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. oops my bad

    I'll make sure I shoot your prized German Shepherd for looking at my cat with carnivore eyes. Fuc4ing 1d1ots.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dot

    I am a hunter, but this is just a poor management strategy. Wolves will soon be extinct in Montana. I agree ranchers have a right to protect their property and livestock, but this legislation goes above and beyond what is necessary.

    I understand the damage that wolves and other predators can cause if their population is unchecked, but I would still like to see a viable population exist in the wild and it would be a shame to loose them all – and I have a feeling this legislation will result in unchecked wolf hunts to statewide extinction.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
    • WeWillKillThemAll

      Yes, I definitly believe that left in the hands of ranchers and locals, open season will be the downfall of the wolf. I bet that many don't care about wolf population numbers and some actually want to end them entriely them if possible.

      Whatever the number is, 500 – 3000, it's still a low number for any type of species. If any type of culling needs to be done, leave the current penalties for killing endangered species in place for civilians and let scientists with government approval conduct the culling. Giving civilians free rights to slaughter (and many will do just that) wolves is the wrong idea.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Hilo, HI

      Good posts. I always hear this 'for the Greater Good' justification.....then I see people drooling at the chance to kill something they don't normally get to with no awareness or regard for the serious problems wildlife faces.
      They give hunters the bad rep.

      Like I posted earlier, TRUTH, I lived in MT. There is a wealthy resort ranch which illegally keeps a herd of 'wild' elk for big wigs to hunt on their land. Workers have told me that herd is practically tame..... game park hunter types also give hunters a bad rep. (On big cat ranches, they'll even drug the animals for you first.....what loser feels accomplished for bagging that?)

      This wolf hunt may have to do w/ those types expanding their playground.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. seabeau

    Chicago ,The only thing that your city is doing is transferring the problem to others. Typical liberal responce. "The Liberals Delimma, Murder the Innocents (Abortion) and Pardon the Murders(Anti-Capital Punishment).

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

      This is not an abortion debate, you right-winging sack.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. MacDaddy

    Each state holds the right to govern itself. They do this for they same reason the colonies did the no taxation without repesentaion. So some city government can't make laws for a state inwitch he/she knows little about.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Daffy

    "Wabbit season!"

    February 18, 2011 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Bugs

      Duck Season!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. Anthony Caudill

    This is a full scale states rebellion against the federal government. Obama had better get his head out of his ass, because the union is falling apart.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Obama has no ability to control it, and he shouldn't. The powers not explicitly provided to the federal government are the responsibility of the states. Throughout history the federal government overstepped its bounds and has increased its role exponentially. The problem with that? The issues facing CA aren't the same as the issues facing VA or FL and can't be addressed properly by a government hundreds to thousands of miles away with no real recognition of said problems. Strong local and state governments are key, look at the Dutch. Their national government folded and yet things are still being maintained fairly well, due to the efficiency of their local governments.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Grump-E

      Mike...I agree with you. As for the original poster, he's probably got one of those stills somewhere and has been on the watch for those durned revinoooers wanting to come and take it away. After too much of his own hootch, he thinks the sky is falling.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bugs

    "Duck season!"

    February 18, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      "HONK"

      February 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Heather

    As a top predator, wolves are a very important part of the ecosystem. They take part in a delicate balance in nature, and overhunting of wolves upsets that balance. I understand killing the occasional wolf to protect livestock, but people should not be allowed to kill whole packs because they are perceived as a threat. Instead of allowing wolf hunting again and undoing all of the hard work of bringing back an endangered species, perhaps the government should look into better livestock protection and reimbursement of livestock losses (like what huxley mentioned).

