Animals activists are up in arms and out for blood after it was revealed that Governor Greg Gianforte shot and killed a mountain lion that had wandered off protected land in Yellowstone National Park late last year, with his critics decrying the move as unsportsmanlike and needless, given the scarcity of the animals within the park and the way it was hunted.
The hunt, which was initially reported by the Washington Post, took place on December 28, 2021. The animal in question was a 5-year old cat, M220, and was wearing a GPS tracking collar used to monitor rare and elusive predators. According to Gianforte Press Secretary Brooke Stroyke:
“The governor and friends tracked the lion on public lands. As the group got closer to the lion, members of the group, who have a hound training license, used four hounds to tree the lion once the track was discovered in a creek bottom on public land….After the lion was treed, the governor confirmed the mountain lion was a [male], harvested it and put his tag on it. He immediately called to report the legal harvest and then the [Fish, Wildlife & Parks] game warden.”
While there are an estimated 3000-5000 mountains lions within the state, estimates put the number of mountain lions that reside within Yellowstone Park year-round to be around 40.
For critics, much of their ire came from one portion of the WAPO article, which reveals:
“One person familiar with the incident told The Post that the mountain lion was kept in the tree by the hunting dogs for a couple of hours while Gianforte traveled to the site in the Rock Creek drainage area. In neighboring Wyoming, detaining a mountain lion in a tree until another hunter arrives is illegal.”
This account is denied by Stroyke. When Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon was asked for a comment about that, he reiterated that “the idea that the governor just showed up to harvest the animal is not consistent” with what he was told.