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. Glem Pashni

    Nature is the creation of God. It pleases him that his creation be allowed to manifest without our interference.

    God has created the natural order of things. Man must not disturb this order.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • michael

      Man is part of the natural order.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. badnice

    Hey, the way to protect the wolves is to make it more costly for Montana to kill wolves than to protect them. And there are penalties for violation of Federal law. Montana is a welfare state. They take in far more Federal dollars than they pay in taxes. Just prosecute the groups and individuals who break the law and cut off all the Federal welfare money to the state. Let's see how long they put up this phoney "rugged individualist" BS. Just a state of welfare recipients.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • MontanaNative

      You obviously know nothing about the wolf situation here, and are clearly a moron.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sam

    ....continue to enjoy Montana's cherished wildlife heritage.... He is contradicting himself. Authorizing wolf killing is part of their "cherished wildlife heritage"?

    February 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jim

    I think the governor is awesome. Those pesky wolves need thinned out. Just wish idaho would do the same!

    February 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • sarah

      The pesky wolves do not need to be thinned out, but maybe cold, heartless, jerks like you do need to be thinned out. They were there first and that makes YOU the pest who is taking away their food by killing it FOR SPORT when they want it for FOOD! How can you even call yourself human? People like you who would take a life of any creature without a even the slightest guilt, that you actually want to kill these misunderstood creatures, make me sick and embaressed to call myself an American.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ecoherbalism

      Its sad its 2011 and farmers aren't smart enough to protect there livestock without killing these wolfs.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tom

    Just to clarify since the author didn't do their homework, senators Tester and Baucus and Gov. Schweitzer are all Democrats.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Becca

    I find it hard to believe that 173 adult wolveS killed 148 sheep in one day

    February 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • yo

      Really? Cause I'd think a sheep a day sufficient for the adults AND their kids ... total number of wolves is 319. Try reading. Besides how much meat do you think is on one sheep?

      February 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • guest from montana

      2 adults and three young

      February 18, 2011 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
  7. mike masters

    More cow bell!

    February 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Steve

    The Fed should ban cattle and raise hunting fees on Federal lands in Montana.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AMERICA 1st

    Lets take nobama and its crew on a wolf hunt! HAW HAW

    February 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. frank lawing

    Man,how Crazy Is This. Wolves Were Hunted To Near Extinction For A Reason. If It Were Your Livestock That Were Being Killed By Wolves,you Would Protect Yours As Well.you Can Make Them Poor Misunderstood Creatures All You Want.they Are Predators.maybe All These Tree Huggers Should Come Out Of Their Pockets For Every Beef Or Sheep Maimed Or Killed And Pay The Ranchers For The Loss

    February 17, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Frank, how is it that you capitalized the first letter of nearly every word in your comment, but couldn't do the same for your own name?

      February 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dudley4637289

    They're not endangered in Montana, Minnesota, or Idaho, or Wyoming. The populations are growing rapidly as are the number of elk and deer losses. The political issue here is not wolves but hunting in general. The wolves are a lever.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. colleen

    I'm all for protecting peoples property but let's not forget we are taking over the wildlife's land. They have nowhere to go and their resorces are dwindling. Protected means protected. Nothing more, nothing less. Stop this idotic attempt to wipeout an entire species.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Elijah

    I like that we took a bunch of livestock up to wolf country and then said THEY were the problem. MAYA your an idiot, montanas contribution to the beef market is nothing compared to the midwest of texas. Who the hell thinks wolves kill for sport!? People kill for sport! You know like hillbilly montana people who wanna go shoot them some wolves from the back of theyre pickem up truck.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • MontanaNative

      Learn how to spell before you go criticizing people you know nothing about.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DOOMSDAY

    When will we start getting rid of the real problem on this earth.. too many HUMANS!!! We have about 5 billion too many.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sarah

    i agree with doomsday, not that that means i think we should take montana's govenor's approach and start killing them because we don't like what they eat and where they live

    February 17, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
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