Montana governor gets warning in killing of Yellowstone wolf

Gianforte Repeats Campaign Promises In State Of The State
Thom Bridge

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte addresses the Legislature on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in the House Chamber of the State Capitol in Helena, Mont. The state's first Republican governor in 16 years delivered his first State of the State address Thursday evening.

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte received a warning from wildlife officials after killing a radio-collared wolf near Yellowstone National Park without first taking a mandated trapper education course — a violation of state hunting regulations, officials said Tuesday.

It’s legal to kill wolves in Montana with a license, but trappers must first complete a three-hour online course that includes instruction on how to take the animals ethically and lawfully.

Gianforte had a valid wolf license, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon said.

News of the governor’s violation comes as lawmakers in Montana and Idaho have been considering proposals to make it much easier to kill wolves in a bid to drive down the predators’ numbers.

On Feb. 15, just weeks after he took office, Gianforte trapped and shot the wolf about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of the park on a ranch owned by a director for the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group, according to Boise State Public Radio, which first reported the violation.

Officials determined he was in violation of the certification rule when the Republican governor brought the animal in to a state game warden to report the kill the next day, Lemon said.

“In situations like this, we use it as an education opportunity and issued a written warning,” Lemon said. “Everything related to the harvest was done right.”

Gianforte “immediately rectified the mistake” and enrolled in a wolf-trapping certification course scheduled for Wednesday, Gianforte spokesperson Brooke Stroyke said. He was allowed to keep the animal’s skull and hide.

The 6-year-old male wolf was born in Yellowstone National Park and was fitted with a radio collar to track its movements in 2018, park spokesperson Morgan Warthin said.

The animal was a member of the park’s Wapiti Lake pack but had left the group to find a mate.

Lemon said the radio collar was returned to the park.

While running for Congress in 2017, Gianforte acknowledged illegally killing an elk in 2000 in Park County. He was fined $70 in that case after self-reporting that he had killed an elk not mature enough to be legally harvested, the Helena Independent Record reported.