Montana: Love the Place, Hate the Politicians

In a variation of the old adage, “Love the country, hate the people,” my new motto for my former and possibly future home state is, “Love the place, hate the politicians—especially the wildlife policy makers.

Though I have a lot of like-minded friends back there, they are mostly “new-comers” from other states who have moved there because of their love for the land. They don’t share the self-centered patrician attitude of many of the Montana “natives,” so they tend to appreciate the wildlife more.

But the Montana state legislators think they know who their constituents are—and they’re not the wolves or us wolf advocates. In their zeal to fast-track a proposal to expand their already out-of-control wolf hunt, the Montana State Senate on Thursday suspended its rules so it could take initial and final votes on the same day on a measure that already had overwhelmingly cleared the House. The Senate backed it 45-4, and now the unbelievable piece of anti-wolf legislation will soon be sent to the governor’s desk for his signature. (It must be quite a challenge for the evil, pointy-tailed office-bearers to hold a pen with those cloven hooves of theirs).

The following is an AP article entitled, “Legislature gives quick OK to expanded Montana wolf hunt” (my parenthetical asides are added when necessary or appropriate):

House Bill 73 lets the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks increase the number of wolves one hunter can take, allows for electronic calls, and removes a requirement to wear hunter orange outside general deer and elk season. (The one bright side: more hunting accidents.)

The measure also prohibits the state wildlife agency from banning wolf hunts in areas around national parks. (Parks like Yellowstone, where wolves are used to seeing appreciative, peaceful people and are therefore deceitfully and easily killed by the malicious ones waiting just outside the park boundaries). Its swift passage would allow the changes to take effect during the hunting season that’s currently under way…

The department last month abandoned efforts to shut down gray wolf hunting and trapping in an area north of Yellowstone National Park, a move originally promoted by concerns that too many wolves wandering out of the park were dying. (“Dying”… Is that what the AP thinks happened to them? Or, are they just being pleasant? What they meant was, “…too many wolves wandering out of the park and being stuck in a trap and/or shot to death by bloodthirsty wolf-haters!”)

Lawmakers wanted to make sure such a regional closure doesn’t come up again.

Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday indicated support for the legislation, noting it had been backed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. (Not surprising that MFWP gave it their cloven-hooved stamp of approval).

Fish, Wildlife and Parks said it already has prepared rule changes that will allow the legislation to immediately impact what remains of the wolf hunting season ending Feb. 28.

Hunters and trappers so far this season have killed fewer than 200 wolves. Wildlife officials are hoping to reduce the animals’ population from an estimated 650 wolves to around 450. The goal is to reduce wolf attacks on (non-native) livestock and help some elk herds that have (allegedly) been in decline due to wolf attacks (read: natural predation).

Wildlife advocates have argued that the state is being too aggressive (read: violent, hostile, destructive, belligerent, antagonistic, bellicose) against a species only recently restored to the Northern Rockies after it was widely exterminated last century.

But no one spoke against the expanded wolf hunt on the Senate floor.

“These creatures are hard to hunt, and we need to allow our wolf hunters the best chance of getting into them while the season is still ongoing,” said Sen. Larry Jent, D-Bozeman (“getting into them”—how sick is that kind of talk?)

Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, argued it doesn’t go far enough to limit wolf numbers. He said the FWP is going to have to start allowing snare trapping of the wolves, a controversial practice the wildlife commission banned with its trapping regulations. (Even the MFWP isn’t willing to descend into that level of hell.)

“While this bill will do some things, it is not the big answer,” Thomas said. “If you really want to get after this, you have to authorize snaring.”

