In a troubling lapse of moral accountability, a Wyoming state board will allow a man who killed a female wolf in the Grand Teton National Park and then dragged her body out of the park in violation of federal law to continue operating as a professional outfitter and hunting guide in the state.
In August, the Wyoming Board of Outfitters and Professional Guides decided to grant Brian Taylor, a self-avowed “wolf hater”, with a conditional one-year license, and denied a complaint the Humane Society of the United States filed in May asking that the board withdraw Taylor’s license for his crime of wolf poaching, which occurred in December 2018.
Earlier this year, Taylor, who also sits on the board of a local non-profit, the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, was found guilty in federal court on the charge of poaching. Yet, despite the severity of his crime, the federal court gave him a mild rebuke: a $5,000 fine and suspension of his wolf-hunting privileges for a year. And the board itself subsequently denied our complaint and only reprimanded the convicted poacher, giving him a conditional permit to operate for the next year.
There’s something wrong when a crime that so clearly violates a foundational federal wildlife law is so lightly punished. The penalties imposed fell far short of those outlined under the Lacey Act, which prohibits the discharge of a weapon and killing of wildlife in a national park, along with the transportation of the animal’s body outside a national park. Under the Lacey Act, a single violation is punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to one-year imprisonment.
The HSUS’s own investigations and review of documents the Jackson Hole News & Guide obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Taylor did not just violate federal wildlife law while on National Park Service lands, he also violated state law and regulations governing the conduct of professional outfitters.
Taylor, as a professional outfitter, had a duty to know the laws concerning wildlife hunting in the state, and Wyoming’s failure to vigorously prosecute him sets a dangerous precedent. That he can continue doing business as usual is unthinkable to most Americans. A poacher who breaks the law and deprives other Wyoming residents of the pleasure of seeing a protected animal in a national park should receive a punishment commensurate with his misconduct. We will continue to press for greater accountability in this case. For the sake of its wildlife, and as matter of moral and legal principle, Wyoming needs to reconsider its decision.