Putting the "Public" Back In "Public Trust"

Lions, Elk & Commissioners - Oh My!

Yesterday, to a packed room of sportsmen, with overflow to the hall and the viewing screens in the lobby, two programs were addressed with major sportsmens objections, calling on the science, which was ignored by the FWP Commission.

Mountain Lion
The first involved the Mountain Lion quota proposal, which involved a paper by FWP Kelly Proffitt et al, published in 2014. Estimating mountain lion abundance in the Bitterroot Watershed, is not only academically contentious, but having attended the FWP Region 3 Mountain Lion meeting in which Kelly Proffitt did a presentation on the study, houndsmen present, including those that participated in the study, objected to statistics, modeling, final analysis and recommendations, saying that there were not that many mountain lions. This study involved a 98 day snapshot in time of the Mountain Lion population, is not a sufficient time frame in which to gather data to utilize for modeling. Especially one that seeks to radically decimate the population as 30% reduction in regional lion density by applying a 35% annual female harvest over a 3 year period. Their stats base in not correct, contested houndsmen. By Proffitts own statements, this was not a complete coverage survey, juveniles could have been counted as individual adults, and hunter take was included, which would alter counts. Academics across the country are questioning this study. This study is being advocated by FWP over the 9 year Garnet Range Mountain Lion Study, 2011 Final Report, which would not support this proposal. Despite overwhelming houndsmen opposition to this tentative proposal of raising the mountain lion quotas, as well as testimony against this paper by Dr. Gary Koehler, retired from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in addition to clarifying statistics application by Bozeman Veterinarian Dr. Mark Albrecht DVM (hunter and Statewide Elk Brucellosis Work Group member), the Commission accepted the tentative, which is up for public comment now. The Mountain Lion papers and audio can be found here.

In a Montana Public Radio broadcast yesterday evening, reporter Dan Boyce covering the commission meeting stated, "The lion hunters don’t want too many of the cats taken if they feel it’s going to jeopardize the overall population.
But Vermillion says there are other Bitterroot hunters, 'Who would tell you "what's happened to our deer herd, what's happened to our elk herd. The wolves and the lions are killing too many elk and deer." ' " Those hunters either were not present or did not speak up at the commission meeting.

Elk Brucellosis
Sportsmen also voiced major objections to this Elk Brucellosis program, stating an EA, EIS or Environmental Review needed to be done, asked for science and objected to many specifics of this program and the proposals, three of the FWP Commissioners passed the modifications, extending the kill permits to May 15th and approving sportsmen paying for livestock, wildlife excluding pasture fencing.

Commissioner Westit and Tourtlotte spoke against it. Then Commissioner Vermillion stated his reasons why it should be approved, followed by Commissioner Stuker, a rancher, who stated that if he was a rancher in Paradise valley and the sportsmen got in the way, that he would block off public hunting access. Well, maybe Commissioner Stuker doesnt know, but threatening withdrawal of public hunter access here is not really a threat, because none of these ranchers participate in Block Management and a number of public comments, as well as testimony stated individual attempts for permission to hunt were declined down there. Commissioner Wolfe also approved it so the vote was 3 to 2.

Sportsmens groups in attendance that spoke out were the RMEF, MSA, MWF, Skyline Sportsmens Association, Anaconda Sportsmens Club, Ravalli Fish & Wildlife, Gallatin Wildlife Association (I may be missing a group), as well as individuals.

So besides the expected FWP passing this scientifically and legally lacking proposal, I have to ask a major question - how can an FWP Commissioner, that is supposed to be a steward of our wildlife, during a commission meeting, sit there, as a rancher, and threaten a boycott of public hunter access if ranchers dont get their way?

Brucellosis infections
In addition, 4 sources (FWP Quentin Kujula, MT DOL Marty Zaluski, ranchers Druska Kinkie and Rep. Alan Redfield) all stated that all the cattle infections in Park county are localized in one small area on Mill Creek. If I heard correctly, Kujula stated all 3 cases were from the same ranch. He could have been mistaken on that point, but from my genetics reports research, comparing the reports of MT brucellosis infections, I have narrowed the cases down to a small area there in Park county's Mill Creek and Elbow Creek Rds. How is it that of all the DSA (4 counties and part of a 5th), where seropositive elk roam freely near cattle operations, the only cattle infections since they have the technology to determine Brucella abortus isolates (2008-1, 2011-4, 2013-1), are from that one small location in Park County? While I know elk can transmit, I also know from these reports that there have been cases of cattle isolate infection and RB51 vaccine blooms.

So are all infected DSA elk targeting a small location in Park County to have abortions and infect cattle, while avoiding the rest of the DSA ranchers? That would be ludicrous. I believe we need an independent testing (not APHIS and DOL who have brucellosis in wildlife eradication agendas and mission statements) to test those Park county cases and see what is really up, especially since the 2008 Corriente cow had 3 cattle isolates identified.

Rancher Druska Kinkie said that this was a hardship on ranchers because infections hurt the ranchers reputations and stigmatize them. While I empathize with ranchers that have to go through any disease quarantine (Stuker brought up when his cattle had a false test positive for TB), I explained that I understand the results of a bad disease reputation and being stigmatized. That we have bison, who have never had a documented case of natural transmission from wild bison to cattle ever, academically are a risk of 0.0-0.3% (.3% an academic safety net), that have the reputation of being brucellosis carriers infecting cattle. They are stigmatized as diseased vermin by ag/livestock to the point that they cannot enter Montana without being hazed back to the Park or shot. And now that machinery is trying to stigmatize our elk.

They assumed years ago it was the bison and were wrong. I think we need to demand independent proof of transmission, and answers why, of all the southern portion of Montana, only the cattle in the Mill Creek area are becoming infected, before we can reasonably sit at a table and hold a real multi stakeholder discussion about brucellosis in wildlife.

BTW, at the IBMP meeting that was going on here in Bozeman at the same time, APHIS pushed for elk and other wildlife to be added to the IBMP process.

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu



Wildlife &


Bozeman, MT

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