Montana’s governor will be taking a three-hour wolf trapping certification tomorrow after receiving a written warning from state wildlife officials for taking a wolf south of Bozeman last month without first completing the required course.
Greg Gianforte, a Republican elected last November, otherwise was properly licensed to kill the black-coated male wolf on private land north of Yellowstone National Park where he trapped it, according to a Boise public radio station that first reported the news today.
A spokesman for the governor told reporter Nate Heygi that after Gianforte realized he hadn’t taken the trapping course, he “immediately” signed up to take it. FWP was treating it as an “educational opportunity” given that the governor was “forthright in what happened and honest about the circumstances.”
Still, the state chair of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers raised an eyebrow.
“It’s difficult to fathom accidentally not taking that class,” John Sullivan told the reporter for Boise State Public Radio. “When you go to buy your wolf trapping license online it clearly states that trapper education is required.”
There’s no indication in the radio report that suggests Gianforte was acting irresponsibly while in the act of trapping and shooting this particular wolf, but FWP’s Montana Wolf Trapper Education Student Manual says this about why the class is requred:
“The wolf trapping education/certification course is designed to do five things:
Emphasize proper ethics and the trappers’ responsibility.
Increase knowledge of trapping using humane, legal, and ethical standards.
Explain the legal equipment that can be used and wolf trapping regulations.
Reduce the incidence of non-target catches.
Ensure trappers are given some ecology of wolves to better understand the science and to dispel some common myths.”
Prospective sportsmen under a certain age not only need to take hunter education before heading afield, but state wildlife agencies more and more are requiring identification tests to hunt for certain species in certain areas because of the potential for inadvertently taking protected wildlife.
For instance, black bear hunters across Washington’s northern tier need to know how to tell their quarry from grizzlies, while those who pursue geese on either side of the Lower Columbia must be able to tell several subspecies of Canadas apart from duskies, which are off limits.
Oregon mountain goat hunters are also required to take an orientation, while bighorn tag holders are “encouraged” to do so as well.
Today’s news is a reversal of the recent spotlight on wolves and hunting in the Treasure State. Montana predators have come under intense scrutiny in the state legislature this session, while Gianforte also replaced Andrew McKean, a well-rounded and popular-with-sportsmen member of FWP’s commission.
Still, it’s hard not to see this becoming a badge for the governor; few other state chief executives can say they hunt, let alone have trapped a wolf.