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. Pat

    How about rounding up the ranchers? They raise animals on public land for free, so they can go to a horrible death in a slaughter house to be eaten by stupid humans that than makes them sick – heart disease and cancer from eating meat ? But, no they want to kill that beautiful animal the Wolf that helps keep nature in balance. They kill the bears, mountain lions, eagles, coyotes and move the wild horses all in the name of room for cattle – ENOUGH!

    February 18, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Rlpdub

      Seriously? Have you ever lived where there are animals besides your cats?

      February 18, 2011 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. Killer

    I am not encouraged by much of the evidence, and thought proceses, represented here. first yellowstone wolf studies are conducted in a controlled environment nicely suited for control groups in actual studies, second I would like to validate the number of sheep a wolf can kill, here in ID i have seen firsthand 40 sheep killed by 5 wolves in less than 2 hours, we had to move some of the dead off the highway. I say our grandpas saw fit to kill them indescriminately, and the ecosystem did not collapse from their absence of 80 or so years. wolves are neat to look at in pictures but I have no use for them until they get a taste for weak humans. to all those who are repulsed by my mindset, aproach me with your distaste in the woods ill show you the way of the wolf, and leave your scraps for the birds and cayotes.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Bull your comment is all full of BS nonsense data.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      Big deal, you are compensated for it.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Voice of Reason

      Oh please! I can hear "deliverance" playing in the background as I read your post. "Cayotes" ... learn how to spell ... or read for that matter. Interesting that you saw 40 dead sheep by the highway. Please explain to me how 170 adult Wolves (remember the total in the article includes pups) spread out all over the entire state were able to congregate and kill 40 sheep in 2 hours!?!! Wolves have a territory of at least 30 miles per breeding pair. Surely, there must be some intelligent people in Montana willing to speak out here. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR GOVERNOR AND STOP THIS SENSELESS INITIATIVE!

      February 18, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  3. dave

    they only kill the weak and old or sometime young. but when there gone they gone tried building one from stratch.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  4. uuuduud

    sure, kill the wolves so there will be more cows to be used for steaks to feed 300lb fat ass american women

    February 18, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      LMAO so true!

      February 18, 2011 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
    • jmacc77

      Love me a good steak... shame the steroids and growth hormones change the flavor and the way the meat cooks up.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jason

    You know killing is not the answer! These ranchers can make their fences higher, or install electrical fencing to secure their herds of sheep of what have you. I live by Yosemite, and no one is out here killing Grizzly bears because they're stealing food from camp grounds! The answer should always be conservation, maybe the Montana Governor will allow people to hang out of helicopters and shoot them like Palin does. That way who ever shoots a Wolf can call themselves an American.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
    • collins61

      Hey Vegan, shut your tomato hole.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Hilo, HI

      FENCES? The ranchers graze -Free and Clear -on FEDERAL LAND....OURS.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
  6. nw mt resident

    jason that would be because there are no grizzly's in yosemite

    February 18, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  7. hey

    they should have to eat the wolves and wear their fur

    February 18, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      like people do with every other animal lol

      February 18, 2011 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. ***dude***

    I own property and I will protect. Period.
    If bear,wolves, snakes, etc, are found on my property today, tomorrow you will find them mounted on my wall

    February 18, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jae

    In my opinion the state has not done proper management to keep the wolves from getting into heards. Which is why ranchers have to right to protect their property. I can tell you right now if your livelihood depended on the live stock that these wolves are killing you would be singing a much different tune. Do you complain when prices go up? Do you understand what happens when ranchers make no money?! Damn right the rancher is king when he feeds you! Until you walk a mile you don't have the right to sit in your ivory towers and judge. To make a living regardless of what you do, its a fight. Wolves have their place just not eating up our profit. If all they were eating and destroying is elk there would be no problem. We shoot coyotes if they become a problem- when they eat a new born calf before its had a chance to walk, when they take down a heard of sheep in a month, you don't find the fact that these animals are so blood thirsty sad? How about we leave out the sad, and look at the realistic black and whites. Everyone is so sympathetic to a vicious animal. Yet fails to see we cannot be profitable without the proper management of these animals and I tell you a bullet is much cheaper than a "better fence" and our bullets don't 'stray' we aim to hit and we don't miss. If the state has a brilliant idea to regulate it then why is it not already in place? Why did it have to come to this. Its not a ranchers fault for making a living.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. Max Lopez

    Gray wolves were there before humans! they deserve a piece of land to live happy...

    February 18, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      How about your backyard then Max?????

      February 18, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Max Lopez

      Why don't you move to another state and leave these poor animals alone. Like i said they've been here way before we got here. I live in Montana they don't bother me. Do you understand? they (the gray wolf) belong to the state of Montana for generations you and me probably a couple of generations.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. me

    okay. so to anyone on here who is saying that the ranchers/farmers, or really anyone who complains about the wolves should stop whining and move because we are encroaching on "their land." guess what? no matter where you live or how you live you're living where wild animals used to. you pushed them out of their natural habitat. so until you figure out a way to live on this planet without affecting the natural evironment at all shut up and let us handle our business and you handle yours.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      Thank you

      February 18, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  12. Rlpdub

    All I have to say is this next year there will be a select number of tags of wolves and I'll be applying for one. Wish me good luck. If I shoot one I'll post a pic on here for all you lovers to see how much fun I had on the hunt. Hahah

    February 18, 2011 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  13. ***dude***

    Hey me, what is "our business"?

    February 18, 2011 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      r u that dumb ?

      February 18, 2011 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
    • me

      I really didn't think it was that hard to understand but i'll draw it in crayon and on some cardboard for ya. our business is anything that happens in our state, on our land, in our back yards. your business is anything that happens in your state, your land, your back yard. you worry about yours and let us worry about ours. that explain it for ya?

      February 18, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. Brandon

    You fools that think you have the right ideas about managing these wolves are not very bright, taller fences, electric fences and such things, they will not stop wolves from getting livestock. You city folks have probably never heard of open range (except maybe the movie) Go back into your nice little houses in the big city because this issue does not concern you. When you live out here in the west and see all of the animals killed by wolves, livestock and wild game it is incredible, the wolves kill for sport NOT for food, these packs are at the top of the food chain, they are eating more and having larger litters because there is nothing to slow them down except humans. These wolves are not native to the areas that they were introduced and now they are encroaching into towns and cities and killing family pets. Huge herds of elk and deer have been reduced to almost nothing, if you want to see wildlife in the years to come you better let them take care of the wolf population or they will be all you see.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      How about you try to use your mind for once instead of slander. Oh yeah you are not very bright people up there which is why guns are your only answer.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. Zac

    To all people who do not live in Montana........SHUT UP. Until you truely understand.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      We understand that you are not the most intelligent populous in this great country. You just proved it.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Max Lopez

      I can tell, you all are a bunch of ranchers trying to kill the poor dogs in the state of Montana but, can you just give them a piece of land? like the one in Wyoming, Yellow Stone?????

      February 18, 2011 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      Ranchers are sucking on the Governments Teet.

      It's welfare.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
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