The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced this week it's offering $2,500 rewards for solid leads in two separate poaching cases now under investigation by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) in western Montana.
According to HSUS Montana State Director Wendy Hergenraeder, the rewards are part of the organization's two-year-old Animal Abuses campaign aimed at curbing the "worst abuses of hunting" across the country. Hergenraeder says HSUS has offered over $180,000 for information to date, and has paid rewards in Florida and Oregon. This is the third time the organization has become involved with poaching cases in the Missoula area.
"Poaching is an enormous problem in the U.S., and anything we can do to combat this criminal activity is a priority for HSUS," Hergenraeder says. "Poachers kill wildlife anytime, anywhere, and sometimes do so in a particularly cruel way."
FWP has already publicized its need for leads in the two cases HSUS chose to support. The first involves a male mountain lion FWP found skinned in the West Fork area of the Bitterroot Valley. They estimate the animal was killed sometime in December or January. The second case came to light when game wardens were led to a beheaded mule deer buck near Corvallis. Both cases lack any significant leads.
Darby-based FWP Warden Lou Royce says he welcomes the added incentive for informants presented by HSUS's campaign. The agency offers its own reward of up to $1,000 through the TIP-MONT program, but the more money, Royce says, the better the odds of someone coming forward. He adds that poaching cases usually prove extremely difficult to investigate.
"It's tough a lot of times," Royce says, "because we have to go by the physical evidence we have on the scene, and oftentimes there aren't any witnesses besides the perpetrators."