The bizarre push to kill more of Montana’s wolves, explained

beSpacific 2021-04-18

Vox – Four new hunting bills in the Big Sky State are reigniting a centuries-old debate – “This story is part of Down to Earth, a new Vox reporting initiative on the science, politics, and economics of the biodiversity crisis. Late this winter, Greg Gianforte, Montana’s recently elected Republican governor, trapped and shot a male wolf just outside the boundary of Yellowstone National Park at a private ranch owned by his pal Robert E. Smith, a director of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group (a former campaign donor). Hunting wolves is legal in Montana, and Gianforte later told the Helena Independent Record that he’d been after one for five years. “I put a lot of time in over many, many years and not every sportsman is fortunate to ultimately harvest a wolf,” said Gianforte, who added that he planned to mount it on his wall. Not everyone who initially knew about the governor’s trophy was impressed, apparently. In the weeks after the hunt, someone tipped off a reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau that not only had the governor killed one of the 94 wolves that frequent Yellowstone, but he’d also failed to comply with a state regulation requiring hunters take a wolf-trapping course before catching an animal. Nate Hegyi, the bureau reporter, also learned that the wolf had a name, “1155.” It had worn a radio collar since 2018 when National Park Service biologists began to track his movements in and out of the park. The timing of the governor’s hunting protocol gaffe was disconcerting to conservationists already worried about the fate of Montana’s wolves. Gianforte, the first Republican governor in 16 years, would soon be deciding on several hunter-friendly bills to relax restrictions on killing wolves. The argument behind those bills — which seek to legalize a range of new hunting methods and offer reimbursement to trappers for their expenses — is that wolves in Montana are killing too many game species like elk and deer, which people like to hunt. As of 2019, there were almost 1,200 wolves in Montana, according to the state’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department. (The agency hasn’t yet released numbers for 2020.)…”