No where in the text of Senate Bill 397 will you find the word "emergency". Still, taking care of a somewhat "natural disaster" is what this bill is truly all about. The newly drafted legislation, which is headed for a Senate Fish and Game Committee hearing this week, would establish provisional hunting seasons, hunt areas and hunting regulations which are aimed at accomplishing two things. First, if enacted, this bill would greatly reduce the number of wolves, bears and mountain lions roaming much of Western Montana. Second, to do so would greatly reduce the loss of elk, moose, deer and other big game to a gross over population of these apex predators.
Sportsmen who have grown weary of watching once great elk herds, pockets of moose, and an abundance of deer dwindle away over the past fifteen years, while predator populations have steadily grown, are now pointing the finger of blame at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The very same agency which has been mandated by the Montana Constitution to insure an abundance of game seems to have chosen to insure greater predator populations over huntable numbers of prey game species. Throughout most of Western Montana, elk herds are barely 20-percent of what they were twenty years ago, moose have totally disappeared in many areas where they once thrived, and now deer populations are beginning to plummet.
Wolf, bear and lion depredation has clearly taken its toll on big game herds, resulting in the tremendous loss of big game hunting opportunities for Montana residents. The goal of SB397 is to reverse that trend.
Robert Fanning, founder of the group known as Friends of The Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, has watched that herd implode from more than 20,000 elk, before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduction of a non-native gray wolf subspecies from central Alberta in 1995 and 1996, to fewer than 4,000 today. That loss can all be directly tied to excessive predator numbers.
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