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Game and Fish

The Man that lives to destroy Beautiful Wildlife

Stephen Capra, Bold Visions Conservation

I had planned to change subjects this weekend, not so much gloom and doom, but the story that broke about the slaughter of grizzly bears in Alaska demonstrates the complete contempt that state wildlife agencies hold for predator species.

In Alaska, the state game department found it logical to ariel gun 94 grizzly bears, five black bears, and five wolves, that's right, 94 grizzlies, all in a ridiculous attempt to reintroduce a small caribou heard so hunters could kill them.

Once again, this misguided and consistent push by these agencies to give to the trophy hunting industry has created a backlash. Still, it also portends what will happen in Idaho and Montana if we allow grizzlies to be killed. Wolves are already being the brunt of such misguided ideals.

On a federal level, it's the constant; agencies choose to say we are not doing this…. We are outraged, and misguided conservationists are wrongly blaming us…. Really?

Here in Montana, Governor Greg Gianforte continues his efforts to destroy what was once considered one of the finest wildlife agencies in the nation. Today, he posted and made clear he wants trapping to occur in grizzly country despite the danger it poses to bears and cubs. His Fish, Wildlife and Parks was just busted for deliberately lying about a poll they took of hunters related to how they feel the agency is managing elk hunting.

The agency, in what they internally refer to as "squishy," added in numbers that were not accurate, turning a very divided poll into one claiming 73% supported the agency's handling. That number has proven false, and now the agency says- make your own determination. Pat Tabor, who is on the commission and pushed for more wolf killing and killing more than 40% of mountain lions in the state, now wants to be chairman of the committee. He already is a defacto head, but he wants more. (Please sign our petition to have him removed.) This is the disgraceful state of this once proud agency, and its demise results from one man- Governor Greg Gianforte, a trapper and trophy hunter. But he is not alone; the Governors of Idaho and Wyoming are trying to privatize wildlife and destroy predators; thus, the time has come to look at repealing Pittman-Robertson.

From the perspective of many, we want the chance to see wildlife. No dead or trapped, but alive. We want to develop a new relationship with species that live in fear of us. We want to hike in areas free of cows, and we want a strong voice pertaining to wildlife. We want and demand an end to trapping and snaring, for there is no justification for such actions during an extinction crisis. As America tries to impart significant influence on the world and to make freedom a core principle in foreign countries, we still show our own ignorance and faults as we allow such destruction to occur as people the world over flock to Yellowstone, to find out we allow the slaughter of both wolves and bison just a few feet from the park's border. Such actions mock our principles as a nation; they reinforce how we tell nations to operate while we cynically allow the slaughter of such valuable wildlife and create our own human-based, legally allowed extinction of wolves and soon grizzlies. Groups that use the euphonism-sportsmen are often at the forefront of such destructive practices. The Leopoldian practices that guided many a generation are being lost to technology and a media frenzy supporting hunting and getting the trophy animal, no matter the cost. Groups like the Safari Club and the Foundation for Wildlife Management put money into campaigns and suck up to the Wildlife Agencies they control, along with Republican and Democratic legislatures and Governors.

Pitman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson are the federal funds that support wildlife agencies. Pittman-Robertson comes from the 10 percent surcharge on ammunition and guns, and Dingell-Johnson comes from boats and fishing gear, giving sportsmen overwhelming power in Washington. As many a Senator has said to me, "Sportsmen pay their way; what about you guys?" But both these funds are designed to support, not slaughter wildlife, and that is where Alaska, Idaho, and Montana fall short. They are using this federal money to fund the same agencies to slaughter predator species. This should disqualify them from receiving this federal funding. Many conservation groups have made this demand at the federal level since 2021. But here again, the federal agencies find it convenient to say, "We have no real power here." Once again, Western Senators, members of Congress, and rogue Governors continue to demand that the American West be managed as it was in the 1880s, giving stockmen and hunters the power to dictate wildlife policy. It is immoral and has led to bounties in our modern era. It rewards the scum that traps and tortures wildlife for such bounties without regard to the insanity they are unleashing. In Montana, at the latest Fish, Wildlife and Parks hearing, we were witness to the fact that the voices of those opposed to the killing and trapping of wolves were not just ignored; the Commission could have cared less. They raised the quota on killing wolves as we sat, testified, and made sound scientific arguments for their protection, with Pat Tabor leading the way.

One dam that must crack in these days of funding is that people who love and photograph or watch wildlife should also have an avenue to fund agencies. However, this requires agencies to listen to and integrate our voice into policy, something major sportsmen organizations have fought tooth and nail. The reform of state wildlife agencies will only occur when the spigot of federal funding is dried up or comes with strict limits on their destructive activities. Still, Democrats show no such inclination, and Republicans are a lost cause on this until the outrage is loud and unrelenting. Interior Secretary Haaland is silent as the issue is considered a threat to Senator Jon Tester's reelection. Sportsmen for their part are being influenced by the radical propaganda being fed to them daily by the NRA, Safari Club, and other groups that could care less about science and wildlife.


To think of the enchantment of seeing a grizzly in the wild, something I have been blessed to see, and then to realize these cowards shot 94 of them from a plane. To imagine that state agencies collar some wolves so hunters can go directly to their dens to kill them makes clear this is not about sport. Also, to remind you that trappers in Idaho cut out the babies from a pregnant female wolf so they can claim a bounty on each one, displaying the sickness embedded in state wildlife agencies that promote such arcane efforts. This cancer can only be removed when the money is cut off and the agencies are rebuilt from the ground up. Once again, let me say it: Wildlife does not need management; it is people that need to be managed. Whoever thought killing 94 bears was a good idea should never be allowed to work in any position dealing with wildlife again. We need to make clear the time for Pittman-Robertson funding to end is now.

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