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. EdR

    "This is great news. I only wish the would declare open season on Deer. Deer and Wolves are a plauge and serve no real purpose. They need about a 75% culling. But of course the idiot liberal protesters that haven't a clue but lots of time will find a reason to complain about everything."

    I assume you are talking about the liberal democrats that are trying to get them off the endangered species list? Get a life...

    February 18, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. nyhippieyuppie

    Hey Montana, Living in New York I wont even pretend to know what is like out there living with Wolves carving away at your livelihood, but just a simple Google search which in all its simplicity tells me that Montana has approx 2.6 million head of beef cattle (three head of cattle for every human), 18,000 dairy cows, 370,000 animals (which is about two people per sheep)....and numerous other livestock to occupy themselves with. Now 500 Wolves doesn't seem like such a big deal, also when 70 percent of Montana consists of rangeland, it's expected that there will be wolf interaction.....I realize it is disgusting and perceived as wasteful to discover a dead uneaten animal but in times of 'plenty' wolves will kill unnecessarily and then return to the kill days later when times are lean. I am not denying you have a tough time with wolves, but simply dropping a nuke on the whole population is hardly an answer....I don't have the answer either, why the hell would I, I live in a wee apartment in Queens....But let's be honest when your state pegs itself as somewhat of an eco-tourist destination, then maybe you would want to reconsider eradicating one of it's most noble species...! (Oh by the way all those facts were garnished from a Montana promotional website)...I just think there has to be a better answer out season is not that answer...!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      I work with statistics, and as you know (as I'm sure you do as well because you're quoting numbers) telling me about x number of cattle in Montana does me no good. I'm not talking about cows, I'm talking about ranchers that are going out of business. I'm sure it helps you out up in New York, you guys have black angus like crazy up there (I'd give you statistics but it MISSES the point as it states something you're aware of). I'm talking about people I know who are bankrupt. The reason all you guys see logic in this is because it's never affected you. Here's the IRONY: I DONT EVEN CARE WHAT YOUR STANCE IS ON WOLVES. My only contention is all you guys are speaking without education on the material and it's frustrating the heck outta me.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      🙂 agreed

      February 18, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      With your logic there are 19 million people in New York state so if I come into your house and take anything I want I'm only effecting you> So you would just have to get over it

      February 18, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rancher

    Most of you Moron City dwellers couldn't feed yourselves if you had to. You text and watch TV and go to the store or more likely a restaurant and eat out and never give a thought how the food got there.Get off your lazy a$$ and feed yourself.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      this isnt about feeding yourselves....this is about the bottom Im glad someone put stats on here. Its part of the issue!!!

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

      Yes it is about FOOD Most people have no idea where or how there food is produced

      February 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. s rovinski

    man has overpopulated this planet and is destroying. the solution is simple. to maintain balance on this planet, start eliminating humans (after all they are killers), limit the number of children to be born...give this planet back to nature. destroy pitiful can mankind be? disgusting

    February 18, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  5. Alina77

    Oh yea baby you did it, you did it....

    February 18, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. fishn machine

    Frickn white man!! You come and take the land from the indians,from the mexicans,from the arabs, and now from the por wolfs!.........haven't you had enough!!!¡lol

    February 18, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. Belarius Marek

    This man should be removed from office and held for criminal prosecution. We almost destroyed the wolf. Do we want to go to that brink again? I think not. As for the ranchers in Montana, deal with it. I am a rancher and have problems with coyote's but I am not about to go out and completely wipe them out. We all need to achieve a balance and an understanding of nature. To just arbitrarily start killing off the wolf is like putting a gun to our own heads and pulling the trigger. Nature is not ours to do with as we please. We must be stewards, not assassins.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      I don't for one minute believe you are a rancher

      February 18, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      definitely not a rancher... if you have to lie to prove a point, it says something.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      @Rancher- That makes two of us.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Belarius Marek

      I am a rancher and I raise Icelandic Sheep. So bite me.

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

      Well if you raise sheep you're most likely in the region that is less affected by wolves and more by coyotes. You must hate coyotes!

      February 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      Sheep thought I smelled something

      February 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wyatt Johnson

    As a person who travels out west to hunt elk every year, I can tell you that there are entire valleys that used to be full of deer, elk, and moose that are now desolate due to the wolf problem. That's an honest observation.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      OR over-leasing hunting land in that area...wolves dont bring down healthy mature elk. BUT hunting the trophy bucks , as hunters DO, you are weeding out the strongest breeding stock...this is common sense!!!!!! What hunter will pick a small trophy...COME ON! that in itself is part of the problem too.

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

      @Lesa- Absolutely wrong. Wolves kill elk and even moose with ease, and often do it for sport without eating the victim animal. I have seen several videos of wolves taking down elk, pulling their guts out while they are still alive, and walking away while the elk suffers. Keep your liberal thinking to yourself, as you don't have a clue what you're talking about.

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

      @Tsimi......liberal thinking? You mean you watch the viral YouTube videos. Are you going to start complaining about the killer whales taking sealions and playing with them before they eat them? Look-wolves are not the bad guys. Ranchers are not the bad guys. Wolves are predators and if they just pull out the guts and eat it who are you to say they are doing it to be malicious! They do not think that way and they are NOT serial killers!!!! They eat what they need to survive and often come BACK to a kill to consume it later!!!!! If you read my other comments you would see that I too believe in balance. But I also dont feel bad for the rancher! I grew up on a cattle ranch-on a large large ranch and know that the people here, blogging on CNN are not the majority of the ranchers. Ranchers kill wolves all the time and its not reported so your comments are really bogus. There needs to be a way to balance this on both sides is all.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      Lesa. Come on, enough of you. You are not an outdoors man/woman. Please stop posting. You offer nothing but clouded ideas. Spend some time in the West, with ranchers, hunters and locals to get an idea of the area. You do not understand the lay of the land out here. Please, just end your efforts. Keep them to you cubicle.

