Montana’s governor killed a Yellowstone wolf. But he now has a chance to set things right

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on March 23, 2021 with 8 Comments

Gov. Greg Gianforte should have known better. According to news reports today, the man Montanans elected just last November to lead their state and protect its vast natural resources trapped and shot an iconic black wolf 10 miles north of the boundary of the Yellowstone Park in February. And he allegedly did it without completing a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course– a fact for which he apparently received a mere written warning from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department.

But what is even worse, and what the rest of us need to hold him accountable for, is the fact that he acted without a thought for how the residents of Montana, and a vast majority of Americans, feel about hunting wolves, whom so many of us see as a national treasure.

Gianforte has a well-documented history as a trapper, and is a lifetime member of the Montana Trappers Association. But he is now the governor of a state where wolves have long been under the gun and where they desperately need protection. The federal government delisted wolves in Montana in 2011 as a nod to trophy hunters, trappers and cattle owners and in the years since more than 2,100 of these animals have been killed unnecessarily in some of the cruelest ways imaginable.

The wolf Gianforte killed, numbered 1155 by researchers, was a collared animal who lived in Yellowstone, and was being studied by biologists since 2018. Wolves are protected within Yellowstone boundaries but it appears this wolf strayed out and was targeted by Gianforte on the private ranch of a wealthy businessman, who has donated thousands to the governor’s 2017 Congressional campaign, about 10 miles away. While it is not clear how Gianforte trapped the wolf, we do know that Montana allows trapping with leghold traps—an extremely cruel way of killing any animal. Wolves caught in such traps suffer in them for days, sometimes, injuring themselves severely and at times gnawing limbs off in an attempt to escape. Many give up and die during their struggle.

It is a terrible thing for any animal to suffer so unnecessarily. We also expect our elected officials to act not just in their own interests and in the interests of their friends, but for the good of the entire state. Gianforte should consider the fact that wolves are worth far more alive than dead to his state: wildlife tourists eager to sight wolves flock to Montana, adding millions of dollars to the state’s coffers each year and providing tens of thousands of jobs for the state’s residents.

Montana’s wolves have suffered enough, but now some lawmakers are trying to intensify the persecution with a slew of bills, many of which are headed to Gianforte’s desk for a signature. The bills would make the use of neck snares to trap wolves legal, expand wolf trophy hunting and trapping, and bring back a wolf bounty system, among other atrocities. Montana residents oppose these bills and dozens of them have already testified in state legislative hearings to say so.

Recently Gianforte received a letter signed by 3,307 photographers asking him to veto these bills. We are saddened by the news today of the governor’s own wolf trapping, but we believe he has an opportunity to do the right thing now by refusing to let other trophy hunters and trappers in his state commit even more cruelties against these iconic animals. If you live in Montana, please urge Gov. Gianforte to stand up and protect his state’s residents and its wildlife by rejecting these bad bills as soon as they land on his desk.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.


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  1. Dave Boules says:

    Please no more killing by anyone of eid animals. Whether they br wolves or bears or any other animal. They all have a right to live long and happy lives without their lives being threatened by humans. Imagine that you were an animal living in the wild whose biggest threat to survival is humanity. Please make laws to protect the animals.

  2. Lorna Boschert says:

    I’m appalled by Governor Gianforte’s sense of entitlement in killing this wolf. I’m also appalled that he was only given a warning which just enables him further. I’ve seen him physically beat up on someone too, ugh. What’s wrong with people that they would vote him in as Governor of Montana?! So sad. . .

  3. Miriam Cannavale says:

    Dear Governor Gianforte,
    Please stand up and protect your State’s residents and wildlife by rejecting the bad bills allowing wildlife to be killed. Thank you.

    Miriam Cannavale

  4. Jeane Camargo da Silva says:

    Quem deveria ser o exemplo, envergonha sua população! Francamente, deixem os animais viverem em paz!

  5. Iris Owens Owens says:

    What is wrong with people. Just because you’re a governor of a state doesn’t give you the right to kill your beautiful defenceless wildlife. A governor should set a good example and protect wildlife. SHAME on you Govenor Gianforte.

