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A bull elk was shot, killed and left in the southwestern part of Musselshell County

This bull elk shot and killed in the southwestern part of Musselshell County was one of three elk poached and left to waste in late August in the county. The reward for information leading to a conviction has been raised to $3,000.

Four bull elk were recently illegally gunned down in Musselshell County and left to fester in the August heat. The repulsiveness of this act transcends where you come from, your politics or what kind of recreation you enjoy.

Throughout much of the 19th century however, wanton killing of this kind was considered normal and often even encouraged. It wasn’t until slaughter on a massive scale precipitated the near and total extermination of game species that our relationship to the natural world shifted and the conservation movement was born. Through a modern lens, the expectation that we acquire hunting licenses, adhere to a variety of regulations and fully utilize harvested game can seem age-old and natural.

But in reality, these expectations arose out of a relatively recent societal revolution precipitated by the realization that if nothing was done, nothing would remain, and the world would be a more desolate, less interesting and less wild place.

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I don’t need to explain why what the poachers did is perverse, and that in itself shows how far we’ve come. We’re all disgusted. As a board member for the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a volunteer group of sportsmen and women born out of the need to protect our wild public lands, waters and wildlife, I’m especially insulted by these senseless acts. We work so hard donating our personal time to improve opportunities for this generation and the next. As a hunter I take it personally, because there is nothing more damaging to our reputation than poaching.

To that end, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has offered up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the poacher(s), and the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has offered to match this reward.

I am no criminologist, but I suspect anyone unhinged enough to gratuitously kill elk is not particularly disciplined about covering their tracks. It’s hard to imagine they didn’t tell someone. If you know something, please speak up by calling FWP’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-TIP-MONT (847-6668). Keeping their identity from law enforcement is in nobody’s best interest and may be extremely dangerous.

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Dr. Matt Rinella, of Miles City, is the Region 7 board member for the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. 

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