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. MIKE

    What is it that wolves contribute to the environment, economy or anything else?

    February 18, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • kayaker247

      they don't have to contribute anything. they're wolves! what does an eagle contribute?

      February 18, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. :-P

    Jon Tester is a Democrat.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. Leo

    Letter to Governor: Pay for the damages. Leave the wolves alone.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Letter to Leo: State Gov'ts don't have excess spending money last I checked. Unless something happened that infused the economy overnight that I missed in the reporting...

      February 18, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • D' Governor

      I will...I just hope that you don't have a 3-year old child(ren) or younger. Remamber, wolves are predator, they have the instinct to hunt and kill and it's not limited to their fellow animals only.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
    • D' Governor

      I will...I just hope that you don't have a 3-year old child(ren) or younger. Remamber, wolves are predator, they have the instinct to hunt and kill and it's not limited to their fellow animals only. BEWARE!

      February 18, 2011 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. Rancher

    Lets put some Wolves in Cental Park and let them eat some Foo Foo liberals dog and see what happens

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

    Oh yeah... First Indians... Then trees.... And now wolfs... Killl them all on name of "progress". Man I wish a superior race to control earth now. It's not wolf who are more in numbers....

    February 18, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  6. FirstResponder

    EVERY single time humans try to interfere with nature, we SCREW things up badly. When this happens, we win in the short run, and we LOSE BIG TIME in the long run. This has happened countless times in history, and will happen again if we are allowed to wipe out these beautiful animals (again!) in the name of short term profits for farmers. Not only that, but farming itself even FURTHER destroys the land. The only approach that makes sense for the planet is to live in HARMONY with nature, not to grab a gun and kill everyone who interferes with your own personal agenda!

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

      Have you got your arden planted or do you just go to the store and buy food from those evil farmers

      February 18, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Okay you tricked me, I'll commit an intentional slippery slope: If you live in a 1)farming community or 2)community larger than 5,000 people (this is a guess, and tongue-in-cheek at that for dissenters), you are as responsible for contributing to the destruction of the environment as well. In order to live in harmony with nature, we have much to be done: in Wyoming it is legal to shoot house cats. Why? They were brought in by people and reduce the numbers of migratory native birds. Therefore it is legal to shoot them. I'm not kidding. How do you feel if someone legally shot your pet?

      February 18, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      you are gonna get grief on this one...but i agree with you. Livestock herds really tap out the land. On the filp side-I still eat hamburgers so the demad for beef will always be there. I do think, however that ranchers need to stop whining and find other ways, on their own, like using dogs to protect their herds better. Its a business. If I kept asking for subsidy everytime my training business was slow or I had losses it would bankrupt the government.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. Rancher

    Lets reintroduce Grizzly Bears to Wall Street and Greenwich Village

    February 18, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. Redwinghawk

    We need creative solutions not bad will. Offer a reward "bounty" – maybe $10,000 to the person who comes up with the best idea which can be implemented to help the wolves and the ranchers. Turn ourselves towards each other not against each other. The ranchers need help, the wolf needs help. There is a way to help both, we just need to focus our energy to find it.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      Simple, remove the listing, allow the states to manage, have a managed hunting season and adjust kill allotments as dictated yearly. Can I have the $$$?

      February 18, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. girl54

    Kill off an endangered keystone predator and you'll reap what you sow. The absence of wolves in Yellowstone changed the entire ecosystem; trees stopped growing, rivers widened and species like beaver were gone from the park. They are part of what keeps the natural system in balance. Without them, there may very well be nothing for the cattle to graze on if they are competing for vegetation with other species that are allowed to reproduce unchecked without a predator to even out their numbers. .

    February 18, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Rivers widened due to over-grazing by elk, you are currect in your summation. I'm glad to finally see someone who is citing accurate information. However, by increasing hunting permits they were able to regulate this and not allow meat to "spoil" as it had been killed by a wolf and left to rot. If you haven't seen this in your research I would encourage you to dig a little deeper, it's there, trust me.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
    • girl54

      True, but at the same time the meat left feeds the rest of the system; from other carnivores that feed on carrion, to decomposers that break down the remnants that return to the soil and feed the flora and fauna.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil


      So the argument becomes what you prefer happens to the meat. I would prefer it feeds a human, but that may just be me.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  10. Beth

    You know, the wolf and elk populations did a pretty good job of maintaining themselves before humans got involved. Why should we be in charge of controlling their population? When the wolves kill enough elk that their population decreases, then the wolf population will in turn decrease, which causes the elk population to increase, which causes the wolf population to increase... if we let the cycle do its thing, there wouldn't be a problem. You notice the only species that cycle doesn't apply to is humans (for now). Let's not let our overpopulation mess with the rest of the species on the planet.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  11. Joann Whiels