So sayeth the elected official from the great state of Montana. No, I wouldn’t feel any more fairly represented there now than the wolves are.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

More on Snaring–Eagles killed in Snare in Montana

Research eagle killed in Mont.

by Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole News and Guide

Date: February 1, 2013

A Jackson Hole biologist’s research took a hit this past week, when one of six golden eagles he tracks became tangled in a Montana snare and died. The adult female, GPS-tracked by Craighead Beringia South, was one of three Montana eagles recently caught in snares, said Becky Kean, director of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center. Two of the three, including Beringia South’s research subject, nicknamed “Elaine,” were killed. Beringia South, based in Kelly, had been following Elaine’s migrations with a GPS backpack since 2010, said biologist Bryan Bedrosian. The study, which tracked six goldens, was conducted in tandem with the Raptor View Research Center, out of Missoula, Mont. “It’s just unfortunate to lose a study bird that we’ve been tracking so long,” Bedrosian said. “There are a lot of longer-term questions she would have helped answer.” It’s unlikely that Elaine would have been caught in a snare, Bedrosian said, unless it was set over an animal carcass or some type of meat. That is illegal in Montana. “No trap or snare may be set within 30 feet of an exposed carcass or bait which is visible from above,” the state’s furbearer regulations read. Snares and foothold traps are used to catch a wide array of mammals, but birds of prey, pets and other animals can be caught by accident. Beringia South’s study was set up to help biologists better understand golden eagle migration corridors. Between 1991 and 2010, an Audubon Society research project found that the migratory golden eagle population de-clined by 40 to 50 percent. Reasons for the decline, Bedrosian said, include collisions with wind turbines and electrical lines, incidental trapping, energy development and overall habitat loss. “There’s a whole host of reasons, but I wouldn’t say there’s one smoking gun,” he said. The Teton Raptor Center has tried to rehabilitate just one raptor injured in a snare in recent years, said Meghan Warren, the center’s program associate. The raptor center’s snared bird, also a golden eagle, became entangled near Pinedale about a year ago. He died a week later after developing a fungal infection of the lungs. “It’s such a tragedy,” Warren said of the Beringia South golden eagle. “It’s terrible that another animal had to suffer, and it was obviously not the intended animal for trapping.” Kean, from the Montana Raptor Conservation Center, said the recent rash of snared eagles was very out of the ordinary. “It was kind of overwhelming — we had three in two days,” she said. “These are the first [birds] I’ve seen killed in snare traps and I’ve been here full-time for 6 years.” About three raptors a year are brought to the Montana rehabilitation center as a result of more common leghold traps, Kean said. The one snared golden that did survive underwent successful surgery Wed-nesday, Kean said. “She’s in the other room here eating right now,” she said over the phone from Montana. “She’s doing pretty good so far, but it’s just the start of the healing process,” Kean added.

Snaring’s About the Sickest

In Alaska, bears—in addition to wolves—are routinely hunted, trapped and shot from planes under the deathly ill-advised notion that eliminating those animals leaves more moose or caribou for more hunters to slay. What the Alaska state Board of “Game” can’t seem to figure out is, as the number of hunters goes up, the quantity of moose goes down, simple as that. Will we have to see an Alaska devoid of bears and wolves before the game players finally figure out who’s to blame?

But if anything could be sicker than aerial gunning for bears, it’s snaring them. Bear snaring is a recent addition to Alaska’s long history of animal abuse and exploitation; this new act of depravity was allowed “experimentally” for the first time in 2008.

In the following excerpt from an article, posted January 12, 2012 in the Anchorage Press, Bill Sherwonit dared to imagine just what snaring is really like for its victims:

Picture this: An adult female grizzly bear is roaming forested lowlands on the western side of Cook Inlet when she gets a whiff of ripe, decaying flesh. Sensing an easy meal, the bear follows her nose to a large tree. Several feet above the ground, a bucket partly filled with rotting guts and skin has been attached to the tree; placed on its side, the open-lidded container faces outward, inviting inspection. The grizzly stands and sniffs around the cavity, then sticks her right paw into it. When the paw hits the bottom of the pail, it triggers a metal snare that closes around the animal’s foot. Feeling the pinch of the trap, the grizzly pulls back. As she does, the metal loop tightens.