  6. Jan Hruby says:

    Governor Gianforte does not set a good example as a person with
    strong leadership skills because he is working against the majority of
    people in Montana. The citizens of Montana clearly object to this
    cruel and inhumane killing of wolves whether being hunted for
    trophy or suffering agonizing pain from being trapped.
    He is obviously appeasing hunters and trappers without consideration
    of the consequences of the tourism industry in Montana.
    The Governor should rethink any plans to continue destroying the
    wolf population. It would give me pause to ever spend my money
    in a state that ignores the will of the people while continuing to
    decimate an apex predator that is essential to the balance of
    Bills should be passed to protect wolves NOT kill them.

  7. Amanda Barker says:

    Gianforte’s actions are either defined as incompetent or deviant or both(none of which are a good trait to have). Signing up for a trapping certification course, after trapping/killing a wolf, is like a hunter trying to buy an elk license AFTER shooting an Elk. I don’t believe Mr. Gianforte “forgot” to take the trapping cert. course. Why? Because, how on earth does a person review the current trapping regs booklet, talk trapping with his buddies, obtain a trap, locate an area to place the trap, check the trap (maybe more than once), kill the trapped animal and only THEN realize they forgot they are not a certified trapper/did not take the cert. class? (I always look at the hunting regs prior to each hunting season because there are always changes going on). Where in this whole process could his mind not be triggered into recalling the new certification policy? Is he truly this incompetent or is he truly this deviant (knew better)?

    He did know better! Everyone I have talked to was able to conclude this from various articles, including this one: .
    Here, his spokesperson states, ““after learning he had not completed the wolf-trapping certification, Governor Gianforte immediately rectified the mistake and enrolled in the wolf-trapping certification course.” Is FWP not able to figure out the intentions behind his actions? I believe he knew about the cert. course, but planned not to take it or just didn’t want to at that time- too busy trapping/visiting with his buddy on a private ranch where no one will ask if he has been certified. Or maybe, just doesn’t care about being ethical towards the Big Bad Wolf. Only after getting the wolf did he probably realize he would not be able to show off this trophy without FWP finding out and then FWP citing him for not being certified. So, he immediately enrolled in the class to cover his ***- in hopes of getting maybe just a slap on the hand from FWP. FWP fell for it and did just that(But then again, he is the governor of MT and FWP may not want to deeply bite the hand that feeds them). FWP may have just as well given him a “high-five”. Just an FYI, the certification class is about trapping ethics, regulations and proper methods, wolf management, the role of trapping in conservation, caring for a harvested wolf and reporting and registering a harvested animal. This course has to do with implementing rules and ethics into trapping and it is these qualities that are NOT followed by thoughtless, rogue trappers. Maybe Mr Gianforte did “forget” to take the course, or “not know about it”, but then this means he did not review the current trapping regulations prior to trapping. So, then, he is also incompetent.
    SHAME ON THE FWP for your soft justice! Odd how certain people can break the rules and just get a slap on the hand and even odder how the penalty is dependent on the type of animal that falls victim to such incompetent behaviors (ie: viscous wolf vs. pretty bighorn sheep). Penalties should have to do with one’s incompetence/unethical actions and NOT the type of animal taken. This wolf may have gotten to live on had GIANFORTE abided by the rules and not trapped that day, knowing he was not yet fully legal to do so.

  8. Charles Eldon Vieira says:

    This man is bringing back unethical methods to kill our sacred wolves. This is all to further his campaign by pleasing the people who are lining his pockets. He traps wolves inhumanely and then claims that he does not know the laws regarding trapping. Let me remind you that he is part of the trapping community and organizations within. I refuse to believe that this man had no knowledge of the training program he was supposed to attend and the laws that come with this already unethical way of hunting animals. This mistake was followed by a pathetic slap on the wrist from Fish and Game who has disappointed me and I’m sure many residents of Montana, who feel that the governor was not been held accountable for his actions. To make matters even worse this man has also wants to make more brutal ways of trapping available and will be giving rewards to people who praticipate in trophy/ false population control hunting. Please help make a change and protect our wolves from our lacking political leader.

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