    Funny that people complain that wolves have killed off the elk and deer; others complain there are too many. Are you guys really for killing off wolves because you have to compete with them when you're out hunting for deer or elk? Seriously folks. Montana is a beautiful state with some wonderful resources. You killed off most of the wolves at one time; don't let it happen again. And don't let yourselves continue to come across as rednecks all the time. Think big picture.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      and if Montanna is worried about Elk populations-stop giving out tags. Most people who hunt , and I said MOST look for trophy animals. This wipes out the strongest, best breeding the long run allowing herds to breed weaker . Its common sense.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Hey big city, I did not kill a single wolf, ever. I have photgraphed them though, as I think they are one of the most gorgeous species in the NW ecosystem. I don't want to kill one. But I know farmers who are losing livestock hand over hoof (unless you have a subscription to a local MT newspaper, you won't here about it).

      And because you don't understand, I'll explain a little clearer: When wolves are not present there are more elk (as we know). To regulate this, hunters will get a permit to harvest one of the elk. They in turn use this for food (I would argue this is a good use for it). When wolf populations increased (mind you, I'm fine with several packs, they're just at the point they're getting out of control now) they began killing elk in the droves and the meat laid on the ground and rotted in the sun. Note: elk populations are regulated both ways, one way they are consumed, the other way is "natural" and they rot in the sun. They will consume a small percentage of what they kill. You can take the nature route, I've fine with it. However, don't judge because I disagree and know the people who's livves are being affected. If I lived far away, it's easier to feel bad for the poor cuddly creatures in the picture, I will say that.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      @ Lesa,

      That argument only makes sense on paper. If you research how hunting is managed, you realize this is not the case. Each region is allowed to harvest x amount of cows (female wapiti) and x amount of bulls (males). In most cases, the harvests don't happen until after they have bred for one. And for two, it is an incorrect statement to say most people hunt for trophies. Yes if you watch TV that's what it looks like. However, the vast majority of hunts are for non–"trophy" animals. While I do appreciate your opinion and for being civil about it, I wish everyone on these blogs would thoroughly understand something before blogging about it. It's not like the State of Montana in over a century of controlled hunting has simply 'overlooked' herd management. That's an erroneous statement.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      @PHIL Hey I appreciate your comment about "most" people do NOT hunt for trophy. I don't get my opinion from TV in the least. Im a hunter, and come from a family of hunters. I cant imagine that my group of is the only group that looks for the best rack or largest. Its part of the "bragging" rights. Hunters go to Montanna, Idaho ect from all across the country and pay big money to land that "trophy" It happens in fishing too. Everyone is looking for the largest, best rack ect...those animals-have excellent genes-those are the genes, in the future we need to keep a species thriving. As a hunter I certainly DO NOT believe people hunt for food first-its the bragging rights...thats just how people are. Sad but true. SO JUST ADMIT IT

      February 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil


      If you are a hunter, you must be an Easterner (I'm sorry, they steriotype you where I come from, haha). No seriously, the people who come from out of state are regulated. You can't just "pay a couple thousand dollars and come shoot a bull elk". You have to drawn one out. And guess what? We pay conservation fees on our tags that go toward herd regulation/monitoring. If the bull elk start to dwindle, you they reduce/eliminte bull elk tags for the next year or more. I really do recommend you at least look in to it a little, anyone working in the state governments where I come from will tell you the biggest conservationist effort is funded by hunters not from external sources.

      Bottom line: heck yeah I dream about getting a nice bull. Did my Dad and I ever even put in for bull tags? No. Why? Better chances of drawing a cow tag and putting meat on the table. If 25 tags allow you to harvest a bull elk in a certain region and you put in for it, guess what? Doesn't matter if it's 25 people who want to shoot a trophy or 25,000, only 25 people will get the tag. So that's the part of your arguement I disagree with. Regulation is done at the state level and should be carefully monitored (as it is, much more than most people think).