Two cubs have followed her to the bait. Now, sensing their mother’s agitation, they too become upset. One begins to bawl. This only deepens the adult bear’s determination to free herself. With her free paw she swats and tears at the bucket and tree and she pulls even harder against the snare, which begins to cut through the animal’s thick fur and into her flesh. Now the embodiment of rage, the adult grizzly roars and snaps her jaws, thrashes about. The cubs wail louder.

Eventually exhausted by her struggles, the grizzly mom slumps against the tree, while the whimpering cubs huddle together nearby. More time passes and the trapped grizzly resumes her fight for freedom. The cubs again cry in panic.

It goes like this for hours. A day might pass before the trapper-called a “snare permittee” by state wildlife officials-comes to check the snare, even longer if he’s delayed for some reason. When he does show up, the grizzly mom goes berserk. Depending on their age and personalities, the cubs might charge the person, run off, or huddle in fear. These two retreat into nearby bushes.

The trapper could legally shoot the cubs, now in their second year, but he chooses to ignore the small, frightened bears and heads for their mom. He takes aim, fires his gun, and kills her…

The cubs remain in hiding. Without their mother, it’s more likely they will starve than survive the summer.

Even five years ago, the idea was unimaginable: trap and shoot Alaska’s bears so that human hunters might kill more moose.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Always trying to come up with new ways to rid Alaska’s landscape of competitors for moose and caribou meat, at least a few predator-control proponents, Ted Spraker among them, were looking toward Maine, then the only state to allow the snaring of bears. The retired Department of Fish and Game biologist worked nearly three decades to increase kills of wolves and bears, primarily to benefit sport hunters.…

Stomach churning stuff—those “snare permitees” must be as callous as they come. I’m just glad Sherwinot saved me the heartache of making the imaginary journey myself this time.

The late, Canadian naturalist and author, R D Lawrence, wrote:

“Killing for sport, for fur, or to increase a hunter’s success by slaughtering predators is totally abhorrent to me. I deem such behavior to be barbaric, a symptom of the social sickness that causes our species to make war against itself at regular intervals with weapons whose killing capacities have increased horrendously since man first made use of the club—weapons that today are continuing to be ‘improved’.”

Contact in for the Alaska Board of Game can be found here:

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Stop Bear Snaring and Wolf Trapping Adjacent to Denali

Please Tell the Board of Game to Vote “Yes” to Stop Bear Snaring and “Yes” to Create a No-Trapping Buffer Zone Adjacent to Denali!

Dear Wildlife Supporter,

The Alaska Board of Game will meet in Wasilla from February 8 – 15, 2013 to vote on proposals governing wildlife management regulations for the Central and Southwest regions of Alaska.

The BOG has many, many proposals to consider at this meeting – there are many worthy proposals to support and even more that need to be opposed. However, AWA is focusing on two crucial issues: bear snaring (Proposal 105) and protecting Denali’s wolves (Proposal 86).

You may review all of the proposals online via the link below and make additional comments on as many as you choose.

E-mail comments on the proposals are due to by 5:00 pm on Friday, February 1, 2013, and we will deliver them to the Board of Game prior to the start of the meeting. (The BOG does not accept comments via e-mail.)

Comments should specifically state “support” or “oppose” and the proposal number(s) on which you are commenting.

Comments also may be faxed or mailed so they are received by the Board of Game before February 7.


ATTN: Board of Game Comments
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Boards Support Section
P.O. Box 115526
Juneau, AK 99811-5526

Fax comments to:
(907) 465-6094

The current BOG proposal book is available in pdf format online at: Proposal numbers 45 through 126 (pages 62 – 198) are scheduled to be considered at this meeting.

We are asking you to please comment in support of the following two proposals:

Proposal 105 (page 158), submitted by AWA, would ban grizzly and black bear snaring in the Southwest and Central regions.

* Scientists overwhelmingly agree that bear snaring is indiscriminate, cruel and not biologically sustainable.

