Big Challenges in Montana

Recent studies report that the public perception toward elk, deer and antelope is gradually shifting throughout the Rockies; landowners and urban dwellers often have opposing attitudes toward large ungulates; and Montana’s human population is expected to triple in 50 years.

Those changes create a perfect storm for big game managers, for whom hunting is the main method of keeping populations in check.

Shifting perceptions mean that more people are viewing big game — particularly elk — as an animal in need of protection instead of as a food source. The anticipated population growth means more encroachment on big game habitat, prompting more opportunities for human-wildlife conflict.

More and more private land is becoming off limits to hunting, due either to urban sprawl or to large ranch owners who no longer allow hunters to shoot game on their property, which means fewer animals harvested during hunting seasons.