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

      @ Lesa,

      Yeah, I addressed this in one of your earlier blogs so I won't do it again... Suffice to say you don't have a very good understanding of hunting aside from "trophy hunter" or whatever video game/TV show/magazine has on the cover. The VAST majority of hunting is not trophy hunting. I hunted elk growing up (I don't know as I don't have a big enough family to warrant the killing of one – I love them as animals and think they're gorgeous) and not once did I ever go after a trophy, just like the thousands of other hunters where I grew up.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      @Kenny you havent read many of my posts. I grew up on a large cattle ranch on the west coast. I am a hunter. I believe in guns and am not slamming you . Im not saying "save the wolves" All Im talking is managment across the whole board. Yes I now sit in a cube 9-5 and there is nothing wrong with that.

      When I mean "trophy" I mean hunting for the largest-best you have the patience to wait for. Its not superficial assessment about articles Ive read. I hang with the big dogs just am a horrible shot with a rifle. I hunt birds now with my dogs. 🙂

      February 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil


      lol, what state are you from? If anyone talked like that where I come from they would have a license on their head the next year. Seriously though, I'm not judging the hunting done in your state and it's erroneous to use your state as a standard for what it must be like in mine. Hunting elk and hunting deer are COMPLETELY different , as I'm sure anyone can attest to that have done them both.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil


      Seriously though... If your statement is correct and you hunt for sport, that's cool. However, as I stated in a previous post, I've never hunted an animal I didn't NEED. I'm serious about that. When it became just my wife and I, I didn't need that meat anymore so I stopped hunting. I've never killed an animal for sport. I don't judge people who do (as long as it's prudent), but I seriously do not hunt for sport. In that regard, it could be argued I'm better at conservation than you and I'm even defending how hunting is managed in Montana. That should at least serve as a testament for the mentality there. My Dad and Grandpa no longer hunt as they no longer have families to feed either. If you believe in conservation and regulation, pehaps actions speak louder than words?

      February 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      @PHIL ok these blogs really arent helpful when replying to someone. Im a horrible shot at long range-therefore I do NOT hunt big game. That is what I said. I do not live in Montanna. And I do NOT hunt for pure sport. Ive never taken a duck, goose, pheasant, or grouse that I didnt eat. I was saying-that I personally would wait around to get the best pintail I could so after I took it...I could have it stuffed as well. That is in essense "my trophy"....the best I had patience for.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CK

    How does a man decide what should happen to an animal?

    February 18, 2011 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      How does a man decide what should happen to a man?

      February 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. letsbefair

    The ranchers are concerned about the amount of deer and elk because that is part of their livelihood. They make big money from leasing their land to hunters. If the hunters feel threatened by the wolf in the amount of D and E available then this affects the profit for the ranchers. It is not about the wolves, It's about the money they receive from leasing their land to the hunters. The circle of life revolves about the bottom line MONEY! Too bad the wolves are caught in the middle of it. The ranchers could learn a lesson or two from the society of the wolves.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. fishn machine

    Ye we are deffenetly populating. ,and I blame it on the woman for giveing away all that huuchhhy lol......put a cork in it ladys......less people more wolfs...qqzz

    February 18, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. fishn machine

    Its a good thing theres no chinese liveing in know what they say.......hmmmm yum yum ...and I quote

    February 18, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. Tsimbi

    Wow! As usual, so many commenters with no facts other than what has been presented in this lame article. Folks, I LIVE in Montana. When wolves were re-introduced in 1995 the Enviros were calling for a goal of 10 breeding pairs and 300 total wolves. Now, estimates by the Enviros themselves puts the Mt., Wyo, Idaho wolf population at 1700 and State's estimates are 2500. Regardless, even though wildlife has been DECIMATED, the Enviros now say that they want to see 5000 wolves in the area. They are telling you what a great job they are doing at supporting the wolf in order to get your donation. They fail to mention that all other wildlife is suffering greatly. Think about it. How can you re-introduce a top-of-the-food-chain predator into a protected environment? Wolves MUST be managed before all is lost. PLEASE Google the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation web site and search for it's President's letter to the Defenders of Wildlife to get the REAL story and stats on elk herds that are being systematically wiped out.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    When I was about 14 I went on a vacation out to Montana with my cousins and Uncle Don to Little Bighorn River for some trout fishing. It wa a great vacation and Montana is a great state. I now live in Masschusetts. I think the main issue in this article is the need and respect for state right. I am now 44 years old, and I don't think myself or any DC politician that is 2500 miles away from montana can understand the issue. This sounds like an issue that should be dealt with at the state level. Additionaly, from the letter it sounds like the federal government has been nonresponsive in helping Montana solve the issue.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      Well said

      February 18, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  15. don

    the U.S. citizens should have every right to protect their property and the federal government should get the heck out of it. And for the comment that they should otherwise be compensated by the feds – please keep in mind that the only money the feds have they get from us and it is not an acceptable alternative for you to suggest that we have to pay farmers because some politicians have been paid off by overprotective animal rights groups.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
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