Montana Conservatives Lose It After Gov. Gianforte Kills Mountain Lion


Republican Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte shot and killed a mountain lion on public land north of Yellowstone National Park in December 2021, making him the target of conservationists.

Hunting dogs treed a 5-year-old mountain lion on Dec. 28 on U.S. Forest Service land southwest of the town Emigrant, which is located approximately 30 miles away from Yellowstone.

Gianforte’s press secretary, Brooke Stroyke, confirmed that the Republican governor had shot the mountain lion.

“The governor and friends tracked the lion on public lands,” Stroyke said. “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.”

Gianforte “harvested it, and put his tag on it,” Stroyke continued. “He immediately called to report the legal harvest and then the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks game warden. In Livingston, the governor met the game warden who tagged the lion and took the collar.”

Yellowstone biologists had been monitoring the mountain lion with a GPS-tracking collar since December 2019 and National Park Service staff knew the animal as “M220.”

About 34 to 42 mountain lions reside in Yellowstone and are difficult to locate due to their characteristics and personality. Nineteen of 25 Yellowstone wolves have been killed in Montana in the past 6 months.

“We almost never see a mountain lion,” Nathan Varley, a biologist who leads tours in Yellowstone, said. “They’re just too secretive. They usually only move around at night. They love to hide. They just don’t sit out in the open very much.”

The hunt was deemed legal, but conservationists are still grieved by Gianforte’s hunting practices and one particular law that allows hunters to kill wolves outside Yellowstone, thereby decreasing the wolf population.

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