Hunters killed a record 25 Yellowstone wolves last season, a figure that represents one-fifth of the park's wolf population and is more than double the previous high of a decade ago. As a deep dive at the Intercept explains, newly relaxed rules on hunters instituted by Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte is a big reason. But the investigation by Ryan Devereaux focuses on one particular aspect of the count—allegations that some Yellowstone rangers improperly hunted wolves themselves or fed inside information about the animals' whereabouts to hunters. Devereaux reveals that two separate investigations (by the National Park Service and state officials) are underway into the shooting of a collared wolf known as 1233 by Brian Helms, who was a ranger at the time but has since retired. Helms acknowledges killing the wolf, off duty, and insists he did not nothing illegal or unethical.
Using documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, Devereaux reports that investigators are trying to determine whether Helms shot the wolf after the legal cutoff for such hunting at 5:59pm and whether the wolf might actually have still been inside the park's border at the time and thus off limits. But while the story digs into the details of wolf 1233's death, it also takes a much broader look at the longstanding divide between hunters who advocate the killing of as many wolves as possible (often using hunt photos to taunt those who disagree) and researchers who say the wolves must be better protected to keep Yellowstone's ecosystem operating as it should. The issue has become political as well; former President Trump is a strong advocate of the Montana governor's aggressive pro-hunter push. (Read the full story.)