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Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte was let off with a warning for defying a state regulation before trapping and killing a Yellowstone wolf near the national park in February.
Gianforte trapped an adult black wolf approximately ten miles north of Yellowstone’s boundary on the private ranch of Robert Smith, director of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group, who donated more than $10,000 to Gianforte’s 2017 congressional campaign, according to Boise State Public Radio.
Though wolves inside Yellowstone are protected from hunters, Montana law does allow for the trapping and hunting of wolves in other parts of the state, including those that wander out of the park’s boundaries.
But Gianforte harvested the wolf, known as “1155,” without having completed a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course, Boise State Public Radio reported.
“After learning he had not completed the wolf-trapping certification, Governor Gianforte immediately rectified the mistake and enrolled in the wolf-trapping certification course. The governor had all other proper licenses,” Gianforte’s spokesperson told The Hill.
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks gave the governor a written warning and said Gianforte will be allowed to keep the wolf skull and hide after he enrolled in the three-hour online course scheduled for March 24, the outlet reported.
“Typically, we approach this sort of incident as an educational opportunity, particularly when the person in question is forthright in what happened and honest about the circumstances,” Greg Lemon, a spokesperson for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks told Boise Public Radio. “That was the case here with Gov. Gianforte.”
As governor, Gianforte is responsible for overseeing Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
Wolf “1155” was born in Yellowstone as part of the Wapiti Lake pack and had wandered north to find a mate, a park spokesperson told Boise Public Radio. Wildlife biologists were tracking the “dispersed male” through a radio collar, which allows scientists to note the movements and deaths of wolves that leave the park.
As of January 2020, there were at least 94 wolves in Yellowstone, according to National Park Services data. A park spokesman told Boise Public Radio this was the first Yellowstone-collared wolf to be killed by a hunter this year.
“People from all over the world come to Yellowstone specifically to see these wolves,” Jonathan Proctor, director of the Rockies and Plains program for the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife told the outlet. “The fact that they can be killed so easily, right on the edge of the park in the state of Montana, for only a few dollars for a permit to trap a wolf – it makes no sense, either ecologically or economically.”
In recent months, Montana and other states in the West have seen fierce debate over the role trapping can play in managing increasing wolf populations nearly a decade after wolves lost Endangered Species Act protections in the Northern Rockies, Boise Public Radio reported.
This isn’t the first time Gianforte has found himself in trouble with the law. In 2017, the Republican governor pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after body-slamming a reporter for The Guardian.
Insider reached out to Gianforte’s office and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for comment.
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