Wildlife officials caught a poacher red-handed as he tried to sneak down Gros Ventre Road with a dead gray wolf stuffed into a bin in his truck bed.

A tip led Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials to the man, whom the agency declined to identify.

Warden Jon Stephens got a call the first week of December from hunters who had witnessed a wolf slip across the road in a closed area followed by another hunter. Shortly afterward the tipsters heard a barrage of gunfire.

“Timingwise, thankfully, these guys were up there to help put some of the pieces together and call me about it,” Stephens said. “This guy was turned in and caught due to a tip from other wolf hunters.”

The warden headed up Gros Ventre Road and intercepted the poacher, who had no other way out of the valley than the main drag. Initially, the man lied about having knowingly shot a wolf in an area that was closed to the pursuit. His plan was to wait a few days and then report that the wolf had been killed in a legal area, Stephens said.

“But once I looked into one of the boxes in the bed of the truck, he came clean,” Stephens said. “He said he got excited and made a bad decision. It was the first wolf he had seen, and he went up there with the intent of wolf hunting.”

The man also had two red foxes in his truck bed that had been shot. The foxes, managed as “predators” that can be hunted with nearly no restrictions, were killed legally as far as the warden could determine.

The wolf, however, was traveling through the landscape on the south side of the Gros Ventre River — an area that reached its two-animal quota and closed in October. The north side of the river remains open to wolf hunting, though the season will close either once one more wolf is killed or when the calendar flips to 2018.

While on patrol this fall Stephens encountered several hunters who had spotted but passed on wolves on the closed south side of the Gros Ventre River. That was the case with the party of hunters who reported the suspicious gunfire.

“These other guys observed that wolf,” Stephens said, “but knowing that it was in a safe area and that they couldn’t do anything, they just said, ‘Cool to see one,’ and continued out.”

The temptation to down a wolf has proved too much for some in Jackson Hole in the past.

In the winter of 2012-13 warden Bill Long investigated two wolves that were shot and left in a field in the Gros Ventre Range, offering $5,000 rewards for each. Stephens did not know if those illegal killings were ever solved, but, if not, it’s not the only incident on which the agency has hit a dead end.

This fall, just before the first legal wolf hunting season since 2013, there was an apparent wolf poaching along the Flagstaff Road in the Mount Leidy hill country south of the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s Blackrock Ranger Station. The mortality signal on a tracked wolf’s collar went off, and when a biologist went to retrieve the device he found that the collar had been cut off the animal.

“That suggests it was shot and removed,” Stephens said. “Unfortunately we have zero leads.”

Wolves that are poached during the legal hunting season count toward the hunting quotas in the area where they were shot. Neither Jackson Hole wolf poaching case applied in 2017, however, because one animal was killed before the season began and the other was gunned down after it had lapsed.

The carcass of the wolf was confiscated from the unnamed Gros Ventre wolf poacher, and the man was cited for hunting during a closed season, failure to tag the animal and shooting from a roadway, Stephens said.

Those infractions will cost about $1,500 altogether, but they are “bondable” offenses, meaning the fine can be paid and the matter settled without a court appearance. Poaching the wolf did not cost the man his hunting privileges.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067, env@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGenviro.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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(30) comments

Lloyd Dorsey

I've hunted game in the Jackson Hole area and beyond for decades but have never felt that the ecosystem owed me groceries. I purposely hunt elk and deer in areas where there are abundant predators which makes it much more wild and meaningful; there are plenty of opportunities for me to harvest deer and elk. I also keep informed about agency wildlife management data and the science of ecology as best I can. Specifics: 1) There were no barriers to gray wolves throughout western North America since the last ice sheets. Due to the application of modern science-based wildlife management, gray wolves recolonized northern Montana from Canada. As the U.S. implemented the ESA, more were placed in central Idaho and Yellowstone in the mid-90's. 2) Elk herds in the GYE were at historic highs into the late 1980's and 90's due to absence of wolves, elk feedgrounds, private ranchland refugium, etc.. Since then predators and multiple hunting licenses for some human hunters have trimmed some herds. Despite this, elk numbers in Wyoming are 34,000 more than the WGFD objective (113k/79k). Elk hunter success in Wyoming is 42%, and hunters can apply for and receive 2 and sometimes 3 elk tags. Idaho and Montana have abundant elk populations, too. 3) The diseases brucellosis and CWD will define 21st century elk and deer management. Predators can and should be some of the most ecologically and cost effective mitigation against diseases in elk and deer. Conservation of abundant predators is the smartest thing we can do for wildlife and for future wildlife enthusiasts. 4) Elk feedgrounds and predator hunting/control are the worst possible management programs in this enlightened age of ecology. And, there are ways to mitigate conflicts between wildlife and livestock that are not lethal to wildlife, including predators. 5) Natural ecosystems are so rare in this planet that we should steward them using the best science and tools we have. Future generations will appreciate our restraint and our care.