      I understand you're a hunter, and I don't know what state you come from and what your laws are like. I can only speak for mine. And what you're saying does not apply where I come from. It's impossible to "eliminate the good genes". Maybe where you're from people hunt for sport and want trophies, but I'm telling you, where I come from most people want meat.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Texas, where hunting there is a joke and baiting is huge. In that order. I am an East Coast transplant. Big game and bird hunting . I do know conservation costs, and the raffle. I appreciate the hunter who hunts legally-a lot dont. Im just saying its not as locked down and legal as we all wish it was. My comment about the gene pool was pointed at someone who stated "he didnt see elk or deer anymore" when you take a lot out of an open area, a remote area you can certainly taint a gene pool. Its not impossible. You keep hounding my "hunting" background. Im not sure why-but I guess you might assume that being a woman I wouldnt get the full brunt of experience..Im not sure. Its just not as cut and dry as a tag-too many people hunt without one. It affects the whole pie. Its been fun bantering on this subject-you seem to be a smart guy and well spoken. 🙂

      February 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil


      I don't mean to contend your background vehemently and no, it has NOTHING to do with you being a female (I know entire familes that draw tags together). I'm speaking about experience. I have experience there and I am telling you, hunting is not damaging the elk herds. Look at when they thrived at the turn of the millenia, hunting was managed effectively but we had big robust healthy herds. And guess what? No a lot of poaching. Yeah, it still happens, but guess who fights poachers in Montana? Hunters, I'm serious when I say they are the biggest conservation group. I'm fine with your statement that poaching is bad and calls for greater reduction measures, no issues there. But your argument originated on the assumption that trophy hunters are decreasing the best genes in the gene pool and wolves go for the weakest so wolves are better than hunters. That is what I'm addressing. I don't judge your background and I wouldn't speak about where you come from save for the comparison where I come from. I know what it's like as I've lived there and hunted there. No attack on you, but your comment about hunters whittling away at the gene pool is simply not true due to regulation and hunting environment.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      just to be clear because things are taken out of context on these blogs. I meant Texas hunting is a joke.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hilo, HI

      I am NOT lying -I used to live in MT and you most certainly CAN, if you are rich, simply fly over and bag an elk in a close to caged-hunt situation at a Very exclusive private ranch outside Darby -and Everyone there knows where I mean -as do the celebs and politicians who go there. Also, if you get a 'doctors note', you can shoot from your car!! -no walking outside! Supposed to be for the disabled, but everyone does it when it's cold out -boo ho ! WIMPS!

      I think this wolf hunt may be about the rich man's playground, elk and wolf hunting, not livestock losses.

      LEZA w/ E, Just asking seriously and w/out judgement or agenda -Would you consider not eating meat, or reducing intake? (You mentioned consuming beef) -If only temporarily to boycott something like this wolf kill? (or Industry lobbying against Free Speech w/ 'the veggie laws', etc) An industry that could sue Oprah over saying she's afraid of eating hamburgers during the initial Mad Cow break-out -certainly cares about Consumer Power. (btw, I enjoy your posts.)

      We did this 8 years ago -mad cow, hormones, pollution, contamination of crops, inhumanely-raised, etc. I HATED it at first -a sacrifice I made for a grater purpose -but now I'm glad I did. (-Killing wolves to save cattle? not on My behalf...)

      -People still call me tree hugger, bad mother, whatever -even strangers in restaurants start w/ us (Never me w/ them!!) I've never understood such Backlash for making a lifestyle change -like people know they're wrong giving the current situation and feel threatened by someone who is actually doing something? Call cps? -our kids are HEALTHY, unlike obese America.

      Changing may be too hard, or we are too lazy, or disease may force it, but does anyone even CONSIDER just doing it b/c it might help?

      To the religious; I know, I know -"The bible says"......Kill the fatted calf, etc etc......and exactly how often does a prodigal son return? breakfast, lunch AND supper?....Does The Book say anything about gluttony?

      February 18, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Emily

    God knows that if rednecks don't have the opportunity to kill elk because wolves are, it's a crisis. And wolves kill sheep. That's what happens. But sheep aren't an endangered species. Why not just set up some kind of insurance program for the sheep? Is it really reasonable to kill off a species because they are simply existing? If we hadn't over developed and wiped out so much natural prey maybe sheep wouldn't be the only option. (of course, sheep are an easier options... that is jsut a fact, but wolves would have wider roaming space if we didn't use it all up and hunt it all to death). The bible says we are stewards. Since when does that mean control freaks that just kill off everything that bugs us?

    February 18, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Voice of Reason

    Dear Citizens of Montana,

    It is a scientific fact that Wolves help to naturally cull the weak members of deer and Elk herds, making them healthier. It is a scientific fact that when you eliminate a species at the top of a food chain, populations of those species below grow exponentially. If you kill off the wolves, you will have deer problems and disease within your Elk herds. Ranchers are crying foul over losing a few cattle and your myopic governor is going to appease them because he wants their votes. There are viable alternative to killing wolves that should be explored and attempted before launching an irreversible and knee-jerk initiative. It will be a sad day indeed when these fascinating creatures roam the beautiful land of Montana no more. PLEASE write to your governor and urge him to consider alternatives and stop the killing of wolves immediately. DO NOT assume that your letter or call will do nothing or that someone else will voice your opinion. It takes all of 5 minutes to make a huge difference by speaking up. Google the governor's office and send an email. Make a quick call. Write a letter. DO SOMETHING NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.

