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The murder of a rare Trumpeter Swan last week is the last straw – and should be a personal insult to all of us in western Montana. Poaching of our precious wildlife by ethically challenged individuals has increased dramatically over the 23 years I have lived here. And, they’re using expensive, high tech lethal weapons to do it. They are also doing it in more brazen ways than ever because many of them get away with it over and over.

Fish Wildlife and Parks seems to be helpless. It’s time for us to help by being the eyes and ears for them. We also need the county sheriff’s department to get more engaged because they have the people out on the ground, while FWP does not.

The very sick individual who ended the life of the swan used a single shot from a high-powered rifle; not for food; not for any other reason than the thrill of killing a living creature. We should all be afraid of these people. Their sociopathic behavior could just as easily be turned on us and our loved ones.

I am privileged to live right next to the Teller Wildlife Refuge. Three months ago, during hunting season, I began deciphering patterns of gun fire from otherwise disorganized shooting within a few hundred yards of my house. Being a former, successful hunter and occasional viewer of the Military Channel, I eventually came to the conclusion that at least two people were using semi-automatic shotguns – try nine rounds in three seconds – at ducks! I confirmed my observations with my neighbors to the south – they heard it also. I wrongly assumed that these leaches on humanity at least had permits from the refuge. They did not and in my conversations with the refuge it became clear that they were illegally trespassing. Attempts to catch them failed but I thought that at least with the end of hunting season, they would cease their evil ways until next year. Wrong again!

Three days ago, on Sunday, Feb. 16, I stepped out on to my front porch and heard no less than 22 rounds fired within four to five seconds, followed by two single shots (presumably to finish the kill) from a high-powered rifle, within 300 to 500 yards from my house. This gun was the next best thing to a machine gun; probably an AR-15, America’s weapon of choice since the Sandyhook massacre.

What a sad commentary on American society. Calls to the refuge and FWP appear to have gone nowhere – FWP probably receives these sorts of calls everyday and is just unable to deal with them.

So, what do we do? Are we going to just stand by and allow this carnage to continue? I can’t accept that. Do what you can. Make the call to 1-800-TipMont. Raise hell and raise the “flag.” There are millions of dollars and thousands of hours of hard work at stake. These innocent creatures need our help.

Chris A. Linkenhoker

Corvallis

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