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Among the many horrifying bills against wildlife this legislative session, two to be decided soon are Senate Bill 68, which would allow nonresidents to shoot predators from the air, and House Bill 279, which would pay wolf trappers’ expenses.

SB 68 is clearly dangerous to humans, livestock and wildlife. Allowing nonresidents to fly around the state shooting at predators is not rational. Why would nonresidents spend the time and money to do this? For profit, i.e., trophies, or for fun killing moving targets. Wildlife Services admits aerial gunning is nonselective. Why on earth would we turn Montana into an aerial shooting range? Many more than predators will be harmed.

Though the bill exempts wolves and grizzlies, it’s impossible to monitor planes and helicopters. Aerial gunning is notoriously inaccurate and low-flying aircraft spooks wildlife and livestock, causing stampedes and injuries. A-g, as it’s called, can increase livestock fatalities. Multiple Montanans have crashed and died while aerial gunning. It’s not safe for the public and domestic animals either.

Killing off predators for profit and "fun" harms the only proven method to control chronic wasting disease, a growing crisis in Montana. Predators account for a fraction of a percent of livestock fatalities. More predators move in immediately. A-g undermines wildlife management and costs Fish, Wildlife & Parks license fees.

There are plenty of guns and traps on the ground. Give us all relief from the sky please. SB 68 is dangerous and unnecessary.

HB 279 is an attempt to privatize control of Montana’s wildlife by allowing private special interest groups to pay for wolf trapping. What’s next, paying deer hunters to take out deer? Why would one group get paid and no other?

Montana already has very liberal wolf-killing regulations: anyone can kill a wolf on private property, claiming a threat to them or their livestock. Hunters and trappers can kill five wolves each. A record 315 wolves were already killed this season without anyone getting paid for it. The relentless tearing down of the essential social structure of wolf packs increases instability and leads to juvenile attacks on livestock.

There were 95,000 elk in Montana in 1995 when wolves were reintroduced. Today there are 176,000 elk here. Weather and extended hunts, not wolves, account for temporary decreased elk populations in certain areas.

Please let your House representative know you oppose SB 68, and please let your senator know you oppose HB 279, both ecologically destructive and unethical bills. Find your legislators here: https://leg.mt.gov/legislator-lookup.

Connie Poten of Missoula is president of Footloose Montana. 

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