* Bear snaring is an extremely controversial method of killing animals. The BOG tarnishes Alaska’s image for residents and non-residents alike by insisting on continuing its war on predators. Bear snaring has never been allowed in Alaska since statehood until the BOG approved an experimental program in 2008.

* Because bear snaring is indiscriminate, females with dependent cubs and cubs themselves are at risk. Bears have one of the lowest reproductive rates and it is for this reason modern scientific management principles discourage the harvest of females.

* Enforcement will be a nightmare for the Alaska State Troopers, who are already stretched thin.

* There are the dangers to other consumptive users, hikers and their pets who may come upon a situation where one bear is caught while its siblings or mother remain free in the area, creating the very real possibility of severe injuries or fatalities.The baited traps also create food-conditioned bears, and animals which learn to associate food with humans are a danger to our communities.

* Bear snaring is archaic, cruel and should be banned.

* Living bears have a very high value as a tourism draw and a source of revenue. They are almost always cited as one of the “big three” species visitors come to Alaska to see.

Proposal 86 (page 126) would re-establish a no-trapping buffer zone adjacent to Denali National Park. This proposal would provide crucial protection for wolves that wander across the Park boundary onto state land in search of prey or mates, where they are targeted by several recreational trappers.

* Wolf populations (and therefore viewing opportunities) have declined significantly in the Park due in part to trapping along the east and south Park boundary. The most recent official survey (Spring 2012) found a total of only 70 wolves in nine packs in the six million acre park – one of the lowest populations in decades.

* Several hundred thousand visitors annually travel to Denali to view wolves and other wildlife. Two or three recreational trappers targeting wolves habituated to the sight and smell of humans should not be allowed to negate visitors’ viewing opportunities (nor the millions of dollars they spend in the state).

* The loss of only one wolf to these trappers can result in a huge impact on viewing opportunities in the Park. Last spring the alpha female of the Grant Creek pack was trapped and killed just outside the Park boundary. The pack produced no pups last year, and subsequently dispersed. For years the Grant Creek pack had offered hundreds of thousands of Park visitors the best, most frequent opportunities to view wild wolves.

[Note: a six year moratorium on submitting proposals to re-establish a Denali buffer zone was enacted by the BOG in 2010. A request to the BOG in January to rescind its moratorium was met with a quick, unanimous refusal to even consider the matter. It is not known how the BOG will deal with Proposal 86 at the February meeting.]

Please take the time to speak out on behalf of Alaska’s wildlife. Our bears and wolves need your support.

As ever, thank you for your support and for your commitment to Alaska’s wildlife.

Best regards,
Tina M. Brown
Alaska Wildlife Alliance

PS: We will of course let you know the outcome of these and other proposals after the conclusion of the BOG meeting.

Alaska Wildlife Alliance
P.O. Box 202022
Anchorage, AK 99520

Some Cold Hard Facts about Wisconsin Wolf Hunting

Facts about Wisconsin Wolf Hunting:

  • The state of Wisconsin’s wolf hunting season began at an hour before dawn today, October 15th, and runs non-stop until the end of February.
  • Wisconsin received more than 20,000 applications for just 1,160 permits, some from as far away as Florida, Texas, and California. (Meanwhile, in Minnesota, wildlife officials have set a quota of 400 wolves and awarded 6,000 permits.)
  • State rules allow hunters to slay wolves by a crude assortment of methods and with a callous array of sadistic devices, including luring with bait, strangulation by snaring and slow-death in steel-jawed leg-hold traps.
  • In addition, the state had planned to allow hunters to start using hounds to hunt wolves beginning Nov. 26, when their deer season ends. But Dane County Judge Peter Anderson issued a temporary injunction against the use of dogs on Aug. 31, after humane societies and environmental groups sued. (Though Wisconsin currently does not allow the use of hounds for hunting wolves, they do allow hounding for bears, raccoons and many other undeserving species).
  • Kurt Thiede, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources* (DNR) lands division administrator, has issued a statement in support of the use of hounds: “We … have learned from other states that harvesting a wolf can be difficult. The use of dogs is a key way to increase hunter success. We will continue to work with the court to remove the injunction on the use of dogs….” (*Note to Mr. Thiede and the rest of the DNR: Wolves are not a “resource,” they are intelligent, sentient beings. Also, killing them is not “harvesting,” it’s murder!)
  • Wolves were once abundant in Wisconsin, numbering around 5,000 in the 19th century, before they were hunted and trapped to extinction.
  • Wolves have recently been shown to contribute to a greater diversity of understory plants, as well as improved deer herd and trout stream conditions, but the Wisconsin DNR has decided to allow hunters and trappers to kill 201 wolves this year alone.
  • Today the wolf population is growing and DNR estimates that the state could support 700 to 1,000 wolves. Yet they speculated that “this level may not be socially tolerated” and therefore have decided to limit the state’s wolf population to only 350 individuals. Of course, hunters and trappers are all-too eager to help…

