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Over 80 Snow Geese Shot And Left To Rot Near Augusta

Snow geese coming in for a landing. File photo.
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Snow geese coming in for a landing. File photo.

State and Federal wildlife officials are investigating this week’s slaughter of dozens of snow geese about two miles southeast of Augusta in western Montana.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden Brady Murphy says this is a particularly heinous poaching case.

“I haven’t quite seen anything like that before," Murphy says. "There were dead geese shot and left everywhere. A lot of birds on them, picking through them already. It was pretty tough. We had to work quick to try to gather as much evidence off of them as we can, with the predation and scavenging that’s been going on with all the carcasses.” 

Murphy says at least 86 snow geese were shot earlier this week with what investigators believe to be a .22-caliber long rifle, rounds from a .223 rifle and possibly a shotgun.

“Mostly appear to be shot though the head and neck area with a rifle," Murphy says.

Goose season is open and continues through mid-January.

"You know, we have a big limit here," Murphy says. "We’ve got a lot of geese that come through the Augusta-area, especially here with Freezeout [Lake] around. But, you know, to legally harvest snow geese you have to be using steel shot out of a shotgun, and your legal bag limit is 20 per day, per person.”

Hunters are not allowed to just leave the birds they kill to rot on the ground.

“You gotta pick them up and bring them home and clean them," Murphy says. "You know, you’re required to take the breast meat and thighs off the snow geese. Shooting and leaving them like this, it's a big waste is what it is."

Murphy says he doesn’t understand how people can commit this sort of crime.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around how they did it. I really am not 100 percent sure what would go through the mind of somebody to go out there and shoot that many birds."

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigators are now working this poaching case.

Murphy says they have no hard leads yet, but believe the slaughter likely happened sometime Monday afternoon.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at edward.obrien@umt.edu.
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