Montana governor authorizes wolf kills
Gray wolves are at the center of long-running tensions between Montana ranchers and the federal government.
February 17th, 2011
03:32 PM ET

Montana governor authorizes wolf kills

Entire packs of endangered gray wolves may be killed under new directives from Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Schweitzer ordered wildlife officers not to investigate or prosecute ranchers who shoot wolves that attack livestock, and he authorized the killing of entire packs that endanger livestock or elk.

The Democratic governor outlined his initiative Wednesday in a defiant letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a copy of which was published on Schweitzer's website.

"At this point, I can do nothing less and still maintain my commitment as Governor to uphold the rights of our citizens to protect their property and to continue to enjoy Montana's cherished wildlife heritage and traditions," Schweitzer wrote.

Montana livestock producers are frustrated over rules that protect wolves, which were hunted to near-extinction in the early 20th century.

Gray wolves killed livestock at a rate of one animal per day in 2009, including 148 sheep in one herd in August that year, the Missoulian newspaper reported.

Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for the Department of Interior, told the Missoulian that wolf management should be turned over to states with approved management plans.

"But the governor's letter is not the answer," she added.

"It's unnecessarily heavy-handed," said Mike Leahy, director of the Rocky Mountain region for Defenders of Wildlife. "Any concerns that wolves create can be addressed in a targeted fashion, and there's no reason for states to start whacking wolves in large numbers."

"The frustration over wolf impacts on the ground is overblown," he added. "These are impacts that are manageable."

Gray wolves were listed as an endangered species in 1973. They were briefly delisted in 2009, but a 2010 federal court order put them back on the list (PDF), and the federal government issued a rule in October to comply with the order.

Montana's two U.S. senators, Democrats Max Baucus and Jon Tester, introduced legislation last week to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list.

As of December 2009, there were 319 wolves in the Northwest Montana population zone (PDF), 173 of them adults, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There were 106 in the Yellowstone National Park population zone (PDF), where wolves were reintroduced as an experiment in the mid-1990s.

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Filed under: Animals • Environment • Montana • Nature • Politics • U.S. • Wolves
soundoff (1,003 Responses)
  1. Wolfman

    The last time I checked, the killing of an endangered animal was a federal crime, even if deemed legal by state law.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kristy Howard-Clark

      When the Federal Government fixes the economy by returning power to the people so that they can create jobs then the Federal Government will have the right to regulate the care of wolves. In this economy every cow, pig, sheep, goat, chicken, etc. count. Most of the muckity mucks in the Federal Government have never been on a farm and they have no idea what it takes to protect the food source.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • duder

      You are correct but your comment has no relevance because the gray wolf is not endangered, or even threatened for that matter.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • douglas

      Taking livestock at a rate of 1 per day. Big deal. This tens of thousands of livestock. Once again greed over national treasures. What a disgrace.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • TerryT

      Sounds good. Commit a federal crime, get shot.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Albert

      Interesting. It was Pres. Nixon who signed in the EPA. The people in charge of the Endangered Species Act. But on the science side. It is always stupid to kill an Apex Predator. In the end, this Governor will lose his Elk. How? Over population, diseases, etc.. In Yellowstone, the Wolf reintroduction saved many different species. Both plants and animals. Plants growing in the lakes were pressured to near extinction due to the Moose eating them all day. The wolf changed that habit. The moose stopped eating all day long in the lakes and started only eating during the mornings and late afternoon. They didn't want to be a wolf target. If you take an animal out of the system, you run the chance of losing the whole system. Want healthy Elk, Moose and Deer? Keep the Wolf.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • MTbiologist

      Albert, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, not the EPA, has authority over ESA listed species. Your point about moose eating lake plants is so off the mark that it's laughable. Wolves have made a marked change in elk behavior, resulting in considerably less pressure on willows, aspens, and other deciduos woody species.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      last I checked defending yourself, your property and your livelihood was completely legal.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
    • mightbe

      kill the creature if you see him kill the animal. dont touch if not.

      if your not willing to watch over your animals at night, its free picking

      February 18, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg2600

      The Montana Ranchers are not on their own property. Their livestock travels and grazes on public lands.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      @mightbe: By that same logic, if you're not willing to watch over your office at night, it's "free pickings" on that too? You are talking about people's livelihoods. How would you feel if ranchers got to tell you what you can and can't do to protect yours?