Again, the injunction on the ‘hounding’ is only in place UNTIL DEC 20TH

Voice your objections to the use of hounds for wolf hunting and tell the court that hounding is not acceptable! Tell the governor and the legislators that the Wisconsin wolf hunt is exceptionally savage and will give the state a black eye. Please continue to put pressure on the governor’s office, the legislators, and the tourism department:

Governor Scott Walker


115 East Capitol

Madison, WI 53702

Wisconsin residents can find contact info for your legislators here:

You may also want to tell the tourism department that you will be unable to bring your family to Wisconsin for any future vacations, as you do not patronize the wolf killing states:

Wisconsin Dept. of Tourism

1-800-432-8747 or 608-266-2161

201 West Washington Ave.

P. O. Box 8690

Madison, WI 53708-8690

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson








Stopping the Blitzkrieg

Juvenile gorillas dismantle snares set by bushmeat poachers in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park; a wolverine destroys a trapline somewhere in the Arctic; a cow breaks free and temporarily escapes a terrible death at a slaughterhouse; Gustave, a giant crocodile, has been killing people and eluding his would-be captors since 1998.

It’s tempting to imagine these cases as precursors to a long-overdue animal uprising; there’s a war going on and the animals are beginning to fight back. Could this be the start of a new resistance movement, the likes of which the world has not seen since the Nazis occupied much of Europe?

Make no mistake, there is a war going on—humans are in the role of the Nazis, while animals are the unarmed freedom fighters. To quote a character in a novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer, “Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.” Despite their remarkable resourcefulness, non-human animals are still centuries behind the rampant human aggressors, whose power seems to grow as fast as their population.

Homo sapiens have had the upper hand ever since they were recognizable as a species. But it took hundreds of thousands of years of chewing the fat (literally and figuratively) around the bonfire, watching each other pound rocks into sharper and sharper weapons, before their technological advances and self-aggrandizing religions set them apart from our fellow earthlings (at least in their own minds).

Non-human animals reside in the here and now, blessed with just enough intelligence to live in relative harmony with nature. They aren’t cursed with the oversized brain and overwhelming ego that has led Homo sapiens to the notion that they’re entitled to exploit or exterminate all other species as they see fit.

The story of the proactive juvenile gorillas is heartening, but sadly their accomplishment came two days after a member of their clan died in one of the hundreds of snares set for antelope. Whether humans act out of greed or desperation, the end result is always the same for the animals killed, and Mother Nature herself suffers a blow every time another strand of biodiversity is severed.

Fortunately, more and more selfless people worldwide are siding with the animals and joining the resistance: a pioneering family of conservationists breaks ties with a powerful trophy elk-hunting group in response to its anti-wolf rhetoric; Sea Shepherd supporters fight to save sharks, whales and seals the world over; trackers and primatologists make daily rounds to dismantle poachers’ snares, in alliance with our peaceful primate cousins.

History has shown that if good people work together, even a blitzkrieg can be stopped in its tracks.

Text and Wildlife Photography Copyright Jim Robertson