal beaver trapping alternatives

Comment on the Beaver Creek Park facebook page

Leave a recommendation or not on this  Beaver Creek face book page

And let us know, too, if you have been a visitor to Beaver Creek Park.

Please send us a copy of any of your efforts!

Past Havre Daily News articles:
Is trapping the right way to manage beaver in Beaver Creek Park?

Park Board turns down offer for study on Beaver Creek Park

Letter to the Editor – Beavers in Beaver Creek Park – Enemy or ally?

Park board hears more on beavers in Beaver Creek Park

Disagreements arise about beaver trapping alternatives

Lands Council offers help on managing beavers in Beaver Creek Park

Thank you Friends of Trap Free Montana & Trap Free Montana Public Lands

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Fur Takes Major Hit Due to Coronavirus

This is a very difficult and challenging time for us all. However, there is a silver lining to the coronavirus.

In mid March, just days before the event was to begin, we watched, waited and advocated for the cancellation of the largest wild fur auction house in North America.

Almost 500,000 animal pelts were in the preliminary listing for sale in Toronto at the Fur Harvester’s (FHA) March Auction.

On March 16, as TFMPL was preparing to step it up, Canada, in response to the coronavirus, responsibly closed their doors, basically to non-Canadians, thereby forcing the cancellation of the Fur Harvester’s March auction.

The major purchasers of fur from our North American wildlife are China and Russia. Italy, Greece and South Korea are also players in the fur trade.

Why is this so significant?

In the fall of 2019, the 350 year old North American Fur Auctions, (NAFA), with proclaimed roots to Hudson Bay company, recognized as the world’s largest producer of wild fur, announced they would no longer be selling wild fur. In a letter to trappers, NAFA said their banking partners had decided to get out of the fur business. The names of the banks were not provided. According to the NAFA CEO, “the entire industry is still facing an unprecedented market correction and no sector is immune, including the auction houses.”

The Fur Harvesters Auction claimed NAFA’s problems were due to ranch fur and had nothing to do with wild fur. The cost for the production of ranch fur is now about double the profit. The prediction has been that the demand for wild fur would rise as the ranch fur market decreases.

Fur Harvesters Auction were provided a virtual monopoly on wild fur sales. Trappers were assured they would still get their money at the Fur Harvester’s auction. Some in the fur business actually give monetary advances to trappers.

The Fur Harvester’s Auction states, “The global fur market is always set at the International Auctions.” They go on to advise trappers “as the last remaining wild fur action house on the continent, the market will not be set until the conclusion of our March 24th /26th 2020 auction”. Now that has been cancelled. Postponed.

An expert told us all these pelts over time go stale reducing their value.

Even though, we know trappers say the number one reason they trap is for fun, trapping is market driven. With the downturn of fur prices over the years, trapping has been on the downward trend, too! Some have said it simply isn’t worth it anymore or is becoming more cost prohibitive. Heaven forbid!

*Photo courtesty: Montana Trappers Association Western States Fur Auction Feb 2018

You may be surprised to know in the past, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks responded to low bobcat prices by increasing their quota in order to spark interest again in trappers. Nowadays, bobcat remain one of the more lucrative animals to trap and kill. However, the days of recent highs of $1,000 for a bobcat pelt are a rarity. The bobcat average price has also dropped $200 to an average of $300 – $400.

Unfortunately, the popularity of coyote trim jackets, courtesy of Canada Goose, has caused coyote pelts to rise as well as the persecution on them.  This is further exacerbated in places like Montana where coyotes can be trapped, killed by any means, year round, unlimited, no annual $28 trapping license required of residents and no reporting either. This, of course, is reinforced by the powerful livestock industry. There were 50,000 coyotes at this cancelled auction, alone. These were just the ones accepted for sale. Many, probably most, are not. Western coyotes are the favorites.

Locally, fur auctions in Montana and fundraisers to embrace trapping have been cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions.
Saga Furs, owned by the Finnish fur industry, just attempted to sell millions of ranch fur online and failed miserably. They are now claiming they are laying all staff off for three months.

We can’t help but wonder with this pandemic and the upcoming widespread financial ramifications to come, who all will wind up buying furs? Add to that the growing fashion designers, stores, cities, and states ending the selling of fur.

Prior to this year’s auction, the trapper owned Fur Harvesters, wrote, “FHA remains deeply committed to the trappers of North America on all levels.” Well we know that but now we’ll see.

Not long ago the fur industry was still estimated at $15 billion! 50,000 animals on average are reported trapped annually in Montana but along with the price of fur, that number has been declining. Millions of wildlife nationally have been estimated trapped in the US each year.

There are so many wrongs with trapping that there are multiple ways to attack it! We need your help though!

In this scary and uncertain time, we can’t wait to see the bottom fall out of this blood money! It can’t happen soon enough, friends!

*Images are the courtesy of Fur Harvesters Auction unless otherwise noted.

Thank you Friends of Trap Free Montana Public Lands and Trap Free Montana

A Red Flag Warning has been put into effect for Central and Eastern Montana.

GREAT FALLS – A Red Flag Warning has been into effect for Central and Eastern Montana.

The Red Flag Warning went into effect around 3 am with expected wind gusts of at least 75 miles per hour.

The warning will last over the next two days and during this span, areas with little to no snow cover will be at an increased risk of being able to catch a spark.

“We have to talk about fire danger in the middle of Winter here with these Chinook wind events but it’s definitely not something that happens every year that’s for sure,” said Francis Kredensor, Meteorologist, National Weather Service Great Falls.

This week we already saw a 22-acre grass fire start-up and the strong winds will also be putting high profile vehicles at risk when traveling on highways.

If you are traveling this weekend remember to take extra precautions so you can avoid any unnecessary risks.

A couple of easy things to remember for this weekend is to avoid doing any burning during the strong winds, prepare an emergency kit should a fire spark in your area and prepare a family communications plan in case of an emergency.

You can find links to the Weather Service and the Red Flag Warning here.

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.