Montana Gov. Gianforte hunts, kills National Park Service-tracked mountain lion

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Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte shot and killed a mountain lion that was being tracked by the National Park Service in December, his second such hunt of a monitored animal that ventured outside the protected areas of Yellowstone National Park.

The Republican governor “had a valid mountain lion license, treed a lion on public land in Park County and harvested it,” his spokesperson, Brooke Stroyke, said, adding that dogs were used in the hunt and drove the lion up the tree.

“As the group got closer to the lion, members of the group, who have a hound training license, used four hounds to tree the lion once the track was discovered in a creek bottom on public land," Stroyke said. "After the lion was treed, the governor confirmed the mountain lion was a [male], harvested it and put his tag on it. He immediately called to report the legal harvest and then the [Fish, Wildlife & Parks] game warden.”

The Dec. 28 hunt, which was first reported by the Washington Post, was legal, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks spokesperson Greg Lemon said in an email.

"Mountain lion hunting has a strong history in Montana, and mountain lion hunters are some of the elusive predators’ strongest advocates and those most engaged in how lions are managed across the state," Lemon wrote.

News of the governor's hunt broke on the 150th anniversary of Yellowstone, the 2.2 million-acre park that was the first in the National Park System.

Federal law prohibits hunting and the discharging of firearms in Yellowstone. However, animals leaving the park are routinely hunted on non-protected lands in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Nearly 190 bison were killed during the 2020-21 winter after migrating out of the park into Montana.

In 2021, Gianforte told the Helena Independent Record that he "made a mistake" after he trapped and killed a Montana black wolf that was also tagged in Yellowstone before he completed the required state certification.

Gianforte told the paper at that time that he probably had spent "over 40 days invested over five years attempting to harvest a wolf."