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. Lisa

    @Kenny – The wolves don't need to be controlled the people do! Put up better fences to protect your livestock people. Don't destroy and animal because it's simply doing what it needs to survive. All too often man's first response to a problem they perceive as a nuisance is to destroy whatever the cause of their inconvenience.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
    • BK

      Ain't it the truth

      February 18, 2011 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Lisa, if ranches were completely fenced in such a way that wolves couldn't pass through the fences it would be way more devastating for their population. The ranches can be hundred to thousands of acres and wildlife are found all over ranches. You do way less damage by shooting a wolf here or there than you do by blocking access to wildlife heards that would be fenced in or keep in mind a deer can easily clear an 8 foot fence, haven't seen that many wolves with hops like that.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • FirstResponder


      February 18, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. BK

    Let Kevin Costner handle it. He did OK with "Two Socks", until the army came along.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. Stick it

    Humans need to be controlled too. Why are we not doing anything about that?

    February 18, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Cherokee

      Because the wolves cannot speak for themselves.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Cherokee

      And besides, the government did their part in controling the humans. Look how well they've done with the Native American indians, ask them about government control........if you can find one.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      There are PLENTY of Native Americans in Montana, google the reservations there.
      And the US government saw to it that their population was well controlled.
      It's why we can identify ethnic cleansing so well, we're the world authority on it.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rob

    If this irresponsible cross grabbing bible belt idiot passes this law, I can only hope he gets caught in the cross fire.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Matthew

      Maybe you simply don't know where Montana is. Neither the state nor the state's governor belongs to that collective.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  5. Bluecrane

    What we need is an open season on "sportsmen" and "rednecks."

    February 18, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
    • CBGUS

      Hey blue crane please come on up to Montana and lets see how that works out for you. By the way not all of us are sportsman or red necks but can still shoot quit well when some big city idiot comes up here and tells us how to run our state.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      Come and try Moron

      February 18, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Don't tempt me. I'm also an excellent shot. And I am an excellent outdoorsman. Your tax dollars saw to that.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kenny

    Lisa, you too are clueless! "Build a better fence" Huh? Do you understand the size of our ranches? Perhaps you have a urban backyard, mayby 9 ft x 6 deck or backyard? Your backyard fits in my garage! When you own thousands of acres of land with livestock it would be a tad expensive to add a privacy fence! You are yet another city slicker with zero experience that feels compelled to share your thoughts...Come out and visit ID or MT and spend some time with your beloved wolves to see them in action. I can point you in the right direction. Maybe you will even see some of my animals killed in the process. Pretty fun to see them take out sheep...oh yes, and then not even bother to eat the animal, just kill it...

    February 18, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Lil Irish

      Deal with the losses Kenny. Raise your prices. I'm sure people would be willing to absorb the cost to retain the wolf. Stop thinning out the elk herds so the wolves have something else to eat.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Chicago

      Hey country Kenny, we have had an issue here with a growing coyote population coming in here in Chicago. Yes the city! You don't see us killing whole packs of them, we have learned how to catch and transfer the animals away from the population in a humane way. I guess the easy thing and less educated thing to do would be to "just shoot the beasts". Really? 319 in the whole state? Dosen't sound like a real problem. The real problem is uneducated people with guns killing off an endangered species.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Anthony Caudill

      Kenny don't worry... we won't need your livestock once synthetic meat is available. Then we'll take away your land so homes can be built on it.

      But don't worry, we'll give you a fair price. 😉

      February 18, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Chicago seriously shut up. First off you slaughter tons of coyotees. If you think they are simply moved and that is all you are nuts. I have worked in coyotee management and it is not that way at all. Second moving coyotees or wolves to other areas and making it someone elses problem isn't an answer either. I know Chicago tries to cast its problems on everyone else and inflate their own idea of grandeour to begin with so maybe it is your nature to be ignorant of facts. Also read the article, its 319 in NW MT. THats not a whole population study. Stop insulting a man that clearly lives and works in the area and knows what hes talking about. If you don't like the see it yourself evidence from a country boy, I am wildlife science educated city dweller and am more than aware of the exponential and unsustainable rise in the wolf. It is a lot like the coyotee or the alligator that we stopped hunting all together and have let sky rocketed into pest

      February 18, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. MacDaddy

    I pretty much think we can blame the blacks for this one. First they wanted rights then women and now animals.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. Michael

