Montana’s Gov. Greg Gianforte was warned by wildlife officials after violating the state’s hunting regulations when he killed a radio-collared wolf near Yellowstone National Park without having taken the required trapping course.
The three-hour online course shows hunters how to take the animals ethically and lawfully.
A spokesperson for the Republican governor said Gianforte “immediately rectified” the mistake by enrolling in the course this week. He was allowed to keep the animal’s skull and hide.
It’s legal to kill wolves in the state with a valid license, which Gianforte had, Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon said.
Then-Montana Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte meets with members of the business and environmental community at Chico Hot Springs below Emigrant Peak on October 10, 2018 in Pray, Montana. He took office as governor this year. (Photo by William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images)
Gianforte trapped and shot the wolf on a ranch owned by Robert E. Smith, director for conservative Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns locals news stations across the country, The Mountain West News Bureau reported. Smith is also a major Gianforte donor.
“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.”
Wildlife officials determined he had violated the rule when he brought the wolf’s carcass into a state game warden in Helena to report the kill as regulations require, Lemon said.
The male wolf was six to seven years old and had been born in Yellowstone National Park. It 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 and 8 Mile packs, then went off on its own to find a mate.
It was the first wolf the governor has killed, Gianforte spokesperson Brooke Stroyke said.
Trappers have the option to release radio-collared animals so they can continue to be used for research. The certification course includes instruction on the importance of radio-collared wolves to monitor the population and manage wolf pack attacks on livestock.
“A wolf that’s been wearing a radio collar is going to be a terrible trophy, because those collars mess up the fur around their neck,” said Carter Niemeyer, a former wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “And then symbolically, you’ve got a wolf that researchers spent thousands of dollars on, and then to have somebody thoughtlessly kill that animal when they could have released it back to research — that’s a lot of poor judgment.”
Gianforte also illegally killed an elk too young to be harvested in 2000, which he admitted while running for congress. He was fined $70 after reporting the mistake.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ after-hours request for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.