Are these the best of times or the worst of times for wildlife, fish and fowl in Montana? That may depend on your situation. If you’re a lifelong Bitterroot Valley elk hunters, these may be the worst of times since the elk population in that region has plummeted. But if you’re an elk hunter in Eastern Montana, these may be the best of times since elk have returned to the prairie after a long absence. The only problem, it seems, is that many of those animals are behind fences closed off to hunters.
But aside from isolated problems such as these, I propose that wildlife populations, and most fish and fowl numbers, are better now than when I was a kid 50 years ago. There are now wild turkeys everywhere. You never saw a turkey when I was young. There are geese crowding golf courses because there are so many of the birds. And bald eagles are now a common sight after being almost exterminated from the lower 48 states. What do you think? Are these the glory days for wildlife? Have the gains we made in wildlife numbers and distribution peaked out, or will there be more in the future?
For more information, see my story on the subject at: http://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/recreation/