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Game officials see increased meth cases

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FLATHEAD RESERVATION –  Tribal, state, and federal game authorities are feeling the effects of a resurgence in methamphetamine usage in the Mission Valley.

Tribal Game Warden Mike McElderry pointed to his bulletproof vest in a meeting with the Flathead Reservation Fish and Wildlife Board last week as one result of more armed users taking to the forest.

“We’ve come across more of these guys just carrying handguns,” McElderry said. “We came across two incidents already where folks pulled their handgun, but they were talked down. It’s changing.”

Some of the meth users camp illegally in the forest. Others gather firewood. One of the individuals had an outstanding warrant worth approximately $50,000. The methamphetamine cases can bleed over into fish and game cases, according to Tribal Game Warden Pablo Espinoza. In one case, a man was put into Lake County Jail for drug charges and was cited for an additional game violation while in jail for wasting meat that was left for more than 30 days at a processor.

“I had more meth (cases) this year than all my previous years,” Federal Wildlife Officer Mike Koole said.

Three of the four felony cases Koole handled last year were all methamphetamine related.

“They may be doing meth or they might have meth in their possession,” Koole said. “We’ve had people actually smoking meth when we rolled up in Pablo (Wildlife Management Area). It’s just a little bit out of town, but close enough to town that you can just kind of hide back there a little bit. It’s everywhere. It’s just so much more prevalent now.”

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