Tag Archives: Montana

In Montana, Bears and Wolves Become Part of the Culture Wars

The return of the wolf and grizzly bear to the northern Rockies are two success stories that came out of the Endangered Species Act. In 1975, when grizzly bears were listed as endangered species, there were from 100 to 200 of them, mostly in Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. Their numbers are now estimated at about 1,800 in the Lower 48 states. The grizzlies were able to make that comeback largely because hunting was ended, trash was carefully managed and there was an effective crackdown on poachers.

Outside Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, grizzly bears roam mainly in wilderness areas of the state, though they are expanding into more populated areas where they are increasingly vulnerable to being hit by cars, shot by hunters, and killed or removed by biologists because of conflicts with humans. And bears and wolves pose a real threat to livestock and to humans. Every year, hikers or hunters are attacked by bears, and in many parts of the state anyone hiking is cautioned to be “bear aware” and carry a pepper-based spray for protection.

The debate over protecting endangered species, particularly predators, has long roiled Montana, pitting liberal urban areas in the state and across the country against rural ranchers who are increasingly concerned about their livestock being killed or hunters who think game animals are in decline. Until now, a measured approach — which includes some hunting of wolves and intervention by the state when grizzlies get into someone’s beehive or chicken coop — along with lots of protection have prevailed. But with wildlife management increasingly part of the culture wars, antagonism toward widening federal control and Republican control of the state, the balance has shifted, conservationists say.

The new bills approach management of bears and wolves in various ways. One of the new bills would pay wolf hunters their expenses — in effect, critics say, a bounty — to kill the animals. Another bill would allow for snaring animals with a metal aircraft cable fashioned into a noose that would hang over a trail. When the animal gets its head caught in one, it grows tighter as the animal tries to flee, until it is strangled to death. Snares can be used for coyotes and black bears in Montana but not wolves.

A major problem with snares is that they also kill species that are not the target, such as moose, elk, deer and even pet dogs. “Snares are cheap,” Dr. Bangs said. “It isn’t unusual for a trapper to set out 100. And you catch all kinds of stuff.” Snares that were set for coyotes, for example, inadvertently killed 28 mountain lions from 2015 to 2020, Mr. Gevock said.

Another bill would extend the wolf trapping and snaring season. Wildlife experts say the extended season would overlap with the period that grizzly bears and black bears are out of their dens and could be inadvertently trapped. Another would reinstate hunting black bears with dogs and prevent Montana wildlife officials from relocating any grizzly bears captured outside recovery zones. Most recovery zone habitat are occupied, which means many grizzlies would most likely have to be euthanized.

Jim Robbins

Montana Governor Gets Written Warning After Killing a Wolf

Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana violated a state hunting requirement last month when he trapped and killed a wolf near Yellowstone National Park without first taking a mandated trapper education course, state officials said on Tuesday.

Mr. Gianforte, who has a license to hunt wolves, received a written warning for the violation, according to Greg Lemon, a spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “We’ve treated this as we would anybody” in a similar situation, he said. “It’s important to us the integrity of our process, no matter who we’re dealing with, is maintained.”

Mr. Gianforte trapped and shot an adult black wolf on Feb. 15 near Yellowstone National Park, Boise State Public Radio reported[1] on Tuesday. Morgan Warthin, spokeswoman for Yellowstone National Park, said the wolf, No. 1155, was born in the park, was estimated to be 6 or 7 years old and had been collared by park biologists in 2018.

“Once the wolf left the park, it no longer was considered a Yellowstone wolf,” she said.

Montana regulations require that wolf traps be checked at least once every 48 hours, that wolves harvested be reported within 24 hours and that the skull and hides be inspected within 10 days of being killed, Mr. Lemon said. Referring to the governor, Mr. Lemon said, “Everything had been done the way it was supposed to,” except for completing the wolf-trapper certification class.

Telephone messages left with Mr. Gianforte’s staff on Tuesday were not immediately returned. Brooke Stroyke, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gianforte, told The Associated Press[2] that the governor had “immediately rectified the mistake.” Mr. Gianforte signed up for the first available course, scheduled for Wednesday, Mr. Lemon said.

Ms. Stroyke told The A.P. that this was the first wolf the governor had killed.

The one-time certification class, which lasts about three hours, teaches trappers about wolf biology, best practices for trapping and related regulations, Mr. Lemon said. “The class is geared toward the ethical harvest of wolves.”

The episode came as Mr. Gianforte is expected to receive, and support, several bills aimed at loosening wolf hunting and trapping regulations, including allowing the use of neck snares and offsetting certain costs for trappers.

Critics have urged Mr. Gianforte not to loosen the state’s wolf hunting and trapping regulations.

“The use of neck snares for wolves is particularly cruel,” Kitty Block[3], president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote on her blog[4] last month. “Wolves have extremely well-muscled necks and suffer greatly when trapped in these devices.”

On Tuesday, referring to the governor’s wolf trapping episode, Ms. Block wrote[5], “Gov. Greg Gianforte should have known better.”

Mr. Gianforte, a Republican former congressman, was elected governor in November, with the support of the Montana Trappers Association.

“Trapping is part of our Montana way of life,” Mr. Gianforte said at the time, News Talk KGVO reported[6]. “Make no mistake, the effort to stop trapping in Montana is an attack on our heritage,” he said.

This was not Mr. Gianforte’s first brush with hunting regulators. In 2000, Mr. Gianforte illegally killed an elk and was issued a $ 70 ticket by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Mr. Lemon said.

In June 2017, Mr. Gianforte was sentenced[7] to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management classes for assaulting a reporter the night before he won a seat in the House of Representatives.

References

  1. ^ Boise State Public Radio reported (www.boisestatepublicradio.org)
  2. ^ The Associated Press (www.baynews9.com)
  3. ^ Kitty Block (blog.humanesociety.org)
  4. ^ wrote on her blog (blog.humanesociety.org)
  5. ^ Ms. Block wrote (blog.humanesociety.org)
  6. ^ News Talk KGVO reported (newstalkkgvo.com)
  7. ^ sentenced (www.nytimes.com)

Azi Paybarah