KALISPELL — The illegal shooting of an 800-pound grizzly bear is the latest of several cases of poachers killing a trophy animal and leaving its carcass to rot, Montana wildlife officials said.
The bear, known as Maximus, was found Aug. 12 on a ranch near Dupuyer. The body of the 7 1/2-foot grizzly was left intact, not even the claws taken as a trophy.
Donations have been pouring in from people who want to help find the shooter and state and federal wildlife officials increased the reward to about $11,800.
"That was a phenomenal bear," said Mike Martin, game warden captain with the state Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks. "And there's been lots and lots of interest in this case."
Martin said the state has seen too many similar cases where a trophy animal is killed for no apparent reason — the prized claws or antlers left behind with the rest of the carcass.
"It's sad," Martin said. "We're seeing more and more people going after the biggest and the best. It's driven by ego wanting to kill the trophy."
Poachers also left two wolves shot near Glacier National Park, a big bull elk north of Columbia Falls and a bull moose down along the Jefferson River to waste.
The state has seen an increase the last few years in trophy and commercial poaching.
"It's really troubling," said Warden Sgt. John Obst of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "They're willing to take all the risk to shoot the animal, but then they don't follow through. You have to wonder what's going on inside their heads."
Obst said the rising numbers have irked hunters who follow the rules.
"More hunters are absolutely stepping up to help us out," Obst said. "They're tired of poachers and people without ethics giving hunting a bad name."
Obst said the state relies heavily on tips from the hunters who want to see the poachers caught. He said tips led to the arrest of a Columbia Falls man in the wolf poaching case.
"That's what we need, is for people to step up and tell us what they know," Obst said. "Because every animal poached represents one less opportunity for real hunters, and for everyone, really, who values Montana's wildlife."