JACKSON — Celebratory social media posts tipped off authorities to a trio of Montana mountain lion hunters who illegally killed a tomcat in Yellowstone National Park.
Photos shared via Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, including publicly accessible images, were deleted, but not before other hunters recognized the landscape and alerted game wardens. While pressing 19-year-old hunter Corbin Simmons about the incident during a Jan. 10 interview, Yellowstone special agent Jake Olson explained what led him to the case.
“You know, we ended up getting a lot of this information from a guy in Bozeman off of Facebook,” Olson said, “’cause you guys put a bunch of stuff on social media.”
The law enforcement ranger lectured the young hunter, explaining that free-running hound dogs giving chase to lions accidentally cross into Yellowstone with some regularity and the right thing to do when that happens is to report the incursion and leave the treed cat unscathed.
“Obviously, that’s where the major error occurred here,” Olson said. “You guys have to police yourself out there. You gotta do this right.”
He scolded Simmons for fueling anti-hunting sentiments and feeding calls for a no-hunting buffer zone around Yellowstone, where National Park Service policies prohibit killing terrestrial wildlife.
The above exchange comes from a transcript included in an investigation report that led to the conviction of Austin Peterson, Trey Junhke and Simmons, all either 19 or 20 years old and from Livingston, Montana.
Yellowstone officials publicized the case after it had been adjudicated in May, but park officials declined to make law enforcement officers available for an interview or answer follow-up questions about details in their press release. The News&Guide obtained investigation documents, which are public records, through a Freedom of Information Act request.
By Mike Koshmrl
Jackson Hole News&Guide Via Wyoming News Exchange