Hunters in Montana may soon have their identities further protected by state law.
State officials are proposing to withhold information about hunters and trappers who take all wildlife. Currently, the names and addresses of most hunters are available to the public, but officials says these are being used by activists to harass sportsmen.
Existing laws already withhold the identifying information of Montanans who kill wolves, bears, and mountain lions. The proposal would expand that protection to include hunters taking all animals managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The proposal is set to be introduced as a bill in the 2015 legislative session.
Wildlife officials didn’t provide any specific examples of how public information is currently being used to harass hunters, but said they received numerous complaints. Trapping in particular has been very controversial since it was made legal in 2012. Advocates say trapping helps control wildlife populations, while detractors say it is inhumane and can even injure or kill household pets.
While wildlife officials cited safety concerns as the reason for the proposal, hunters and trappers also said they support the proposal because they want certain information, such as where they took wildlife, to be hidden so their hunting spots are kept secret.
Lawmakers contend the bill will face some hurdles, since it will negotiate the public’s right to know with an individual’s right to privacy, but it does have some precedent. In 2013 a similar issue of privacy violations led Montana lawmakers to make public information of concealed weapon permit holders confidential.