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A New Poaching Trend

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Is poaching on the rise?

It's a simple question that we wanted answered.

"It's always there. I think it'll probably always be there," said Lee Anderson, Game Warden Captain in Region one.

Anderson has been on the job almost two decades. He and eleven other game wardens in Region one investigate hundreds of poaching cases every year.

Region one game wardens saw a spike in poaching cases in 2013. That year, they investigated 473 poaching cases total. In the past five years, they investigated around 550 poaching cases each year.

Anderson points out that a certain type of poaching within those totals has actually been rising for several years.

"5, 10, 15, 20 deer-- so it's lots of animals that are being shot, which we haven't seen that a lot around here. Spotlighting, where lots of animals have been taken we've seen a little spike in that in the last 2, 3 or 4 years actually," explained Anderson.

Spotlighting, that typically means a mass killing, in wide open fields, using headlights or some sort of artificial light. Anderson says he believes this is unexplainably trending, largely among people in their late teens and early twenties.

"I can think of either three or four cases we're either working on or still working on involving multiple animals being poached, shot at night, left, or just the heads cut off," said Anderson.

"Not even get out of the car and shoot," explained Chris Crane, a Game Warden in Region one, "A couple of them actually lean over the passenger to shoot out of the passenger side if he was a driver."

For these, and in most cases, Anderson says he and his crew rely heavily on tips called in by people who just happened to see something. With so much ground to cover, it's unlikely a game warden will actually see a crime happen with his own two eyes. Sometimes a little lead is enough to close a case, but Anderson admits more cases go unsolved than solved.

"It's very frustrating when you care about the resource and the job and some guys take it personally," said Anderson.

We also asked Anderson if the new road kill salvage law will make his job even harder. Catch his answer tomorrow on the ABC Montana News.

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