Curious, Judy and Bob began what would become a 14-year study in which they examined more than 1,000 deer, elk, antelope, sheep and goats. They worked with Gary Haas, a Florence taxidermist who had also spotted bone structure changes in hunter-harvested game. Dr. Pamela Hallock Muller, a University of South Florida professor and Hoy's sister, signed on to lend her technical expertise. Their findings were published in this month's issue of the journal Wildlife Biology in Practice.
Hoy, who has no formal scientific training, surmises that pesticides in the environment are disrupting the animals' hormonal systems.
In 2008, the Montana Department of Agriculture found pesticides in 25 of 46 groundwater samples and nine of 10 surface water samples taken from the Bitterroot Valley. The herbicides prometon and atrazine were detected most frequently. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies prometon and atrazine as potential endocrine disruptors, part of a family of chemicals that scientists say trigger hormonal changes in people, animals and insects.