    – A very concerned citizen

    February 18, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      My eyes have literally witnessed and I have personally photographed a contradiction to your scientific fact. You read that in a paper somewhere didn't you?

      February 18, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Voice of Reason

      No, I am a scientist. I have read the empirical research done by the Federal government, state agencies, biologists and countless books on the subject. It is a FACT that Wolves attack the sick, injured and weak members of the herd. Wolves and virtually all other animals do their best to expel the least amount of energy in procuring food. Thus, they will seek out the slowest Elk in the herd.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Oh neat, what's it look like when a low flying aircraft comes flying out of a mountain valley and shoots a net, capturing a wolf? What's it look like when the animal is tranquilized and is staring sedately at your eyes? Beautiful animals. Ever seen one up close? Yeah... If you know research you know some things can't be measured. Heck, the twinky diet dude from Kansas said he was healthier by eating twinkies, and even HE admitted something was missing in the research. And that's diet and nutrition. Unfortunately people are culled by statistics. Go interview people and here stories. I've come across 17 dead elk (one heard, all were healthy). None were consumed. Saw them two weeks later, rotten. None were consumed. Oh heck though, research says this doesn't happen so my eyes were wrong as it wasn't FACT. Point being, I even know the people who conduct the research you're looking in to and even they say it misses the point. Good heavens people and their "google journal articles speaking as subject matter experts"...

      February 18, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      Voice of Reason:
      I completely agree with you. There are NOT packs of rabid wolves killing just for the sport of it. This is a fear tactic. The farmers need to figure it out without "nuking" the wolf population as another person stated. Im sure that a lot of this rhetoric is from a limited pool of ranchers on here anyhow. Most ranchers don't have time to be blogging on are working!

      February 18, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil


      They've been trying to come up with 1)electrified fences, 2) reinforced wire that goes down 4 feet into the groud, 3) fences that go up 10 feet in the air. Still can't keep them out. And where are they getting extra money from? My wife and I had this crazy dog once that was insistent on escaping. You could but her in a completely enclosed kennel with concret floor and she would escape... Now picture it's not a 8 x 10 foot kennel, it's a 300 acre farm. I agree with you that that would be the best scenario, but you have to be realistic and understand it hasn't happened yet so unless someone like yourself can come up with a fantastic inexpensive invention, these hard working ranchers you're refering to don't have that as an option.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      @Lisa with an I 😉

      You can agree with who ever you want about wolves only killing slow animals, I don't care. But for 1) I never said they were rabid, and for 2) look at the elk herds in the last decade. 12,000 less in yellowstone national park. Are you honestly telling me you believe 319 wolves are eating not just 12,000 elk, but counting for the offspring of those elk as well, so a number that far exceeds 12,000? Elk aren't even their primary diet. I'm sure you've found that in your research. And GOOD HEAVENS DO YOU HONESTLY BELIEVE THAT 12,000 ELK ARE JUST TOO SLOW/SICKLY? I know burchullosis is a problem but I've never seen it kill an elk, good heavens, lol.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      I can train your dog not to escape! Have trained many just for this issue!!

      I think there are a lot of good opinions here about wolves and ranchers and elk populations. There is no easy answer. I think its more than just the wolf or just the rancher or just the hunter. And if all three were addressed AND managed it might work!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      @ Lesa,

      I agree, I think there is a proper balance, I'm not for the complete removal of wolves. My only contention with people is the lack of understanding and the citing of under-researched reports based on poorly established radio collars and little behavioral analysis in the greater Yellowstone Nat'l Park area (not studies done in Canada). There is a completely different dynamic that most people who are blogging don't understand. It's easy to place the wolf first, but to see people you know who have been affected is completely a different ball game, emotion is involved in both sides. I do agree that a balance needs to be established between the three, and I'm not even for the direct harcesting of wolves as I don't think they're 100% pest. But for a rancher to kill a wolf and not be admonished for it? No issues.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  14. RamessesII

    I lived in northwestern Montana for a year and this so-called "governor" is just another example of the backward thinking I felt was prevalent in a state I really love. What a shame.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Interesting... NW Montana huh? The liberal side? And just a region you lived in? Most people I know from Montana name their town... I'm sorry, but I really doubt you have ever lived in MT.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. fishn machine

    Jus hire a couple of ilegals and use them for

    February 18, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
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