Jay Westemeier

Thanks for chiming in Lloyd with facts and wise comments..

Kristin Morgan

Chad said: "No sadism involved. Human beings have competed with wolves for the same food sources for thousands of years. It still goes on today." It does? In what nation? Even in colonial days wolves were not even a medium concern, they were quite rare then as they are now, and the worst a wolf did was take one sheep or perhaps one of our cattle, but that wasn't very common either.
I quote C. again: "No sadism involved" In fact, the hunter admits himself he "became excited" when he saw the wolf, and "couldn't help himself" he gives us the reasons for his action. Unless C. is psychic, or knows the illegal hunter personally and asked him himself, he would not know the inner workings of the illegal hunters mind.
Today, there is no justifiable reason for wolf hunting, legal or illegal. There are methods livestock managers can use that help prevent wildlife attacks. Even so, although not all ranchers would feel this way, but isn't one sheep maybe per year a sacrifice one would be willing to give to ensure the continual perpetuity of our native wild species?

Chad guenter

Ms. Morgan: Many families I know in Wyoming and the mountain west including my own rely on elk instead of store bought beef for our meat supply. THAT puts us in direct competition with wolves for the same food source. Massive decreases in elk herd size in the GYE has been directly tied to the planting of invasive sub-species (not "native") wolves from northern Canada. Tag allocation and many hunts have been drastically reduced because of it.
Just because you get your meat from a grocery store, do not force others to your same way of life.

Chad guenter

Ms. Morgan: Do you want to see Moose in GTNP 10 years from now? Moose Wyoming will be mooseless in a decade when the current adult males die off. I challenge you or anyone else reading this, to get a picture of a calf moose NOW or after Sept. of next year. Calf moose are not surviving a year in GTNP, there is a pack of wolves that inhabit the Snake river bottoms between Deadman's bar and the "town" of Moose that exterminate any and all calf to yearling moose. Bull moose cannot reproduce on their own.

Educate yourself on the criminal PLANTING of un-natural invasive wolves in the Mountain West and the GYE.

Jim Olson

Bloodthirsty sadism...........I try, but fail to understand what joy is derived from murdering these beautiful creatures of Gaia

chad guenter

It is nature, pure and simple Mr. Olsonh. No sadism involved. Human beings have competed with wolves for the same food sources for thousands of years. It still goes on today.

Jay Westemeier

Any 21st century human that considers himself to be in competition with wolves for the same food probably has much bigger life problems to deal with. There are state and federal food programs available to help you if needed.

Chad guenter

Government "assistance" programs..... Thank you Mr. Westemeier, I know there are, HALF our country is on them and look at how well they are doing, especially the native American population who was told to "civilize" themselves.
Any good Statist resolution to a problem, let government handle how you should live your life. Don't worry about the wolves Mr. Westemeier, they aren't going to disappear like the moose in GTNP will in the next 10 years..

