Photographer Jailed for Baiting Wildlife

by David Walker

A Montana wildlife photographer has been sentenced to 10 days in jail and fined $1,035 for illegally feeding bighorn sheep, according to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks department. The agency said 35-year-old Ryan Molde of Big Sky, Montana fed the sheep "for the purpose of drawing the animals in to photograph them with Lone Peak in the background."

Montana state law prohibits the feeding of wildlife "or knowingly providing supplemental feed attractants to game animals."

Molde was turned in to authorities by an anonymous tipster. According to a press release issued by Montana FWP, the photographer had been warned in writing last year against feeding sheep.

“Even after receiving a written warning, Mr. Molde was purposefully feeding bighorn sheep for commercial gain, and with blatant disregard for the health and safety of the very wildlife from which he was profiting,” said warden Jen Williams in the FWP release. She went on to say that Molde's actions may have contributed to the deaths of three bighorn sheep that were hit by vehicles in the area where he was feeding them.

Molde pleaded guilty to the charges against him on February 14. He was sentenced to 180 days in prison--the maximum allowed under state law--but the judge suspended 170 days of that sentence, and gave him the option to serve 8 of the 10 remaining days in a work program.

The fine handed down to Molde was also the maximum allowed by state law.

The court also required him to turn over all photographs related to the crime, and he was barred from selling any of them in the future.

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