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. Jeff

    Why is it such a problem to control the population of wolves? Wolves do not kill something, sit down, and eat the whole thing. They kill because it is instinct. Wolves have wiped out herds of deer in many more places around the country. Look at the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, the deer herd is way down. And yes it is important for sportsman to have game to hunt because ultimately it is us who pay the bill of making sure that wildlife can be around for years to come. In licenses alone I spend roughly 100$ a year. Not to mention business hunting brings into small towns and rural areas. And yes 319 wolves in one state is a lot. Wolves range quite a bit and they go where the food is, that is why they need to be controlled, they kill until there is nothing left in that area then they move on. State control of wildlife conservation is the only logical answer. And again, all the "rednecks" and sportsmen out there are footing the bill for the rest of you to enjoy the wildlife.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. mike

    "Stupid is as Stupid does, "Forrest Gump
    Are they going to open season on Native Americans again because they want the land as well?

    February 18, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. Phil

    Raise your hand if you're from Montana (or heck, I'll even take Idaho or Wyoming)... *looks around* no hands raised... Oh I forgot, it's much easier to make decisions for other people when all we see is a CNN report talking about poor doggies being hurt. Unless you've leaved there and witnessed/experienced the damage, I think it's best you remain mute. And for those who think Montana should separate from the Union, I'm surmising you believe in strong Federal control. Cool, have Federal law makers give resitution to ranchers (some of whom I know by name) who are losing stock so we don't have to hurt any poor doggies. Oh wait... I forgot, that's a STATE FUNCTION.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Phil, as the wolves were re-introduced as part of a federal program, I have ZERO heartburn with the federal government reimbursing the loss of livestock. Indeed, I remember seeing that on the federal budget when they WERE re-introduced. Did that go away? If so, we DO need to fix that, pronto!
      There are plenty of ways that we can discourage predators. Ever hear of the wolfhound? Guess what they were used to hunt and ummm, discourage? Wolves.
      Good old fashioned sheep dogs, that guard flocks work to guard cattle as well.
      Put a small herd of bison on the land. They're HIGH profit, they're tasty! They'll stomp a wolf into pudding in a New York minute too!
      Note that I didn't say anything silly about fences. They'd just dig under what they couldn't jump over, like any good canine.
      We need balance, to balance out our wildlife AND avoid making the animal extinct, as there IS a lower minimum for genetic variation necessary to survive.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jason

    In all honesty, I would dare say those Wolves have far more right to be there then the Ranchers. If they complain that their way of life is threatened, adjust your "business plan" – perhaps invest in an elaborate fencing system? Cost to much money? Then find another way of life. That's the how rest of the world works.
    I think this month, I'll be making a sizable donation to Defenders of Wildlife.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Yeah you should. You should also invest in some education on rural economics to understand displacement theory. What you're proposing is not feasible...

      February 18, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Dude, I've been mute on the fencing theory, as I was hoping some rancher would sound off in a BUSINESSLIKE manner.
      A fence is NOT feasible for a few reasons.
      First, it would have to be continuous AND pretty much a chain link fence. For around 100000 square miles worth of land. NOT economically viable.
      Second, said fanciful fence wouldn't work. What they can't jump over, they burrow under. Like any OTHER canine. And wolves are the Einsteins of the canine family!
      Third, maintenance costs for the increasingly insane fence that doesn't work would be astronomical. But, you figure it'll get passed on, right? Remember that MickyD's dollar meal? It's now a ten dollar meal, to pay for the fence that won't work.
      Honestly, if *I* were in the position of fencing that won't work as my sole protection or eliminating the herd, I'd kill off the herd and be done with it. Then, go on welfare. Just to be nice back.
      Of course, I'd not care much if the cattle went the way of the dodo, I lost my taste for beef long ago.
      I prefer lamb, pork, venison, bison... Beef is too bland for my liking.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. john peres

    We kill everything, we destroy everything its in our nature and in the end we will destroy ourselves. We are the only creatures that can build magnificent things that take hours, weeks, or years to build and then destroy them in seconds due to our "feelings" or our percieved threat of our well being. We have no regard for life of animals or even each other anymore we have become desensitized. Someday all the animals will be safe our chemical pollution will render us all sterile just look at the number of people going to fertility clinics. Obesity is through the roof which also causes pregnancy complications. Maybe someday everyone will wake up and stop playing god.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. eeyore82292

    my opinion is that it is the wolves were here first and us humans are taking everything over for not just the wolves but for all animals. all we do is build and over populate areas how is any thing going to survive when everywhere is gonna end up like New York City and round about 500 wolves is not alot when you have 6,775,235,741 people in the world

    February 18, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      You're right, eeyore. Exterminate the humans! What city are you in again?

