MISSOULA, Mont. - Investigators are calling it one of the largest illegal bear poaching cases in Montana history.
Three men in Ravalli County are facing fines and the loss of their hunting rights for allegedly baiting and killing nine trophy black bears.
Fish, Wildlife and parks officials tell us the bears were baited and shot in Ravalli and Beaverhead County.
NBC Montana checked online and found 12 states and areas in Canada that allow some form of bear baiting. One of those states is Idaho. So, there was a lot of mixed reaction when speaking with local hunters.
The letter from the game warden to a Ravalli justice of the peace says in it that nine-bear "stolen from people" in Montana and every one a "large adult bear", A trophy of a lifetime, plus meat in the freezer.
"We've never baited here. It's been illegal for 100 years. I think anybody that does it should be hung high on the limb," said local hunter, John Shively.
But some hunters disagree. A Idaho and Montana Outfitter with Redbone Outfitting shared some pictures with us, but they were not the poachers who killed the nine bears in Ravalli County.
"That's how we hunt bear. We hunt bear with bates and hounds in the state of Idaho. Really the only affective way to hunt bear," said Idaho and Montana Outfitter, Bud Martin.
Three Ravalli county men have just been charged with baiting and killing nine black bears in both Ravalli and Beaverhead counties. Investigators say it's one of the largest illegal bear cases in state history. The investigators trace this back to 2009.
The hunters only used the meat from two of the bears. For the other seven they only kept the hide and skulls. According to the Montana black bear hunting regulations, there are four quarters of meat considered suitable for food. It says wasting meat is prohibited.
Each of the hunter's face misdemeanor charges and fines, and some fellow hunters fully support.
"Fine them good and jail time for years," said local hunter, Tom Yelton.
After looking into the states that allow some form of bear baiting, we found that the state of Maine allows bear baiting currently but it's on the November ballot to get rid of all forms of it.
In Montana, you cannot attempt to hunt game by using any bait, salt lick, trap, snare or set gun. It also means placing, exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of food source. But not every hunter agrees.
"I do think bear baiting should be legal in Montana," said Martin.
Montana fish, wildlife and parks said that the hunters could have faced felony charges due to the severity of this, but because of their cooperation in the investigation they decided to not to press felony charges.
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