The gray wolf is among the most majestic and mysterious animals in the American West, and its successful reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park and recovery is one of the greatest conservation success stories of the last century.
When then-President Donald Trump’s “guy” in Montana — far-right former Rep. Greg Gianforte — became governor in 2020, the regulations controlling the killing of wolves in the state were almost completely erased. Since then, we’ve seen the bloodiest wolf hunt in more than 100 years.
In one season, roughly one out of every five wolves in Yellowstone was killed. One entire pack — the Phantom Lake pack — was completely wiped out. One wildlife biologist with more than 24 years of experience at Yellowstone called it “historic and catastrophic.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is reviewing an emergency petition to return the wolves to the Endangered Species Act — with a crucial deadline looming.
With another hunting season fast approaching, The Intercept’s team is digging deep to uncover the truth behind the bloodiest hunting season for Yellowstone wolves in 100 years — and what must be done to protect this iconic species from once again disappearing from the American West.
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Open season on the Yellowstone wolf began after Gianforte, the Trump-backed former tech CEO, was elected governor of Montana with the backing of anti-wolf interests like ranchers, trappers, trophy hunters, and outfitters.
Gianforte packed the key government bodies that set rules for wolf hunting with campaign donors and people with interests in liberalizing wolf hunts, replacing scientists and independent experts. Soon tactics once thought unthinkable like baiting wolves, snaring, and aerial hunting were legalized.
National Park Service employees have been investigated for collaborating with hunters just outside the park by sharing the location of wolves, raising the possibility that the Yellowstone wolf massacre has been at least in part an inside job.
To uncover the truth behind the Yellowstone wolf killings, The Intercept spent nearly eight months reporting out the story, reviewing hundreds of pages of internal state and federal records, and conducting interviews with current and former Yellowstone officials and members of the guiding and outfitting community in Southwest Montana.
With fewer than 100 wolves remaining and a new hunting season around the corner, this is an urgent story that has received far too little coverage from for-profit news outlets. The Intercept is continuing to investigate the ongoing decimation of the Yellowstone wolves to uncover the government malfeasance that led to this moment as well as the steps that can be taken by the Biden administration and others to save the wolf.
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