      February 18, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • myklds have a point, but not to the point that a wolf kills one of our livestock before taking an action. Just a reminder, if you see a wolf or a couple or a pack in your farm, they are not there to be your pet; or to have a (post) valentine date; or to have a healthy walk. They are there to HUNT. So you better get your shotgun and blow them out from your farm before they could kill a single live stock.

      Wolf is a wild animal, they should stay in the wild and protected.

      Kill them to protect your livestock? yes, but for hunting? NO!

      February 18, 2011 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Reality

      I thanking that it was just a typo maybe the fed gov just was not keeping a good eye on the situation. You know that State level does all the bean counting of the species. They new they had to thin them out but were not going in without the Gov of state approval.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hemnebob

    horrible, horrible.
    the karmic effect of your decision will come back to you in large volumes.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality

      I agree the charma but i thank the Gov of the state is strong enough to take the heat for his state he is a brave man how is doing the rite thing.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Daniel

    Both of Montana's U.S. Senators, Max Baucus and Jon Tester, are Democrats. This article erroneously referred to Jon Tester as a Republican. As a frequent reader, I expect an organization like CNN to be able to report basic information like this accurately. Disappointing.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kristy Howard-Clark

      You are right, Daniel, and it is now time for the news media to quit making fun of the culture of the citizens of the United States.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grateful I'm Not Dead

      This is what I have come to expect from most of our news outlets. Professional journalism is all but history. It won't surprise me to see headline like this before long: mt gov oks wolf kilz

      February 18, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. Greg

    Did I read the article correctly? Entire packs can be killed for endangering elk? Does Gov. Brian Schweitzer know anything about wildlife? Newsflash Brian, wolves eat elk, and when there are no wolves, elk reach dangerous population densities. That endangers the entire ecosystem. You must look beyond a few elk and sheep to realize that wolves are keystone species that protect the health of Montana ecosystems.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charles in Charge

      Sure, but until the wolves hire lobbyists to contribute to the Governor's re-election campaign, he'll continue to not give a damn.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zane

      How the hell do wolves protect the health of montana ecosystems and r u even from montana, prob a new york city slicker

      February 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Zane, if by city slicker you mean that I can read, then guilty as charged. I bet I could also out hike, out climb, and out survive you in wolf territory. Check out this article as 1 of many articles published on the topic. Maybe you and Brian could read a few published reports, or observe for yourselves what happens when there are too many elk, and learn that wolves are keystone species. With education, you would want to protect them too. Healthy ecosystems are more important than a few damaging, non-native sheep and cows. Here's the reference: Beschta, Robert L. 2003. COTTONWOODS, ELK, AND WOLVES IN THE LAMAR VALLEY OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK. Ecological Applications 13:1295–1309.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • jen

      Wolves dont help manage the population of elk. Wolves dont kill for food they kill for sport, and all the meat from the animals killed by wolves is wasted. Hunters are the ones to best manage the elk population and the wolf population. Thats why we have hunting seasons. The last few years the elk numbers and dropped drastically and there has been more wolf sign, in all areas that i hunt in . Learn your facts!!

