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Report: Big Changes for Montana’s Big Game

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PHOTO: A National Wildlife Federation report finds that a changing climate is bad news for most of Montana's big game species. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service
PHOTO: A National Wildlife Federation report finds that a changing climate is bad news for most of Montana's big game species. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service
November 14, 2013

KALISPELL, Mont. - A history lesson and a warning about the changing climate are part of a new report from the National Wildlife Federation that focuses on big game. It notes that huge investments were made in the 20th century, mostly paid by hunters through taxes, to restore populations of elk, moose, deer, pronghorn and other species. Today, many of those animals are being affected by severe drought, wildfires and changes in timing of the seasons.

Alexis Bonogofsky, a hunter-rancher who lives south of Billings and is director of the Tribal Lands Program at NWF, attested to those changes, noting that she has field-dressed deer while wearing a t-shirt, in late November.

"In Montana, our climate is changing and our wildlife managers need all the tools and resources to deal with the impacts to our wildlife," she declared. "Our average spring temperatures have risen by almost four degrees over the last 55 years."

She added that in Montana, hunting is about tradition, culture and, more importantly for many, food. The report says not all big game species are negatively affected by climate change. Bears are resilient and elk may fare better.

According to Todd Tanner, founder of Conservation Hawks, who lives near Kalispell, no one can claim not to see what's happening.

"And I see climate change everywhere I look. Our trees are dying: pine, spruce, fir, birch. We've lost millions of acres of trees here in the West, and that impacts big game," he declared.

The report recommends taking climate change into account for natural resource management, maintaining connections between winter and summer ranges and identifying future habitats for animals as their primary grounds become degraded.

That report, "Nowhere to Run: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World," is at NWF.org.


Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT