Montana Justice? Slap on the Wrist for Wolf Poaching!

Our home away from home for many years.

We got excited last week, as my wife and I scrambled to get ready to go camping.

After a long winter and cold early spring, as of a week ago we had a favorable weather forecast and we decided it was time to de-winterize our camping trailer and head out for a weekend of camping and flyfishing. 

We talk, occasionally, about getting a newer trailer with some newer features, such as slide-outs for extra room, but we agree that ol’ faithful does what we want it to do, and some RV mechanics tell us that newer trailers aren’t built as well as ours was. So, we stick with what we have and keep things up so that everything works as it should.

I’m also excited about the fishing prospects, because I love evening fishing, and that’s something I’m mainly able to do when we’re camping. I’m also hopeful that predicted warm weather will get the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch going. 

 It’ll be nice to get away from the 24/7 news cycle for a few days. We’ll just worry about weather and whether fish are biting.

This is all against the backdrop of other things going on in the outdoors.

A month ago, I wrote about the curious case of Governor Greg Gianforte and the slap on his wrist for failure to complete an online wolf trapping class before supposedly trapping and then shooting a collared wolf on a ranch north of Yellowstone National Park.

The most recent wolf travesty was of two young men who, in early March, hired a helicopter and in the course of a flight shot two wolves from the air. Their story was that they did have a Department of Livestock permit to hunt coyotes from the air. 

Poached wolves – Billings Gazette photo

The catch, however, was the wolf hunting season ended several days before their flight. They didn’t have permission to hunt on the private land where they shot the wolves, and they didn’t have wolf hunting licenses. They also didn’t report their wolf shooting to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for mandatory inspection and tagging. They were caught because wardens had a tip on the incident.

In other words, they did a whole lot of things wrong and violated a whole bunch of laws. Nevertheless, in a Beaverhead County Justice Court, the two men paid fines of just over $400 each—a slap on the wrist.

I talked to Warden Phillip Kilbraith, who works out of FWP headquarters in Helena, for background information. He said that hunting without a license usually involves a fine of $500 to $1,000. Hunting private land without permission on a first offense involves a fine of $135. A second offense rates of fine of $500 to $1,000. Offenses often result in forfeiture of hunting and fishing privileges for a period of time.

In any event, however, he says the job of game wardens is to “investigate and report” and then it’s up to the county attorney and county court to prosecute and adjudicate the case.

Of course, all this took place when the state legislature was in session and enacted laws to extend wolf seasons, allow trapping with snares, and even to allow organizations to pay rewards to successful hunters and trappers to defray their expenses—though they warn: don’t call it bounties.

Frankly, from the standpoint of a lifetime of hunting and trying to be ethical and legal in the process, I’m angry and disappointed by this case of willful disregard of laws and ethics in the taking of these wolves. 

Unfortunately, with the current atmosphere of lawmakers who regard wolves as vermin and openly express frustration that they can’t just wipe ‘em out as was done back in the good old days, I’m afraid that cases like this will become more and more common. 

What the heck, shoot them from airplanes, trap them, poison them, look for wolf dens and kill the pups. 

What’s the worst that can happen? A slap on the wrist and go do it again. Who cares?

I do—I hope ethical Montanans agree that we’re better than this.

2 thoughts on “Montana Justice? Slap on the Wrist for Wolf Poaching!

  1. Sadly, FWP is cowed by far right aggies and the extremist legislature. Luckily, there are factions in the ranching community or the two helicopter gunman would have gotten a way with it.

  2. Sadly, I believe you’re right. Of course, I suspect you could kill wolves in any way imaginable in Beaverhead County and the courts there would do no more than a slap on the wrist.

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