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. Tom Legare

    So huh the only answer is to kill them, another great plan from those morons!!

    So let's see 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. Doesn't take a genius to figure out that it won't take long to wipe them all out with all those "gun nuts" up there!!

    Wondeful plan!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      Tom- The stats are WAY off. Montana had a hunting season in 2009 and 150 wolves were killed in less than 3 weeks. Stats from Environmental groups claim that the 3 state area (Mt, Wy, Id) have about 1700 animals and State figures put the number between 2500-2600 remember, this came from just a handful of animals in 1995). All in all, WAY too many predators to be "protected". Deer, elk, moose, coyotes, and others are disappearing quickly.

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

      I've been to Montana and the rules governing livestock mean if you don't want some rancher's live stock tearing up your grass or property its the land owner's responsibility to fence out the cattle. No lie. The average person who doesn't own a ranch and heard worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is liable if they injury a cow on their own property.

      If you don't like the wolves killing one of your sheep or cows you might consider a good fence to keep those sheep and cows on your property. It will make it easier to keep the wolves out.

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

      The govt pays the ranchers for animals wolves kill already.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • loaba

      In the end, there won't be any peace until the freaking planet is completely paved over. Raise the price of beef, protect the wolves... oh yeah, and stop feeding the cattle frikken chemicals while you're at it.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Not Gun Nut

      I'm not saying that the wolf population doesn't need to managed But one head of cattle a day is a disaster???Don't think so. Oh and they used the Canadian wolves to reintroduce because all the native species were dead.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • BurnTHalO

      I don't know, is 1700 a sustainable population to start killing off? It comes to the real question of what do experts in wolves and wolf populations think. If they say that some kills can be done without harm to the longterm health of the population, that will be a lot easier to swallow than if expert scientists say the population is still too fragile. It amazes me the amount of laws that are attempted to be created without consulting with people who have PHD's and have studied these things for decades. Number 1 problem with politicis today if you ask me.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • flyfish59711

      I live in Montana and I have seen the significant drop in elk and deer populations. I am also aware of significant losses in the livestock industry. If folks from New York like them so much release them there in Central Park. As far as I am concerned they have been a "shoot on sight" critter for 3 years. Wolves are like cigarettes. "Smoke a pack a day."

      February 18, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • AK-MO

      Wolves are Not people. The elimination of problem animals has always been the appropriate response. The family pack will pass on the knowledge of where to find food (inside the fence). No animal has the right to infringe upon a persons livelihood anymore than another person does.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • montana rancher

      Wow who's the genius, 319 is not the number but thte breeding pairs that doubles and triples the numbers we actually have over 3,000 wolves in our back yards, some as close as 50 feet from my house and children. Each year they can have up to 18 pups. You do the math now.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      @flyfish59711: I guess it was inevitable that someone would make a nasty reference to New York in an effort to prove how ignorant people from outside Montana are. Would it surprise you to learn that New York has coyotes now, and it has not been safe for years to people to leave thir pets outside now for several years? Before you enagage in some pathetic name-calling to prove whatever point you are trying to make, make sure you actually know something about NY. I am not qualified to criticize your feelings regarding wolves attacking cattle, but it seems to me that to introduce a species that is has been bred to be docile in the misplaced belief that new or old predators would never be introduced is a fantasy. My experience living in New York proves that a species can be introduced naturally or in other ways. The question is whether extermination is really a viable alternative, or if its the easy way ou? If you want to shoot them out of existance, don't be surprised if a new problem with another predator emerges. BTW, I have no problem with a hunt, provided its well managed and not a slaughter.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      What state r u from? You dont hunt in yur state ? Exactly and yur calling us morons lol

      February 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave-t

      One cow per day could be a market price of $500-$1500. So yeah, that's going to pinch the pocket book, and pinch the fed budget to replace that animal to the rancher.

      The wolves have spread way beyond what the biologists have estimated, and the wolves have gone where there isn't nearly as much traditional food as there was 'back in the day'. There is no bringing back the bison to the numbers that they were before settlement, and that was a major food source for the wolves. That leaves the other big game animals to the focus for wolf food.

      Shooting them or otherwise limited their population is the only way to protect the rest of the environment. Are we suposed to watch proudly as a wolf pack eats the last elk in Idaho? What do they do then, where is the next meal comming from?

      The bottom line with these big predators (wolves, bears, mountain lions) is that they travel much farther than previously thought, and eat more than was estimated as well. It is not fair to expect a return of the wolves traditional range, without having the full range of prey species to feed them. At this point it is impossible to piece it back together. While it is great that there is a population back in the US, we cannot have them in the numbers that they can reproduce themselves at, nor can we allow them to damage whatever balance we had going before they were reintroduced.

      Hunting may not be ideal, but it is the state taking money to have a problem sovled, and right now, it doesn't get any better than that, and wildlife biologists still set the seasons and limits.