Jay Westemeier

Mr. Guenter, if you're that concerned about the long term survival of elk as your main food source, you should educate yourself on and support the current research being conducted by wildlife biologists and scientists instead of being hinged to the kneejerk reaction to an elk population reduction that is tied to many more variables than just wolves. If you honestly believe that wolves are the one and only cause of moose and elk population fluctuations in the GYE, you are sadly uneducated and/or misinformed on the subject. Montana and Idaho are starting to take a proactive approach to long term preservation of healthy elk populations and are questioning Wyoming's preservation practices. Here are a few published comments about the Jackson Hole elk herd and Wyoming elk feed grounds by Nick Gevock, conservation director at the Montana Wildlife Federation. “I understand there are deep, historical roots to why Wyoming has gone this route,” Gevock said, “and yet that doesn’t change the fact that this is very bad policy that’s bad for wildlife and ultimately bad for hunters and wildlife enthusiasts.”
“We need to be brutally honest here,” Gevock said. “The end result will be fewer elk, but it will ultimately be healthier elk.
“That is the most unhealthy, diseased elk herd in the world,” he said. “And that goes beyond CWD. Brucellosis, foot rot, scabies — there are numerous problems with that elk herd.”

Chad guenter

Mr. Westemeier: You are correct sir. Idaho and Montana have taken a very proactive approach to managing their elk herd numbers. Both States allow trapping in addition to hunting of wolves. As you suggest, I hope Wyoming Game managers soon follow our neighbor's lead, and allows wolf trapping as well.

Jay Westemeier

And you still want to ignore the facts about your cherished feed grounds and that wolves could probably be one of your best tools to ensure a long term healthy elk herd. In the meantime, enjoy feasting on your diseased game.

Kristin Morgan

Exactly. I don't know about Chad, but buy my food from the grocery store. I have eaten farm-raised home slaughtered meat before, but I never had to fight a wolf for it. Mr Chad seems to believe that if we don't hunt wolves we'll all be on food stamps.

Jay Westemeier

Great points Ms. Morgan. I don't understand how anyone who truly believes they'll go hungry because of a few hundred wolves spread over thousands of square miles can be taken seriously. It's comical when hunters blame their own inadequacies on predators when they aren't successful. And Wyoming typically has one of the highest elk hunt success rates in the country.

allison levy

Shameful...this loser got off easy. Wolves may be controversial but they are beautiful creatures - part of the ecosystem and I mean what's the point? Big man kills wildlife illegally. Shame on you.

Chad guenter

Ms. Levy: Human beings are part of the ecosystem as well. Mr. Koshmrl hasn't reported on it yet, but the refuge and GTNP elk hunts probably had the lowest harvests in history this year. Wolves have decimated elk populations in the GYE and Moose will be extinct in the GYE in probably 10 years. Wolves need to be shot on sight wherever they are found outside the Parks. It's Nature.

Jay Westemeier

If, and I repeat IF the elk harvest numbers are down, it was by design for the betterment of the entire ecosystem.

Sam Campbell

I wouldn't correlate low harvest on those hunts to population. Success on the refuge is all about snow, and we got some early that pushed elk to refuge, then it melted back, and the elk moved back to the forest. Those elk get smarter every year, and staying on the refuge in a sea of orange is not something they'll do if they can get to feed elsewhere.

Kristin Morgan

I can understand it, but I don't agree with it: Greed, pride, self-love, and for a few perhaps some joy in killing. Hunters pretend it doesn't exist, but there is a perversion in some people and they get a sick kick out of hurting something.

chad guenter

I thank the man for his efforts. I hope he learns from this and is more discreet in the future. He should start a "gofundme" page to offset his fines. Many who wish to rid the GYE of an invasive specie would probably donate.

Jay Westemeier

It's obvious that the "responsible" hunters who reported your hero don't agree with you. And I bit my tongue when I said "responsible".

Eugene Kiedrowski

A real hero to you losers, huh.

Jonathan Wiedie

Chad, you're slightly delusional. Wolves aren't invasive species, they've been in this landscape far longer than we have. And maybe take a look around at this world we live in these days. WE are the invasive species.....7+ billion and counting.....no end in sight....the true cause of the vast majority of serious ills facing this planet.

The anti-wolf contingent spews how wolves have decimated elk numbers. Have any of you ever considered perhaps it's in part due to ever increasing loss of habitat on our part, among multiple other variables. Another classic anti-wolf sentiment is how vicious, barbaric, and indiscriminate killers wolves are. Again, take a look in the mirror. Humans are far worse in what they do to each other and almost every other species out there. On a daily basis. We need to be managed more than any other creature. THAT'S reality.

And I'm not even really that opposed to wolf hunting. They'll figure it out. And are far better survivors than we are.

