Montana House Bill 468 was brought to the House Fish, Wildlife & Parks Committee on 02/22/2021. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Paul Fielder of Thompson Falls. HB468 would allow black bear hunting with hounds. It would also give the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission the authority to determine where the hound hunting areas would be. The bill would also establish a training season for hounds. The training season would start at the end of the spring hunting season and go through July 31st.
“In Montana, a person may take game birds, hunt mountain lions, and hunt bobcats with the aid of a dog or dogs. This bill simply adds black bears to the list of animals that may be hunted with a dog.” – Rep. Paul Fielder
Montana Black Bear Numbers
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks estimate that the state has between 10,000 to 17,000 black bears in the state. Black bear hunters take roughly 1,400 bears a year in Montana. However, state biologists believe that in certain areas, the bear population could sustain greater hunting permits. At the present, Montana only allows black bear hunting via spot and stalk in the spring and fall. However, people can hunt both mountain lions and bobcats with hounds in the state.
“We’re a group that cares and cherish the wildlife we are pursuing. This bill gives us the opportunity to do what we love most.” – Ross Feenstra with the Montana Houndsmen Association
Discussing Black Bear Hunting in Montana
The Montana Houndsmen Association, the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, and the Montana Trappers Association all spoke out in support of HB486. The groups stated that the hunt would create more hunting opportunities and allows them to pass on this hunting style to future generations. On the other hand, the Sierra Club and Chris Servheen, a federal bear biologist, spoke out in opposition of the bill. The Sierra Club stated that chasing bears right out of hibernation is unethical. Chris Servheen had concerns about the hounds getting off track and chasing a grizzly bear. Grizzly bears are much bigger than black bears and have a tendency to fight the dogs rather than go up a tree. Servheen worried that those types of situations could result in the death of the hounds, the bear, or even the houndsmen.
“Chasing black bears has been banned in Montana since the 1920s and poses significant potential for conflict with grizzly bears.” – Chris Servheen, federal bear biologist
The bill took heavy inspiration from Idaho’s hound hunting season. In Idaho, no hound hunting is allowed in areas that grizzly bears frequently use. As a result, Montana’s hound hunting season would likely follow suit. However, there are issues with this plan. If Montana adopts a similar plan, large portions of western Montana would be closed to hound hunting.
So, what are your thoughts on hound hunting in Montana? Can you hunt with hounds in your state? Let us know in the comments!