      February 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Waya

      @jen so wolves kill for sport huh? Are you that brain dead to even think to post something so untrue. There are carcasses left behind true but were you there when that kill happened? Did you stop to think of all of the different scenarios that could of taken place? You do know that animals contend for food right? You do know most animals fear humans right? (scared from kill sights) Yet the huntards decided to pin this on sport activity. Do yourself a favor and learn about animals especially wolves before you come in here and suggest such a untrue acts.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wilbur T. Cobb

      I'm fixin to go get me a 12 pack of PBR , a couple cans of Copenhagen and about 100 hundred rounds of .223 for my AR-15 and go have me some fun shootin them goll-dang wolves. Yee-haww!!! Cowboy-up!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kristy Howard-Clark

      No you did not read this one right, Greg, the wolves can be shot if they are attacking livestock on farms. Livestock are the food source for the people in Montana and other parts of the country. Of course if you are prepared to live off of beans and rice and give up your McDonald's burgers it would be okay to allow the wolves to kill and eat up the livestock that farmers are raising to feed the public.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • azreal

      You would be correct to the fact that predators are healthy for the ecosystem...... but the wolf population is recovered in the state and without a proper management system in place the wolves themselves would reek havoc on the ecosystem which they already are in certain areas of the state decimating important game herds as well as live stock

      February 17, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Montana girl

      Greg, You must live in New York City!

      February 17, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sterling Archer

      Jen, I would personally like to pat you on the back for the "talking out my @$$" post of the year. I know, we are only 2 months in to 2011, but I think you made it near impossible to top even part of what you said there. Kudos to you. 2nd Place Winner: Zane....keep your chin up buddy.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • shawn

      @jen and zane. Try graduating from third grade before you post. 1. Wolves kill what they can eat. They don't kill for sport. Man does. Wolves are a natural part of the environment in Montana. People aren't. Wolves pick off weak, sick, or old animals for the most part, thinning the herd and keeping populations under control. Take some college classes, or at the very least some high school biology/ecology. Or try growing up on a farm like I did. Idiots.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
    • 4th Gen Montanan

      Anyone that doesn't support this decision obviously doesn't know anything about wolves or Montana. And yes Waya wolves do kill for sport (try using this thing called Google to look it up), in addition to killing for food. Killing was what they were made to do. I have friends and relatives all over Montana and have hunted here my whole life. The wolves have decimated Elk herds and Deer populations in Montana compared to just 10 years ago. They must be regulated to maintain a healthy ecosystem, especially since they don't have a natural predator (except humans). Governer Schweitzer actually listened to the residents of Montana and took action when the Federal Government would not.
      Sterling time try to post something productive.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  5. Christina

    Good! About time that governor learned how bad those furries really are. A bunch of children stalkers in their dog and wolf costumes, how perverted can you be?! I say kill the wolves and the people who pretend to be them so they can touch children bits while they get hugs!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Waya

      Christina I had to jump in here and respond to your comment. I feel the same as most individuals in here. Montana and other sportsmen,ranching pocket dwellers do inflate numbers to trick american people into thinking that wolves are the enemy. The studies are mostly done by company furnished biologist who will twist the truth in their favor. We as americans need to stand up to these people and protect one of the masterpieces of nature the wolf.

      @christina your comment is saddening. That can only come from a mind that is not fully developed and never will be.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sandy

    319 wolves and only 173 adults in the entire state? pay the ranchers for the d... sheep and let's keep this magnificent animal resource viable. Killing entire families is beyond comprehension. But we know this is a ranching state and the rancher is king. Killing 148 sheep in one herd in August is also unlikely and probably overblown. That is one sheep per adult, almost. Not likely. Time for the feds to step in and conduct a true study of what is going on here. These resources belong to all Americans, regardless of the location.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clay

      Not the entire state, the Northwest Montana Population Zone, it's even highlighted, way to go.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rich

    Democrat or Republican, doesn't matter what the Senators are, they are both in the pocket of the big farming industry; there is a reason they are also looking to start killing Buffalo under the excuse of not letting a disease (that has never gone from buffalo to cattle)spread. It's all about money.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Roger

    @ Greg:
    It's all about the farmers and the hunters; no elk=no profits from hunters and licenses to hunt. Look at Alaska and their shooting of wolves that they did because they needed more hunters up there and wanted more deer and caribou; kill the wolf and without predators the numbers increase and so does the revenue. Palin isn't a biologist but she sure knows her $$$$$$.

    @ Christina: You are funny and proof that Montana needs more people to stop the inbreeding.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. WolfHunters!


