Bears, Birds, & Bad Guys

Here's the latest from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Enough is Enough
FWP, with the help and support of the Montana Wildlife Federation, the Montana Bowhunters’ Association, and the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, have launched a new statewide campaign to draw attention to the problem of poaching and seek the help of Montanans to nab poachers.

Poaching is a growing problem, one that occurs statewide and year-round. Poachers take some of Montana’s biggest and best game animals, robbing law-abiding citizens of opportunities to see and legally harvest those animals.

Consider the recent conviction of a commercial poacher near Gardiner who invited 30 associates, friends, relatives, and employees from five states to hunt illegally on his ranch near Yellowstone National Park. Between 1999 and 2004, John McDonald collected an estimated $90,000 for illegal hunting on his land and providing access to nearby national forests. McDonald was convicted in federal court, sentenced to a year in prison, fined $25,000, and ordered to pay an additional $25,000 in restitution. He also lost his hunting privileges for life in Montana and 22 other states. Several of his clients were also convicted and fined. A call to Montana’s poaching hotline, 800-TIP-MONT, exposed the poachers and led to the arrests. A tip that results in a conviction makes the caller eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. For more information visit

Be Bear Aware
Those of us who live and work here in southwest Montana are fortunate to share this amazing place with an abundance of critters from raptors to moose to bears. But living here also comes with some responsibilities. So while grizzlies and black bears have bedded down for the winter, you can get ready now for their reappearance in the spring.

Learn how to live with bears by going online to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ (FWP) new Be Bear Aware web page ( On the site, you can learn the difference between a grizzly and a black bear, assess your house or business to find out just how “bear-friendly” it is, improve you home’s bear “friendliness” rating, and get some tips on what to do if you encounter a bear. You can also take a bear identification test at

Searching for Avian Influenza
Toll-free and online reporting systems are now part of Montana’s effort to detect bird flu. Montana’s plan comes in response to national concern about the possible arrival of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu virus in North America that has killed many flocks of wild and domestic birds in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Since 1997, the virus has sickened more than 200 people and killed 115 who had direct contact with infected poultry. The virus, however, is not easily transmitted to humans.

The Montana team of wildlife technicians will collect samples from 2,400 birds—including tundra swans, snow geese, pintails, and mallards. The team also will collect 1,000 fecal samples where waterfowl concentrate, including urban duck flocks. Most samples will be collected in the Pacific Flyway, generally located in the western portion of Montana. The plan includes getting help from hunters by collecting samples from harvested waterfowl through hunter field checks later this fall. For more information, on wild birds and avian influenza visit FWP’s website at

Melissa Frost is the FWP Region 3 Information and Education Manager.

MHGDC Banquet

The Missouri Headwaters Gun Dog Club annual banquet is February 17, 2007. MHGDC advances the use of gun dogs by promoting proper training and breeding, offering hunting education, and hosting hunting-dog tests and field trials. According to club president Sam Robinson, the banquet is a time for members to get together, give some awards, elect new officers, and hold a small fundraiser that essentially pays for the banquet. He expects about 100 attendees, but sadly, no dogs are allowed. Visit for more information.

-Tina Orem