Animal rights attorneys upset that a wolf was poached in Grand Teton National Park are arguing that a Kelly hunting outfitter’s permit to guide clients should be revoked.
Humane Society of the United States Managing Attorney Leana Stormont formally requested in a May 9 letter to the Wyoming State Board of Outfitters and Professional Guides that Gros Ventre Wilderness Outfitters owner Brian Taylor lose his license.
“First, by illegally killing a wolf in a protected national park, Taylor demonstrated a glaring inability to accurately determine his location and consequently the ownership of the land area in which he and his wife were hunting,” Stormont wrote in the letter. “Further, it is worth noting that when park rangers were interviewing Taylor, he admitted he was not even aware that it was unlawful to retrieve the illegally killed wolf by dragging the animal’s body through the national park.
“Such woeful ignorance of the law,” she wrote, “makes it impossible for Taylor, as a licensed outfitter, to uphold the law for himself and for the nonresident hunters who hire him as an outfitter.”
Taylor, who could not be reached for this story, is also a board member on the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, an advocacy group. As of early April he had retained his position on the association’s board, President Sy Gilliland said, though his standing could hinge on the Board of Outfitters and Professional Guides’ determination. That’s the subdivision of Wyoming state government that permits hunting outfitters to operate.
Bill Beres, an investigator for the board, could not comment on the status of Taylor’s license.
“We’ve got an ongoing investigation,” Beres said Tuesday, “so I can’t say anything.”
The Board of Outfitters and Professional Guides’ administrator, Amanda McKee, said she received the Humane Society’s letter, and in return sent a letter saying that Taylor’s file was open and the infraction would be reviewed by a committee. “Most likely,” she said, Taylor will appear for an interview at the board’s August meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.
The legal side of Taylor’s case had already been adjudicated when Grand Teton National Park publicized the Dec. 31 wolf poaching in early February. Park officials concealed his identity, announcing that a 56-year-old Wyoming man had pled guilty to killing the wolf in the park, was fined $5,000 and lost his personal wolf hunting privileges for one year.
The Humane Society became involved because it viewed the wolf killing as “egregious,” said Wendy Keefover, the group’s native carnivore protection manager in Colorado.
“He guides clients hunting, and yet during the government shutdown he went into a national park, crossed a marked sign and shot a wolf,” Keefover said. “This is a really serious case, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem like the court took it very seriously.”
Based on a law enforcement report, investigating rangers believed Taylor’s claim that he honestly mistook his whereabouts while hunting in the lower Spread Creek area during the last day of Wyoming’s 2018 wolf season. Taylor, who was not using GPS, said he misjudged his location by 2 miles while following wolf tracks that ascended from a bison hunter’s left-behind gut pile. When the three-person hunting party he led walked through the snow by a one-sided National Park Service boundary sign they thought they were exiting the park, he told investigators.
Retired longtime Triangle X Ranch hunting outfitter Harold Turner served several terms on the Board of Outfitters and Professional Guides, and he said that there’s no telling what the investigating committee will decide.
“If you’re not familiar with the area, I can see how it could be an honest mistake,” Turner said. “That doesn’t make it the right mistake.
“Knowing him and liking him — I guess that’s my bias — I would hate to see him lose his license,” he said. “As far as I know this is his first transgression, and that has to be taken into consideration in any decision they make.”
Turner said that, in his opinion, a probationary period for Taylor's guide's license or an extended suspension of his personal hunting privileges would be an appropriate punishment. The Humane Society’s letter said that “to send the message such conduct will not be tolerated,” the permit should be revoked.