    We cannot support Montana if they support hunting of animals in this severity

    Please post how you feel on this pro-wolf-hunter and her website!! We have to convince them that this is wrong and will not be tolerated!!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      U people have no clue what you are even talking about you keep saying bad things about montana and going on about something you dont even know what you are talking about. The last time montana had another state step in and say this is how you should do this it killed millions of trees places that were beautiful are now bare because people r dumb and dont look at the bigger pic. What were our forests way to beautiful for you? Inbreeding huh well I have been all over the united states and a few other countries and all i can do is lauph at that one because all you have to do is head down south and you will clearly see what inbreeding really is

      February 17, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Gary

    This is inexcusable. I think we can spare a few sheep to preserve a species. Elk are wolve's natural food and unlike human hunters, wolves are smart enough to take down the sick and weak, thereby helping the herd to stay healthy. The governor should focus his attention on real issues like illegal immigrants, job creation and drug abuse. Leave the wildlife alone. In the meantime, Montanna is off my list of places to visit. I'll keep my tourism dollars for more sensible states.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mt

      "Montanna [sic] is off my list of places to visit." Thankyou.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • wolflover

      i for one am against the killing of wolves they are beautiful creatures and they do have to hunt to eat and as for endangered if that wasnt true the feds would not have put them on the list and as for the comment about southerns being INBREEDS bet you dont come south much if ya did and i knew you were in the state of ky heaven forbid i ever meet you cryssi learn before you speak about the south i always said montana was gods place but lady you make me want to never go to montana again with your comment about the south and inbreeding SAVE THE GREY WOLVES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
    • gioiamt

      And let me tell you what a problem we have with illegal immigrants here in "Montanna".....wheweee!

      February 18, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • guest from montana

      reply to shawn.
      Wolves kill for pleasure. review an article by the missoulian last year. 125 prize ram sheep were lost in one long day with only kill bites. all carcasses were intact.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      I live down south and have for years wolflover. My comment was wrong and i will gladely bow down and addit that.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      o because we kill a few wolves what state r u from ?

      February 18, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      ya the state of ky really lol

      February 18, 2011 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bob

    Environmentalists have been more than willing to risk a range war over wolf delisting , now they have it.
    The longer the Defenders of Wildlife / Earth Justice / CBD / USUSA, et. al. lawyers delay, the higher the stakes will go.
    Is it about their love for wolves or their lust for legal fees? .

    February 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. martin weaver

    thank you thank you .governer Brian for finally taking hold of the wolf situtation.
    maybe we can still save our precious elk herd. wolfs are not and never were endangered.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Waya

      Our precious elk herd? The hunter's precious elk herd? You own nothing in nature and nature should be the one to handle it like she did for hundreds of thousands of years. rancher, hunter or whatever it was the wolves land before you. You guys have been bamboozled by your public officials to think that wolves are creating these problems. Learn the true facts before you decide to make an idiotic comment here.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Waya hater

      If you knew the facts you would be embarrassed of your comment. I think its time you start learning the facts. I recommend hiking all over Montana for the next 3 years to count the wolves face to face and see if they don't hunt you for sport!

      February 18, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. Flint Rock

    Personally, I'm against the wanton and indiscriminate slaughter of entire wolf packs. I also realize that others may disagree with me. Sooooooo . . . why can't this "knuckle-headed " pack of "public servants" hold public hearings and, if appropriate, come up with a compromise i.e.hunting by professional hunters to selectively control the wolf population.

    BTW there are plenty of spectacular states to visit – I just removed one from my list.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Darrin G

    What is it about people who want to kill wild animals because they are thought of as "nuisances", if this were being done to mankind there would not be many of us left. LEAVE THE ANIMALS ALONE!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jackal&jester

    I find it funny that 148 sheep in the same herd.can be killed without them learning a lesson or two. I would figure after you lost 10 or so you would try to avoid the area

    February 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nowletssee

      Really Jackal? you think herds of sheep are running wild and the rancher does not keep them in the same area? They are free to wander the entire state like the wolves can? Really?

      February 18, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
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