JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - A Kelly big-game outfitter and avid wolf hunter trudged through the snow right past a boundary sign on his way to illegally shooting a female wolf inside Grand Teton National Park.
Gros Ventre Wilderness Outfitters owner Brian Taylor was pursuing wolves on closing day of the 2018 hunting season during a period when the federal government was shut down and some rangers were furloughed. It was a bitterly cold late afternoon in the Spread Creek drainage, Taylor told investigating park ranger Nick Armitage, when he led two hunting partners past one of the boundary sign posts while following wolf tracks that ascended from a bison hunter’s left-behind gut pile.
“I looked at them,” he told Armitage at his Kelly home the morning of Jan. 9. “I actually pointed them out to (redacted). I said, ‘There’s the park boundary.’”
Taylor, who did not respond to several interview requests for this story, told investigating rangers that he completely misjudged his location. He believed he was two straight-line miles to the east - the exact distance between Kmart and Redmond Street - and was exiting the park into the Bridger-Teton National Forest, according to the account.
But Taylor was crossing into the park, which is off-limits to wolf hunting, when he passed a single-sided vertical sign post that reads in slightly faded but clearly legible text, “US boundary NPS.”
Days earlier Armitage had followed Taylor’s boot tracks crossing a north-to-south boundary line and later visiting the kill site three-quarters of a mile inside the park boundary and the drag trail, clearly spelled out in the snow.
The above exchange was transcribed and included in an investigation report the Jackson Hole News&Guide; acquired through the Freedom of Information Act.
When Teton park officials publicized the Feb. 6 poaching, the case had already been adjudicated. Initially the Park Service withheld Taylor’s name, announcing only that a 56-year-old Wyoming man pleaded guilty to killing the wolf in the park, which resulted in a $5,000 fine and one-year suspension of wolf hunting privileges. When the News&Guide; asked for the shooter’s name, the Park Service declined to provide it. Taylor was identified by contacting a federal court clerk in Mammoth.
Taylor’s past proclamations of being a proud wolf hater have fueled doubt about whether he made an honest mistake.
The third-generation Jackson Hole rancher traveled to Cody last spring to implore the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to change the regulations to target more wolves where he runs cattle and hunts elk in the Gros Ventre. Game and Fish’s Deputy Chief of Wildlife Doug Brimeyer echoed the request, which was granted.
Along with his wife, Amy, Taylor killed two Gros Ventre wolves in 2017, but it took 30 to 40 days to punch the tags, he told commissioners at the time.
“We were hunting those wolves, and the more I was hunting those wolves the madder I got,” Taylor said. “I am well recognized as a wolf hater. I’ll cut right to the chase.”
Game and Fish revised its regulations so that hunters this season could target two wolves, instead of the one permitted in all previous seasons. Taylor appeared to take advantage of the rule change. He killed a wolf up the Gros Ventre, he told Armitage, and was planning to give one of the two pelts to one of his hunting clients. The Park Service later confiscated the poached wolf.
Along with two hunting partners whose identities the Park Service has withheld, Taylor followed the wolf tracks through patchy aspen to within approximately 200 yards of where he first glimpsed some animals from the Lower Gros Ventre Pack moving on the Eynon Draw ridgeline. Using backpacks as a gun rest for a .30-06, he fired a single shot at a gray female wolf, hitting her lethally through the ribs. Knowing the 14 wolves had already been killed in a zone where 15 was the cap, the party refrained from firing again.
That night Taylor phoned a Game and Fish warden to report the kill. He registered the wolf in person the following day, saying that it had been killed in a township just east of the park boundary, 2 miles from the true location.
“I feel like I’m killing myself,” he told Armitage. “At 56 years old, I didn’t plan on changing my life.
Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com