Chad guenter

Mr. Weidie: The wolves transplanted to the GYE in the mid-90s from Northern Canada are not "native". They are a far larger sub species than the original wolves that were here. Saying they aren't an invasive species would be saying that Lake trout are invasive in Yellowstone lake because they are still a trout.
The Northern Yellowstone elk herd did not lose habitat when it's numbers were cut by 80% following the planting of the Canadian wolves.

Jay Westemeier

It makes no difference to the overall well being of the GYE what subspecies of wolf inhabits it. How many scientific and expert reports that totally debunk your belief have to be published before you realize and admit you're wrong. Your so-called smaller "native" wolf had the same social, territorial, hunting and feeding behaviors as the current ones.

Chad guenter

"""""had the same social, territorial, hunting and feeding behaviors as the current ones."""
But FAR more ability/advantage through greater size and strength. It's why they have weight classes in many sporting events, Mr. Westemeier, unfair advantage of larger over smaller.

Jay Westemeier

"But FAR more ability/advantage through greater size and strength. It's why they have weight classes in many sporting events, Mr. Westemeier, unfair advantage of larger over smaller".
I'm sorry, but I just have to shake my head and laugh.

Michael Grasseschi

I would not say Chad is slightly delusional-nope.. I have read everything you wrote here, Mr Guenther (and have also seen you chime in on this favored subject of yours in the past) and in the end none of it makes sense from either a scientific or human perspective. The truth is you are afraid of wolves, it all started with Little Red Riding Hood, I guess-?- crazy thought but there is actually some interesting studies done on why do many people 'hate' wolves, who in reality are about 100% less vicious than humans when you get right down to it-they only kill for food and survival, not for sport and religion, politics, jealousy, greed, stupidity, fear, and-need I go on?-And what about this maniac in the white house who is heading us towards nuclear war-!?-you get the pic, humans are far more crazy and vicious than wolves-but I digress! And now you just want to come up with every possible reason for killing them. Including promoting outright lies (Wolves as an invasive species? WTH? If so where did they come from? If you agree they came from Canada, then how can you say the border of Canada was something they observed before humans came along? In other words, they are from North America-and if you say they are from Europe, then how did they get here and when??? So Mr Guenther, where are they an invasive species from?? Please clarify. Speaking of invasive species: What about humans--?? As a truly 'invasive' species we do far more damage to the world, environment, and animal populations in general in all regards. In the end its all an excuse for killing something Chad inexplicably hates (though it often is generational) for no good reason. The last time a wolf killed a human in the US was 106 years ago. What exactly are these rabid wolf haters so afraid of then? And also one more thing: the managers of the Elk Refuge say there are more than 5000 elk too many there.... It does not sound like the 30,000+ elk in the GYE are in any danger whatsoever of being wiped out. And your argument that moose will be wiped out soon by the minuscule wolf population in the GYE-and area of over 22-35 million acres? Are you kidding? Wolves almost never kill moose-its too risky for them and when they do, its the same amazing thing that nature has been doing for million of years: predator species usually prey upon the young, weak, and old. In the end, this only increases the genetic strength of any prey species. This is science, and well known. So keep on trying to find excuse to kill wolves, Mr Guenther- the rest of us know that that is all it is.

Chad guenter

Where to start Mr. Grasseschi? You say you've read what I have posted in the past yet ignore what I said, in order to go on an ad hominem wall of text. I've answered all your questions in previous comments.

I simply disagree with your Opinions, Mr. Grasseschi.

Jay Westemeier

"Wolves that are poached during the legal hunting season count toward the hunting quotas in the area where they were shot. Neither Jackson Hole wolf poaching case applied in 2017, however, because one animal was killed before the season began and the other was gunned down after it had lapsed".
"Poaching the wolf did not cost the man his hunting privileges".
Explain how either of these ridiculous rules is beneficial to the wildlife or legal hunters. Any animal taken illegally should always count toward hunting quotas. That's the best incentive for legal hunters to report and turn in the idiots, and it also helps preserve the established wildlife population goals. Not releasing a poacher's name and allowing them to retain their hunting privileges are definitely not deterrents. It makes Wyoming look like a state that's not serious about enforcing its laws or preserving its wildlife.

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