An escalating international trend of possessing and trading "exotic" wildlife for personal and commercial purposes has raised concerns about the potential impact of these nonnative species on Montana's native wildlife, plants, and agriculture and the possible human health issues.
Exotic wildlife may be anything from a very unusual type of animal to a commonly known animal that is simply not native to the state. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and other involved agencies are seeking public comment from individuals concerned with the potential effects of importing exotic wildlife or who may be commercially or personally affected if the regulations on the import of exotic animals are strengthened.
"Many of the requests we're beginning to see are to import exotic wildlife species that are not prohibited or controlled under existing state regulations," said Tim Feldner, FWP commercial wildlife permit manager. "It may be the time to update our regulations to allow for an evaluation of the potential environmental impacts these species may cause prior to allowing their import."
Montana currently prohibits the import of species such as wild boar, javelina--a pig-like animal-- ruso deer, sika deer and other nonnative species that might be used in commercial, alternative livestock facilities. Animals such as bats, skunks and raccoons that could transmit rabies also cannot be transported into Montana from another state, under current law.
Feldner said exotic species may have unanticipated effects on native wildlife and plant species, agricultural production, and human health and safety. For example, in August prairie dogs imported from Texas as pets into other states were found to be carrying tularemia, which causes flu-like symptoms in humans and may be fatal. In other cases, exotic species that have escaped or been released in other states have caused extensive environmental damage and resulted in costly eradication measures.
The Montana Legislature asked FWP, and the Departments of Agriculture, Livestock and Public Health and Human Services to research and evaluate the effectiveness of Montana's exotic import laws and to report their findings to Governor Judy Martz and the 2003 Legislature.
FWP has limited authority to control the import of nonnative species of wildlife and issues permits to individuals within the state possessing native species. The Department of Livestock administers the requirements for the health inspections and import permits necessary for animals entering the state. The Department of Agriculture protects agricultural interests with an inspection program to prevent the import of exotic pests or pathogens contaminating anything imported. The Department of Public Health and Human Services monitors and controls human health and safety and diseases transmissible to humans that may come from imported exotic animals.
Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or may be mailed to:
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
P.O. Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620-0701