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Felon draws coveted Montana bison tag

11/17/2005

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    HELENA, Mont. — A hunter who drew one of two dozen coveted licenses to take part in one of Montana's first bison hunts in 15 years is a convicted felon who legally can't carry a gun.

    The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks acknowledged that it has no authority to strip the man of the license. However, officials have alerted the man's probation officer.

    "Obviously as a convicted felon (on probation), he cannot possess or use a firearm," said agency spokeswoman Mel Frost. "If he does use a firearm, it is not violating Fish, Wildlife and Parks rules. It is my understanding it is a parole violation."

    While the state wildlife agency declined to identify the hunter on probation, a review by The Associated Press of license holders and felons under supervision determined the hunter is Daniel Marshall, 45, of Helena.

    Marshall was convicted in May 2002 of writing a bad check. He does not have a listed phone number and could not be reached for comment.

    The wildlife agency alerted the State Department of Corrections that Marshall had received a license to take part in the second hunt, corrections officials told the AP on Wednesday. The hunt is scheduled to begin Jan. 16.

    His probation officer, Chris Cavanaugh, said Marshall believed he would no longer be on probation by then. Unlike federal law, once a felon completes his sentence on state charges in Montana, his gun rights are restored.

    "Technically he hasn't violated any laws by purchasing a tag," Cavanaugh said. "He was under the belief that he would be done and that he would be able to hunt this bison."

    Marshall has not paid all restitution as required, and a judge recently continued his sentence, Cavanaugh said. If he pays back all the money before the hunt, he could go to a judge and ask to be released from probation.

    Marshall cannot sell the license, but state wildlife officials said if he chooses to return it, the state likely will hold a drawing to give it to another hunter.

    Nearly 6,200 people, most of them Montana residents, applied for a permit. The state drew the names of 24 hunters last month. The first of two bison hunts starts next week.

    State officials are carefully orchestrating the hunt, hoping to avoid the controversy that surrounded previous hunts of the animals as they leave Yellowstone National Park.

    Animals in the Yellowstone bison herd carry the cattle disease brucellosis, and the state says the hunt will help ensure Montana cattle do not become infected.

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