Nonresident bear hunting suspended during pandemic

| April 21, 2020 8:38 AM

Linehan Outfitting Company booked four black bear hunts in May with nonresidents.

On April 9, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, citing travel and quarantine mandates tied to COVID-19, suspended nonresident hunting seasons for black bear and turkey until at least April 24.

Tim Linehan said the April suspension of nonresident bear hunting won’t hurt his business. But if the suspension carries over into May, the effects will be real, he said.

“If we can’t work in May, it will be a very significant economic loss,” Linehan said.

He said the outfitting business will suffer, as will guides who work with Linehan Outfitting.

“The best bear hunting is in May,” Linehan said.

Linehan Outfitting, based in Troy, offers guided hunting trips and fly fishing.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced the suspension of nonresident seasons for spring black bear and turkey hunting in light of Gov. Steve Bullock’s directive that out-of-state travelers must self-quarantine for two weeks after arriving in Montana.

“We place a high value on the ability to get outside and hunt, both for our residents and visitors,” said Martha Williams, director of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “However, suspending the nonresident turkey and black bear seasons for now will keep everyone safer and help all of us remain consistent with Gov. Bullock’s directives.”

Spring turkey hunting, which began April 11, and spring black bear season, which began April 15, remain open to resident hunters. Fish, Wildlife and Parks said hunters should still follow social distancing directives as they make plans for their outing and head into the field.

Meanwhile, Linehan said black bear hunting does not seem like a high-risk activity in terms of potential COVID-19 transmission.

“Most of the day is spent outside,” he said.