Animal Conservation

Mountain. the governor comes under fire with a cougar

Republican Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte is once again drawing fire in some circles for a hunting trip, this time involving a perfectly legal outing that resulted in the death of a collared cougar outside Yellowstone National Park .

Quoting in part from anonymous sources, The Washington Post first reported that Gianforte shot and killed the puma which was being guarded by National Park Service personnel, after hunting dogs chased it into a tree. Last year, Gianforte trapped and killed a radio-collared gray wolf that was being watched by scientists in Yellowstone.

The mountain lion hunt took place Dec. 28 on Forest Service land southwest of Emigrant, Montana, the To post reported.

A spokesperson for Gianforte, whose relations with journalists have sometimes been combative, denounced the To postimplicitly critical account.

The Washington Post do what The Washington Post fact: running around with unsubstantiated rumors from unnamed sources who were not part of the Governor’s hunting party,” Gianforte publicist Brooke Stroyke told E&E News in a statement. “The people of Montana know this approach all too well.”

The latest hunting episode resonates, however, as it comes against the backdrop of state lawmakers in Gianforte and Montana easing hunting restrictions and on the governor’s own track record.

Last year, Gianforte was found to have violated state hunting regulations when he trapped and shot a wolf without meeting the conditions of his trapping license (green wireMarch 24, 2021).

Cougars are one of the largest cats in North America and a top predator native to the Yellowstone region. The mountain lion pictured above, known as P-41, was captured on a remote camera in California in 2015. | National Park Service/AP Photo

“To shoot a lion from a tree branch after being chased by a pack of dogs is extremely unsportsmanlike and inhumane,” Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, said this morning. “Governor Gianforte has now killed two inedible animals for the thrill of the kill, and he has deviated from the prevailing Montana tradition of hunting for an acceptable use of the animal.”

In the case of the gray wolf, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued a “written warning” to the governor after trapping the animal, which also had a GPS collar placed on it by biologists from the Yellowstone wildlife.

The wolf had strayed outside the boundaries of the national park and was therefore legal to hunt.

Gianforte received the warning from his wildlife agency because he had not completed a mandatory wolf trapping certification course which, among other things, explains how to set traps “using humane, legal and ethical standards. “, according to the education student of the Montana Wolf Trappers. Manual.

While wolves are protected within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, it has been legal in Montana to trap and kill wolves since they were removed from Endangered Species Act protections in May 2011. .

This delisting decision ten years ago handed over the management of wolves to the state.

Stroyke, spokeswoman for the governor, laid out what she described as the facts of Gianforte’s most recent hunting adventure.

“On December 28, 2021, the Governor, who had a valid cougar license, displayed a lion on public land in Park County and harvested it,” Stroyke said. “The Governor and his friends followed the lion onto public lands.”

Stroyke said that “as the group got closer to the lion, the members of the group, who held dog training licenses, used four dogs to train the lion once the track was discovered at the bottom of a stream. on public land”.

Stroyke said after the lion was sported, Gianforte confirmed it was an adult male – called tom – who harvested it and tagged it. He then called to report the killing to a state game warden.

“At Livingston, the governor met the game warden who branded the lion and took the collar,” Stroyke said.

Michael Robinson, senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said cougars and wolves in Yellowstone “are vital to the natural balance of the world’s first national park, and GPS-collared animals help scientists to understand these fascinating animals”.

“The governor’s cruel killing around Yellowstone sets back research and illustrates why states dominated by ruthless ranching industries cannot be trusted to police rare wildlife like wolves,” Robinson said.

The news also sparked a torrent of criticism and abuse on Twitter.

In an article, Democratic State Representative Casey Weinstein of Ohio drew an unfavorable comparison between Gianforte and John Dutton III, the fictional rancher and widower from Montana and protagonist played by actor Kevin Costner in the popular series Western television “Yellowstone”.

“John Dutton would never do something like this,” he tweeted. “Musta made Gianforte feel like a real man!”

Mountain lions, also known as cougars, are one of North America’s largest cats and a top predator native to the Yellowstone region, though the animals are rarely seen, according to the National Park Service.

The park service estimates the total population at between 34 and 42 in the Yellowstone area, with most animals located in the northern range.

Cats typically produce litters with three to four kittens, but only 50% survive the first year. Adult males can weigh up to 170 pounds and have an average lifespan of 8 to 10 years, while females are much lighter and generally live longer, according to the NPS.

The mountain lion killed by Gianforte, known by the search number M220, was first captured and bonded by park biologists on December 11, 2019, in the northern part of the park, the spokesperson said this morning. of Yellowstone National Park, Morgan Warthin.

“At the time of capture, he was the age of a 3.5-year-old male based on best canine gum recession measurements, weighed 130 pounds, and biologists fitted him with a GPS collar,” a- she declared. “It is not known at this time whether the male puma was born inside or outside the park.”

She said disease and starvation are occasional causes of cougar deaths, but competition with other predators and human hunting during legal seasons outside of protected areas are major killers of cougars.

Gianforte’s embrace of the hunt, both as a personal hobby and as public policy, has shaped his political reputation since he replaced former Home Secretary Ryan Zinke in 2017 as the only member of the Montana House.

Earlier, his political opponents attacked him as an outsider from New Jersey.

Once elected governor, Gianforte replaced Martha Williams, a Democratic appointee who enjoyed bipartisan support, as director of the state’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Williams was later nominated and confirmed by the Senate as director of the Biden administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last year, in part in response to action by lawmakers in Gianforte and Montana, environmental groups called on the FWS to bar states from federal wildlife funding if they “excessively” target predatory species. like wolves, cougars and grizzly bears.

The petition was filed the same day Yellowstone National Park officials announced that three gray wolves had been killed by hunters in Montana. The two female pups and a one-year-old female were killed outside the park’s northern boundary in the first week after wolf season opened in September, park officials said.

Earlier, Gianforte signed more open hunting laws described as intended to reduce wolf attacks on livestock and big game herds. Breeders say they lose a pack each year to these attacks.

Zack Strong, senior counsel for the terrestrial wildlife program at the Animal Welfare Institute, said: “Despite living in one of the most biodiverse states in the country, Governor Gianforte is no friend. from wildlife.

Strong called on the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks “to fully investigate the questionable circumstances surrounding the Governor’s Trophy slaying of another rare park predator.”