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Wildlife professionals decry direction of MT management


Big Sky Connection
Helena, MT – Wildlife managers and biologists say Montana's leaders have adopted policies that will harm predators, hunters and habitat conservation. Comments from Chris Servheen (sir-VEEN), former grizzly bear recovery coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Dan Vermillion, former commissioner, Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Click on the image for the audio.  Wolves had made a major comeback in the West, but wildlife managers say policies in Montana threaten to roll back that progress. (jimcumming88/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

October 11, 2021

HELENA, Mont. -- Wildlife managers and biologists in Montana are airing their frustration over how the state is managing its natural resources.

A group of retired and former wildlife managers who boast nearly 1,500 years of experience combined said Montana leadership is politicizing management in ways that are harmful to predators, hunters and habitat conservation.

Chris Servheen, former grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said state and federal-level managers want leaders to know they are disheartened with the direction Montana is taking.

"This is not something that is accepted by professional wildlife biologists, and it's not right, and it's not going to be beneficial to Montana and the wildlife in Montana," Servheen argued. "And it's really disturbing to see this partisan nature of what's happening now."

In their published opinion piece, the managers and biologists say they believe the leaders of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) appointed by Gov. Gianforte are focused on special interests like privatizing and commercializing elk hunting and are not using science to guide their decisions.

MFWP has proposed changes to elk and deer hunting it said will simplify regulations. The governor's office did not return a request for comment.

Dan Vermillion, a former commissioner on the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission for 13 years, believes the state has approved controversial methods for hunting predators like wolves, outside of fair chase hunting ethics and signal a move away from bipartisan wildlife management.

"The idea that the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission would approve a regulation that uses the word night and hunting and bait all in one sentence tells you how far they've strayed from the original and the traditional, historical approach to wildlife management in Montana," Vermillion asserted.

Wildlife managers and biologists in Montana are also concerned baited neck snares and leg-hold traps will also ensnare other predators. Lawmakers have said the changes are needed because of reduced elk and deer populations.


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