    February 18, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  9. lsm

    I should have posted my earlier comments instead of using reply

    lsm

    I absolutely agree there are entirely too many humans. The human gene pool needs to be chlorinated. I'd start with all the humans who don't accept the fact that humans have evolved to the top of the animal chain. If you live under a roof, wear clothes, eat anything at all I'd agree you are ARE part of the problem. Perhaps you would be compelled to do the right thing and be part of the solution. I'm sure the wolf doesn't know the difference between sheep meat, or human meat. As A matter of fact it probably all tastes like chicken

    February 18, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Bugs

      Ok...then please off yourself in some remote place where the wolves can find and eat you without any further trouble. We will all enjoy the world "chlorenated" of you.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  10. Andy

    As always, lots of people who know nothing about it trying to tell other people what they should accept. First, there are not "500 wolves in our entire country!!!". There are 500 wolves in Yellowstone and the Montana zone. Alaska has 1 or 2, so I'm told. Use your heads.

    Second, the issue is refusal of the granola eating, city dwelling California crowd to compromise in any way. Red-listing wolves under ESA means they can't be managed in any way. No one can lawfully take ANY action that is going to harm them or their "critical habitat.". So ranchers are told they have to sit there and watch while wolves kill livestock. Of course they're angry. The size or scope of the actual damage caused by wolves is irrelevant. They feel their livelihood is under attack by people in Washington (and they're probably right). This measure by the governor is the last resort to prevent the prosecution of ranchers who protect their livestock. If congress hadn't foolishly intervened Montana would have a functional wolf population management plan that we could argue about. Instead, the dolts in D.C. handed Montana an ultimatum: "do nothing at all, or declare open season.". Well Montana is calling their bluff. So now it's up to the bozos in Washington to figure out if they want a workable, sustainable wolf population in Montana or if they want completely protected, untouchable wolves that, incidentally, have been exterminated.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      the thing is...is that ranchers DONT sit there and watch their livestock being "stocked" by wolves. They kill wolves-just because it COULD BE a threat. So dont go there...Ranchers need to toughen up a bit and be more creative about protection...like dogs protecting the herd. As long as there is a demand for beef, lamb ect...the ranchers wont have a problem recovering monies to train dogs to protect packs...come on

      February 18, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    you guys attacking Kenny obviously know nothing about wolf populations or ecosystem management as a whole. There is 319 wolves in one part of Montana that is closely monitored. There could be as many as one thousand wolves in the state (conservative estimates put it between 5-600). Wolves are small pack animals with wide ranges, they are not zebra or antelope that group in massive amounts. They feed on big game and that many wolves in a single state is devastating to livestock and game that maintain the livelihood of the people. The whole artic fox and hare model of once the hare's numbers are dwindling the fox will drop and the hare will recover, doesn't really apply when the livelihood of the people also depend on the survival of the game. Unless you live in Costa Rica or a remote island and do not eat any livestock, you have no business to judge MT for hunting a wolf, given most states have activities far more hurtful to the ecosystems that encompass their area. Hunting is not the same as mass hunting. Shooting a wolf that goes after your sheep or small cattle is not the same as being allowed to go out and set traps for them all over the state. Its the same issue people had with restarting alligator hunting, and no significantly negative impact has resulted from that endeavor either.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      Mike I agree with you if the world and everyone was perfect. The problem is...that a lot of ranchers just kill wolves when they see them, not even trying to hunt in their livestock herds. Its not reported ect....

      February 18, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I can't speak to MT's punishments for game violations but in VA its hefty. Serious fines, confiscation of rifles etc. I would hope that MT wouldn't just allow it and then not follow up and evaluate

      February 18, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sam

    From another end, we all have jobs. I am a sharpshooter. We go out into the forests or on private property, just outside city limits sometimes and "manage" the wolves. Let me tell you, there are more than 500 and probably more than the low guess of 1500. They are everywhere, espeically in ID. MT is not as overpopulated...yet. We have no trouble finding them. Yes, we do see lots of dead animals along the way.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
  13. George Bush

    I'd love a couple at Crawford.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  14. MacDaddy

    There are marajawana laws in several states aleady that go against federal law. And I know most of you livew in those states. So please stop the argument that MT is they only place that needs to follow federal law.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rich

    I know where that ass clown Palin is headed.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
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