      February 18, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rich

    Instead of antibiotics let the wolves weed out the sick and weak.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
    • ThingsRbad

      So you want the FDA to change our laws regarding beef products? Suprised you even know how to post....

      February 18, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Actually, it wouldn't give ME much heartburn if they DID restrict such things from beef.
      But then, I prefer a lot of OTHER meats over beef. Too bland. 😉

      February 18, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Matthew

    Jon Tester is a Democrat, that needs to be changed...

    February 18, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bryan

    Interesting... Montana has a few hundred wolves. In Minnesota, we have about 5000... of course it's not entirely comparable... but I'd think a state the size of Montana could handle a few hundred wolves when we have relatively few problems with a much higher population. (Then again, we have a massive deer population to keep the wolves satisfied).

    February 18, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. cwsqeeg

    I think we should ban politicians from making any decisions on animals

    February 18, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. eeyore82292

    i lied there are about 10,00 to 20,00 the minimum world wolf population was estimated at 150,000.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  12. ThingsRbad

    There are entire elk herbs and deer herds that have been wipped out byt the wolves too. Nobody wants to eliminate the wolves, they want to reduce them so that there is a balance. This 319 number is off anyway, they should use better data from the biologists. My wife is a member of the Humane Society and I have read their aritcles on wolves. They are written without any facts and have the sole intent to get an emotional response. Then I read an article with facts from the biologists that manage them and then you see how the Human Society is preying on people that are ignorant on this subject. These groups like the Human Society use their monay to tie up millions in lawsuits to protect the wolves. The very same wolves that hunting licenses and hunting tax money paid for the wolf recovery. All I ask is that people open their eyes and use factual information to make their decisons.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      I concur, I've seen the elk hers (un-eaten mind you) that were wiped out by wolves. You're not lying.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    It has been interesting reading all of the posts about this topic, on both sides. I live in MN, where the wolf populations are VERY high. There are litterally thousands. I personally see 20-30 wolves per year, some crossing roads, some while I am hunting(yes I hunt), some in my yard. I have experienced what happens to an area when a pack of wolves move in. After a period, there are no deer, rabbits, squirrels, etc. Then the pack moves on. It get it, it's nature. However, I personally know people who have lost pets and livestock to wolves, many who are very poor people and can't afford this type of loss. Wolves are very majestic animals and I am absolutely not in favor of killing off all the wolves. That is plain dumb, but imagine if wolves were introduced into the parks in NYC or LA. When peoples pets start to disappear, and they would, there would be panic in the city and actions to rid the parks of the wolves. Remember, they were in fact here 1st, right? I think the ability to limit property damage and loss to a REASONABLE extent is the key here.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
  14. MacDaddy

    It amazing to see how many people care more about wolfs then their fellow country men.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • kayaker247

      I don't think you understand what it means to try to defend the wovles. It's not that people are "against" their fellow countrymen. These wolves should be considered precious and be protected against slaughter. Those ranchers are on the "front lines" and I can appreciate that. But what if there were 300 Mammoth left and they were eating sheep, should they be killed to save the sheep? That's just a short sighted answer to a problem WE, as countrymen, created!

      February 18, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mike

    BTW if you live in NYC, LA, Chicago, or any other major city you really need to shut up b/c I haven't seen much wildlife there at all. Your cities have flattened entire ecosystems and have virtually no wildlife. I think its sad that people expect those in MT to not protect their way of life. I can only picture the horror in the NY Times if a wolf was eating puppies in central park or the outcry in the Chicago Tribune if cougars had swiped a few hundred cats

    February 18, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      I agree... An eco-system is wiped out, and because of this people feel bad for animals 1500 miles away and propose changing other peoples' way of life.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
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