In a regressive approach to the dark ages of wildlife management, the Montana Senate this week passed bills that will allow hunters and trappers to kill unlimited numbers of wolves on a single license, hunt wolves at night with spotlights, use neck snares, and bait wolves to traps. On top of all this, the Senate passed a bill that will allow wolf hunters and trappers to be paid for the presentation of dead wolves, which is a bounty on the species.
The Montana Wildlife Federation, our state’s oldest and largest state-based wildlife conservation and sporting organization, said these measures do not align with Montana’s decades-long history as a leader in conservation and management of wildlife.
“Collectively these bills represent an all-out fervor against grey wolves, both black and grizzly bears and mountain lions,” said Chris Servheen, MWF vice president of issues. “Montana has successfully managed predators for years, and included scientifically sound hunting, but now we’re clearly regressing back into the dark ages by waging aggressive, unethical campaigns against these native wildlife species.”
The Legislature is also considering bills to extend the wolf leg-hold trapping and neck snaring season into the time when bears are out of their dens. This will result in black and grizzly bears being strangled or maimed in wolf snares. Another bill under consideration would allow hound hunting of black bears in the spring followed by a recreational hound chase season. Since grizzly bears can be found anywhere in western Montana, this hound bill will result in grizzly bears being chased by hounds. The likely result will be dead grizzly bears as hound hunters defend their dogs from grizzlies. Hound hunting for bears has been outlawed in Montana since 1921.
Incredibly, the new leadership of FWP under Gov. Gianforte endorsed a bill that would prevent relocation of any grizzly bear in any type of conflict outside the recovery zones. This is contrary to 40 years of Montana grizzly management policy, contrary to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines, and would dramatically increase the number of dead grizzly bears in Montana. There is another bill that would allow anyone to kill any grizzly that they thought was “threatening livestock,” which would essentially allow anyone to kill a grizzly bear just for being in the general vicinity of livestock. Both of these grizzly bills would prevent future delisting of grizzly bears in Montana because of the removal of FWP’s ability to limit the number of grizzly mortalities.
Montana has long been known throughout the West for being a leader in science-based wildlife management and fair chase hunting. With these and other bad laws, the Legislature is rejecting science and sound wildlife management policy and replacing them with anti-predator hysteria driven by emotional hatred of predators.
There is little need to “save” game animals from predators since Montana has abundant big game herds in most of the state. In fact, Montana hunters can currently kill up to three elk per year, and the legislature is considering bills to further liberalize regulations in order to kill more elk.
The Montana Wildlife Federation opposes this anti-predator approach to wildlife management. We also strongly oppose departing from fair chase hunting practices by spotlighting animals at night and chasing bears with hounds. The native wildlife of Montana is too important to allow extreme killing measures like these.