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. WVlady63

    This "governor" is obviously ignorant about wolves!!!! They are ENDANGERED and the reason they are on the endangered list is because of ignorant people who are lead by ignorant people like this governor!! Use sedative darts and move the wolves, DON'T KILL THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE HUNGRY!!!! MAN is slowly but surely moving into their territory. They are being pushed out of their hunting grounds so therefore they must find food wherever they can so they won't starve to death!! If this governor allows this I'll bet that he doesn't get another term heading Montana!!! He shouldn't, HE IS OBVIOUSLY IGNORANT ABOUT WOLVES!!!!!

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

      You have absolutely no idea of what you're talking about. Please stay in West Virginia.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      Move them to your backyard

      February 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jim Flayler

    When is it open season on ranchers and the gov.

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

      when you grow some and come try

      February 18, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. julia

    I guess we know where Sarah Palin is headed next. She wouldn't want to miss such a juicy opportunity!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      julia- Idiotic comment. You know nothing of the situation here in Montana and even less about the past and current laws in Alaska. Wolves were hunted from planes in Alaska for decades. The enviros got it stopped and the moose began disappearing. Pallin simply signed a bill that mirrored the old law, and the liberal press, as usual, got all over it and told you only half of the story. Looks like you bit.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. B in Ct

    It's clear that the ignorance of some of these posts are amazing. 1) spell correctly, if not you look like an idiot 2) It's clear the Wolf population needs to be culled some, not wiped out. We have the same issue in the northeast but with deer as they have no natural predators, wish we had enough land for some wolves 3) stay on topic...."Yankees", "liberals", and "people from California" have nothing to do with this topic at all.

    Want to know what's really wrong with this country? some people read a single page article, and think they have solutions. Yeesh, some of the comments on this board are embarrassing

    February 18, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. RepubtardKiller

    Wolves are just codeword for Repubtards. It's hunting season!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  6. nyhippieyuppie

    By the way I am getting somewhat offended by all this 'if you are not from Montana or a farmer then you don't have an opinion'....I thought this was the 'United' States of America which means we all have opinions be they bad or good and if I want to shout mine out, I will. When the city was messing up financially and taking all of our money the whole country had one voice of disgust, you didn't see me posting 'Well you don't even know what a stock exchange looks like so why should you have a voice'...How dare you tell me to quiet down if anything you should be encouraging me to find out more, get more educated.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. Douglas

    Am I missing something here? The piece states that approximately 365 livestock animals where killed in 2009, the price of which were reimbursed by the government. Thus the ranchers missed out on very little. The wolves hep keep small animal populations (rabbit and such) in check, thus improving the overall health of large herd animals. The relatively small number of large animals taken down by the wolves is offset by the good they do for the ecosystem. It seems that our fear of the wolves is overcoming our common sense.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      Yes Doug, you are missing a lot. Please read my original post, about 13 comments above.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. CN

    There is no place for emotional based decisions in wildlife management. It is a science and should be left to the experts. Biologists agree that wolves are no longer endangered and need to be managed through hunting. The federal government broke the original agreement with the states of turning over the management when wolf numbers reached 30 breeding pairs. That number was reached over a decade ago. Wolves are not endangered. Not in the lower 48 and especially not in Canada or Alaska where there are thousands. Please research these facts. 90% of these posts are not fact based whatsoever.

    Elk and other big game populations are being decimated all over the west and the money paid to ranchers for livestock predation along with the associated costs to governments to investigate is costing states millions. The famous Yellowstone elk herd was over 18,000 in '95 when the wolves were reintroduced. It's at 4000 now. Wolves can and should be part of the ecosystem but like all predators(bears, mountain lions, coyotes) and big game animals, they must be managed. This will ensure their future and that of all wildlife.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      I agree, well said.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • nyhippieyuppie

      Tell that to the Australians who thought the 'Cane Toad' was a good idea.....!!

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

      @CN- Good post. As I said earlier, you cannot successfully re-introduce a top-of-the-food-chain predator into a protected environment without catastrophic effects. Even Animal Rights people should be able to agree on that if they took the time to stop and think about it.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      @CN I too believe in managing wildlife without emotion. It has to be done and I have no issue with that. My only issue is helicopter managment. You would be randomly killing wolves without thinking of the impact on the animals taken. I dont believe they should cull top breeding pairs. It will, in the long run, weaken the packs breeding structure. There needs to be a calculated managment for the species to reamin entact, and healthy. The packs need to be able to breed healthy genetic offspring.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. hboo

    Can't the governor's get together and vote to grant independence to Washington, DC. That would solve so many problems – –

    February 18, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. Scot Haig

    How oh how did all the elk survive before white people and their guns arrived a mere few hundred years ago to "manage" wolf populations???

    February 18, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • B in Ct

      It's an easy question to answer...for one they weren't relegated to small tracks of land only in certain states. The same goes for the wolf.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      Scot- Elk were originally a prairie animal. They were pushed into the mountains as settlers moved West.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Scot Haig

      But how did the elk protect themselves against all the wolves that lived on the open prairie??? It must of been a massacree!!!!!

      And btw, Elk were found on the prairie, the Rocky Mountains, West Coast and in the eastern forests before the arrival of white man so it's not that they were pushed into the mountains, it is merely were the remnants of a much more expansive population still exist.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Scot Haig

      le sigh.... *where, not *were in that last sentace

      February 18, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Scot Haig

      deeper sigh...... *Sentence

      dang cnn and their slow spell check!

      February 18, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. kate

    The Montana gov is the animal

    February 18, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. ed bailey

    Arm the bears and declare lawmakers the bulleye. They cause enormous harm to society.get em boys and girls. Bad peeople.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. wolf lover

    I think we should teach the wolves to swim they wouldn't bother anybody and wouldn't seem like so many if they were in the ocean.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. Kathleen

    @ Jane., What 'Ashamed' said. You are clueless.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  15. Charles

    To paraphrase Ed Abbey; I'm not as concerned as the wolves taking a few sheep and cattle as I am about having enough sheep and cattle to keep the wolves sleek and well fed. And to add, I have no issue with hunting, but, the trophy hunters are a serious cause of dwindling herds. They want the biggest and strongest, while the wolves take the weak, the injured, and the old and infirm.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      Charles- Absolutely incorrect. You read that somewhere. The 148 sheep mentioned in the article were killed by 14 wolves and not one of them was eaten.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      @Charles I wish trophy hunter would come forth and admit they dont take smaller trophies. They will sit and wait for hours...scope it out really has decimated the herds and the ranchers cant complain can they? I mean leasing out the land for a fee...sigh. Im a hunter myself-bird-only because Im not a good rifle shot-but I do it too with ducks...I want the one with the most Im not any better. Its just admit it already that you elk hunters, deer hunters, only hunt for a top trophy. that too is part of the dwindling populations. Again its common sense.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil


      Once again, I addressed this in some of your earlier comments. I appreciate you having civility to your conversational tone, but every time you speak about trophy hunting it is way off base. It's the equivolent of me saying "I would never go to L.A. because I'd just end up getting shot". To make that statement erroneous statement is based on a superficial assessment of a few recent reports I've read. If you really want to test your theory out, you're gonna need to 'hang with the big dogs' (pardon the pun) and be able to discuss hunting with people who HAVE hunted to that point they say "yeah, she knows what she's talking about" even if they don't agree with your opinion. As it stands right now, you are ignorant (not meant as a character slam, you just have a lack of knowledge) of hunting.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
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