Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks needs help finding a local man accused of multiple hunting violations.
After pleading guilty to eight of 10 wildlife charges, Alfred “Toby” Bridges recently failed to show up to court to answer to the final two charges, so multiple warrants for his arrest have been issued, according to a FWP release.
On Oct. 18, the Heron man pleaded guilty to most of the charges in Sanders County Justice Court after FWP Warden Morgan Post and Investigator Tom Chianelli conducted a year-long investigation into multiple incidents.
The main focus of the investigation was the unlawful hunting of bears over bait. Cheryl Copperstone, Deputy County Attorney for Sanders County, told the Sanders County Ledger that Bridges was buying food from local thrift shops and food banks to bait the bears into his hunting area.
Bridges pleaded guilty to two counts of killing black bears over bait, two counts of unlawful possession of the bears, one count of killing a cow elk out of season, one count of unlawful possession of that elk, one count of shooting a white-tailed buck using another individual’s license, and one count of exceeding his limit because he had already shot a buck during the 2020 general hunting season. Bridges pleaded not guilty to two charges related to a third black bear shot over bait.
These misdemeanor charges resulted in $9,600 in fines and restitution, and the loss of hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges for almost five years in all but three states of the nation.
Copperstone told the Ledger she is concerned that bear baiting and poachers like Bridges have encouraged a growing bear problem in the Heron area. “He’s made those bears more dangerous, in my opinion,” Copperstone said in October.
Bridges has a long history of violations, confrontational behavior and less-than-ethical dealings with wildlife. And he hasn’t always lived in Sanders County.
Back when he lived near Reserve Street in Missoula, Bridges had an anti-wolf website and associated Facebook page called “Lobo Watch.” In 2014, he posted photos and a narrative claiming he ran two wolves over with his wife’s van on I-90 near Lookout Pass. Fish, Wildlife & Parks wardens investigated but found no proof Bridges had run the wolves over, just a photo of a wolf lying alongside the road with Bridges’ van in the background.
In 2012, Bridges wanted the Missoula County Commission to adopt a wolf management plan similar to that of Ravalli County, even though wildlife management is the state’s responsibility.
“If enough counties cry (expletive) on this, at least you’re going to get their (expletive) attention. I’m going to keep throwing gallons of gasoline on this fire, and it’s going to get hot,” Bridges told Lee Newspapers in 2012.
In 2010, Bridges sent an opinion piece to the Clark Fork Chronicle suggesting that citizens should put out a known poison for wolves because the state wasn’t killing wolves fast enough. Not only is it illegal but the substance kills all canines.
Bridges’ internet service provider shut his website down at least once in 201o, and now, it’s no longer up. Instead, he’s been using an online blog called “North American Muzzleloader Hunting,”
In 2006, he was stirring things up in North Dakota and 13 other states as the founder of the North American Muzzleloader Hunting Association, taking on state agencies for not allowing magnifying scopes on muzzleloaders.
Even though he founded the association, Bridges apparently often overstated his qualifications and claimed he’d done things with firearms that experts called “dangerous.” Bridges claimed he had been “management” at Knight Rifles, but he was later called out as having worked as customer service. Knight Rifles fired him after he was allegedly caught violating federal poaching laws, according to Randy Wakeman Outdoors.
“Knight Rifles fired him, Henry Ball fired him, and Savage Arms fired him. He was, at one time, sponsored by Hornady Bullets, Barnes Bullets, and MMP sabots. All three have ended their relationships with Mr. Bridges and Mr. Bridges hasn’t had much good to say about any of these three companies since,” Wakeman wrote in 2010.
Anyone with possible information about fish and wildlife crimes is encouraged to call FWP’s 24-hour hotline, 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668). Callers may be eligible for a reward up to $1,000 for information that leads to a conviction.
Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at firstname.lastname@example.org.