Wardens Seek Wolf Poacher Near Yellowstone Just Across Wyoming Border

Montana game wardens are looking for a poacher who illegally shot a wolf in the Gardiner area just north of the Wyoming border near Yellowstone National Park.

Mark Heinz

February 28, 20244 min read

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Montana game wardens are seeking a poacher who illegally killed a wolf in the Gardiner, Montana, area near Yellowstone National Park.

The poaching happened as many legal wolf hunting seasons in Montana are winding down, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks spokesman Morgan Jacobsen told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

The wolf in question was killed after the season had closed in that particular area just north of the Wyoming border, said Jacobsen, who is the FWP communication and education program manager for the southwestern region.

First-time poaching offenses in Montana carry a penalty of $500-$2,000 in fines, and/or up to 60 days in jail.

Mortality Quota Reached

Unlike Wyoming, Montana has uniform wolf management policy across the state, Jacobsen said.

“We don’t have a different classification of the (wolf management) zones,” he said.

Wolves may be hunted or trapped in Montana only with a license and during designated seasons. Each Wolf Management Unit (WMU) has a set mortality quota, he said.

That’s similar to how Wyoming manages black bear hunting. Only a certain number of animals may be killed in a particular hunting area. Hunting goes on until the mortality quota is reached, or the last day of the season ends, whichever comes first.

The poached Montana wolf is thought to have been killed sometime around mid-day Jan. 27, near Mol Heron and Cinnabar creeks northwest of Gardiner, according to FWP.

The wolf was evidently killed in WMU 313, which has a “small mortality quota” of six wolves, Jacobsen said.

That mortality quota had been reached and the season shut down before that wolf was killed, which makes it a poaching, he said.

No further details about the killing could be released without jeopardizing the investigation, he added.

Different Seasons

Wolves at one time had essentially been eliminated from the Greater Yellowstone states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. They were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s and soon spread into all three states.

They remained under endangered species until 2011, when they were delisted and hunting seasons began in all three states. They were re-listed in Wyoming, but then delisted again in 2017.

In Wyoming, wolves are hunted with licenses during set seasons in the areas adjacent to Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks, or about 15% of the state outside of the parks.

In the rest of Wyoming, about 85% of the state, wolves may be legally shot or trapped at any time, with no license required.

Montana wolf hunting begins with archery-only seasons running from Sept. 2-15, Jacobsen said. The general wolf hunting season runs from Sept. 15-March 15.

But again, the season will close earlier in any units where the mortality quota has been reached. Quotas had been reached and hunting closed in nearly all of Montana’s WMU’s as of Wednesday, Jacobsen said.

Worry About Grizzlies Delays Wolf Trapping

Montana also has a wolf trapping season that runs concurrently with the hunting seasons. However, the opening date for trapping season this year was pushed back to around Thanksgiving, or even later in some areas, Jacobsen said.

That’s because of a federal injunction that was handed down over concerns that grizzly bears could get caught in traps set for wolves, he said.

“The opening of wolf trapping had to be pushed back to after grizzlies have gone into hibernation in certain areas,” he said.

Reward Offered

FWP is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information about the wolf poaching.

Tips can be submitted online or by calling the FWP violation reporting hot line at 1-800-TIP-MONT. Informants can remain anonymous.

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter