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Hunters and landowners give FWP an earful on game

Editor | January 8, 2020 7:45 AM

Hunters and landowners gave Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists and earful last week during a hearing on proposed changes to the upcoming hunting season.

The changes themselves aren’t all that dramatic in Region 1, which includes most of Northwest Montana.

The bulk of the regulation changes focus on merging hunting districts and changing the boundaries, so private land is all in one district and public land is in others.

It was the regulations that were already on the books that were rankling some sportsmen and landowners.

Two Whitefish area landowners said they owned property and enjoyed watching deer, but they were in a district that had unlimited B tags. As a result, they claimed, the deer population they once enjoyed watching out their windows had been thinned considerably — by hunters.

“Get hunting out of rural residential,” said one landowner.

Hunters, by contrast, claimed FWP wasn’t doing enough to control predator populations.

Two hunters said they hunt hard in the Middle Fork and Whitefish range, and they’re lucky to even see a mule deer anymore, nevertheless shoot one.

“We have to address the predator situation,” said Columbia Falls hunter Rich Birdsell.

That should include extending hunting season and more liberal quotas for everything from black bears to mountain lions and wolves, he suggested.

Another hunter was critical of liberalized deer hunting regulations in the Libby area, which are designed to thin the herd in that area because it has chronic wasting a disease, a fatal brain condition that infects ungulates.

He claimed FWP was trying to “kill” its way out of the chronic wasting disease problem.

He also claimed that predators were spreading the disease.

In a follow up question, FWP spokesman Dillon Tabish said after the meeting that biologists say that the probability of a predator spreading the disease is very low.

“It’s possible that scavengers could eat infected meat and their feces would have prions (the protein that causes the disease) in them. However, the prions would be diluted and the concentration would be reduced to a point where the chance of environmental contamination is highly unlikely. In fact, evidence has shown that predators, like lions and wolves, can help reduce the spread and prevalence of CWD because they target (eat) infected animals that are slower and weaker,” Tabish said in an email.