    How much more destruction do we need to bring to this world. Before dogs were mans best friend wolves helped humans rise from thebprimordial sludge we grew from. Save the animals save the wolves start going after the ignorant people who make laws like this

    February 18, 2011 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. Lil Irish

    Less than 500 wolves in our entire country and this yahoo wants to kill them off? THIS IS SO WRONG!!
    Here's an idea – have the ranchers build better barricades to protect their precious livestock that people eat.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      Look up the facts, just don't guess. Here are some facts: As of 2009 there are a minimum of 835 wolves, 94 packs of which 49 are considered breeding packs. About 1,500 are found in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Lil Irish

      I have looked up facts. I am a biologist dummy. There are fewer than 500 wolves in the entire United States. Deal with the losses to your livestock. Every business deals with losses.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      Irish, if you are a "wildlife Biologist" then where did you study? Perhaps a community college in upper Maryland? Look up the numbers from a credible are 100% WRONG. Shame on you especially given your profession. You should present factual information. You have no idea and only add to the "poor little grey wolf" issue. There are an issue. They kill, kill, kill and yes to survive of course but they are killing our livestock, deer, elk, etc. and we see them killing and not eating the animals? I am sure as a biologist you have first hand knowledge (sure you do, ha ha)...I'm just a rancher, no real world experience right?

      February 18, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
    • BK

      Every Business deals with losses is certainly true. Mine was broken into my Hispanics last year and I lost $2 to $3,000.00 worth of goods. Maybe we should have open season on Hispanics. Maybe this is not the best analogy, but you get the idea.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Are you the same biologist that told many people that the mountain lions they saw was some guy breeding wild cats together? Or the one who lies about the numbers so the DNR do not need to do their job and create a management plan?

      February 18, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Lil Irish, I studied at Virginia Tech and I know that you obviously didn't study biology if you think there is only 500 wolves total. If there is 319 in a part of one state and all the neigboring states harbour wolves you should know there is no way there is only 500. You should also know that now days are estimates are always under estimates due to fears we will repeat the actions of the past. There is a conservative estimate of 600 wolves in MT and about 1,500 in three states alone as Kenny states. There could be as many as 2K wolves in the USA

      February 18, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  10. Wzrd1

    I find it fascinating that a governor seems to think he outranks the government of the United States of America.
    By signing that letter, he literally announced that he will not comply with not one, but TWO branches of the federal government.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      The PREZ is out of touch. Keep him in DC.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. huxley

    The Federal government should just subsidize all livestock losses due to wolf kills. Reimbursing for a loss of 300 livestock a year would cost around $100,000, which is a drop in the bucket to help save an endangered species. Afterall, we already pay billions in farm and energy subsidies to large profitable companies. I think we could spare $100,000 to save the North American wolf population.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. MacDaddy

    I think we can blame the blacks for this one. First the want rights then women and now anmials. Its all crap.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. MoneyDomme

    Two words for these livestock ranchers who lose sheep to wolves. Great Pyrenees.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • JFWilder

      Really? I'm all for protecting, but dog fur and dog chops instead of lamb chops and wool? 😉

      February 18, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      OMG I couldnt agree MORE! Get some dogs to protect the herds. They do better than any helicopter . Wloves wont even go near herds with dogs around them. LOVE the working dogs.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. Episodes

    The wolves being introduced back in the wild is a good idea but I don't think it is fair for the ranchers to have to pay the
    price for the wolves presence through lost live stock.Seems to me like the taxpayers should have to compensate
    the ranchers for their losses. And maybe the ranchers could do something to protect their more prized or valuable
    animals,like enclosed pens.
    Just a thought.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Hilo, HI

      Ranchers graze herds on Federal Land -OURS -Free and Clear of any charges.
      The tax-payers have already done too much for the big wigs of the meat industry.

      These 'ranches' are corporate owned businesses w/ huge lobbying power, not lone cowboys-good stewards on family land.

      Lax regulation has led to , among other things, cattle waste contaminated crops which has spread diseases that have killed humans.

      This might be more about satisfying wolf and elk hunters, or something else we don't know yet, a State vs Fed laws battle. Why did the governor invite so much trouble over such a small problem? More livestock are killed in other ways.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. seabeau

    CBGUS ,Kenny , I agree with the two of you totally! These city slickers would't know a collie from a cyote.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
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