Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte got a slap on the wrist from wildlife officials after he violated state hunting regulations in the trapping and killing of a wolf near Yellowstone National Park last month.
On Feb. 15, weeks after taking office, Gianforte killed an adult gray wolf on a ranch owned by Robert E. Smith, director of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group and a contributor to Gianforte’s 2017 congressional campaign, the Mountain West News Bureau first reported Tuesday.
It’s legal to kill wolves with a license in Montana but only after completing a wolf-trapping certification course that gives background on how to do so “ethically, humanely and lawfully,” according to the student manual. Inside the national park boundaries, the wolves are protected.
He was let off with a written warning and was permitted to keep its skull and hide.
Authorities discovered the violation when the governor brought the carcass to a game warden to report the kill the following day, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon told The Associated Press.
The governor, who oversees the FWP department, had a license but had not completed the course.
“In situations like this, we use it as an education opportunity and issued a written warning,” Lemon said.
A spokesperson for the governor said he had enrolled in the course scheduled for Wednesday.
“It’s surprising to learn that it’s even possible to violate Montana’s lax rules for killing wolves,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“The mandatory wolf-trapping class that the governor skipped before setting a trap warns how to avoid public controversy in the course of committing extraordinary cruelty,” he said in an emailed news release.
“Gov. Gianforte’s flouting of the whitewashing regulations encapsulates perfectly his government’s brazenly shameless treatment of these ecologically vital animals.”
The news comes as a raft of bills heads to Gianforte’s desk aimed at reducing the state’s wolf population by making it significantly easier to kill them.
“Wolves keep ecosystems healthy and biologically diverse and are a huge draw for tourists,” Amanda Wight, program manager of wildlife protection at the U.S. Humane Society, said in a statement Tuesday.
“Yet, with the stroke of his pen, Governor Gianforte could soon set a similar fate in stone for hundreds more of Montana’s wolves, as the legislature is poised to send a number of bills aimed at slaughtering the state’s wildlife to his desk.”
Gianforte, a lifetime member of the Montana Trapping Association, campaigned on gun rights and has made headlines over his hunting activities. He faced backlash during his 2017 run for Congress for illegally killing an elk in 2000 and for hunting prairie dogs with Donald Trump Jr. during Gianforte’s 2017 campaign.