      Look at what happened in CA with mt lions. The state cancelled the mt lion hunt, and now pays state animal control personell to kill the problem cats....... The only difference is where the money is going, and who is paying vs recieving. Instead of getting money for dead mt lions, the state is paying money for dead mt lions.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • patriot

      Its interesting that so many people know so little about a subject that they are so passionate about. Also interesting is that they don't want these fluffy little friends of the forest living in their states. The Dems, would prefer that the hunters break the law by shooting the wolves illegally so they could pin criminal actions on us and have a good reason to take away our guns however, that would only start a civil war that would end life in this country as we know it today. Its to bad that the people who produce the food that feeds this GREAT and FREE nation don't have the numbers to control the masses that are ruining this "what once was" a great nation. I agree with the Governor, and to twist a dems phrase, "Shoot and shoot often" Kill em all! Shoot, shovel, and shut up.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. LMAO

    I can't wait for the day the aliens arrive and find that human number populations are too high to be controlled.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. fishn machine

    People from montana are a bunch of rednecks with nothing to do....gees I tell you..... its your job to watch the cattle,and apperently your not doing a good job of it, and that's why the wolfs are eating your cattle,,,,now quit farting around and do your job...quit blameing the wolfs.....mike tyson ones said I'm going to eat your children!!!!!:::::nobody ever said let's wack this guy....

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

      You are an absolute moron. Enough time wasted on you.

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

      Redneck, says the "fishnmachine"....... idiot

      February 18, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Elena

      Omg, are you too stupid? You are calling hard working people who feed your face lazy? Flipping liberals, not everybody consume soy skinny latte for dinner.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      You sound like the type of person that'll plan a big fishing trip to MT and end up mauled by a bear because you put the cooler in the tent with you. It's tragic how out of touch with reality and actual nature people are today.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      what a moron don't trip on the sidewalk on the way to Quick Trip

      February 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      I keep asking the same question and what state are u from retard ? I bet if u told me i could make you eat yur words because i could prove many things yur state kills.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Itreallydoesntmatterwhatwethink

    I have a I recall the most recent debates began when a federal judge stopped Idaho's wolf hunt. Saying in part that a management plan for the entire population was needed versus individual state control. The grey wolf needs to be reintroduced to its entire historic range to assist in this goal. San Francisco and its pets could support a nice population as could New York City. I read on Wiki the histric range was throughout North America so you know it has to be right! Why only allow the larger less populated states to enjoy these magnificent animals? Every resident in every state should have the same opportunity! If we capture them and relocated them rather than kill them off, everyone from the most gun happy hillbilly to PETA would be happy. Case solved.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • b0bc4t

      We have wildlife rehabilitators within forty miles of NYC that are rescuing wolves and maintaining them nicely. Coyotes on the other hand have made a less friendly resurgence, and are grabbing small dogs and cats from suburban neighborhoods where they scavenge and thrive .... Got to hand it to them critters, resilient and crafty. A balance is what is needed with the wolf populations, not wholesale slaughter from crazed ranchers who can't keep track of their herds. The elk, moose and deer may be suffering, that is true, but to post open season on wolves is as far to the other edge of extreme, and should be rethought as a policy or philosophy. Be good neighbors with nature, and we all benefit.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      and u have lived in montana ?

      February 18, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JJ

    Killing the wolves is not the answer. Removing the cows and sheeps from where they are not supposed to be is. The wolves were there long before the ranchers.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Heather's not the ranchers that are the problem. It is the people that believe in non-existence so perhaps we should control that population as well.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Austin

      That's logic. Here, here let's call for removal of things that werent here thousands of years ago...that means you too.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Bugs

      Brilliant. Follow that line of thinking and tell us: Where do people "belong?" After all, animals were here long before us.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Ahuizotl

      I am an undergraduate studying to become a Marine Biologist, and have won two college level science fair awards. I've worked with well respected scientist on Elephant populations in the Tsavo and Kruger national parks in Africa.

      I know a thing or two about sustainablity and animal populations. I've heard people claim that they see less deer and other wild life in their region because of wolf introduction. What I don't think these people understand is that deer populations aren't declining: they're normalizing. Large primary consumer populations, especially ungulates, have skyrocketted in the absence of wolves. However, these larger populations often can no longer be contained in their natural environment and often reside in places wolves can't go, such as areas of human habitation. Another thing I hear are people saying whether a 1700 group population is sustainable. Technically, yes. That is a sustainable, albiet rather small, population size. However, that's only if you don't go around hunting them for attacking one of the most abundant prey animal in America: livestock. The population of domesticated cattle in regions with wolf populations is obscene. In some states, it's well over 3 million. Wolves will obviously attack these animals. The fact that a prey population of 3 million can only produce a wolf population of 1700 shows how unbalanced the population is. Technically, a healthy wolf population should have INCREASED in sized with introduction of cattle, as more prey should have resulted in a larger predator population. However, humans have intentionally reduced these population to 'natural' levels. Thus, to keep the wolf population that low, you'd have to keep killing those wolves, because ranching space pushes out habitat for more natural prey to live. In other words, I just have this to say: if you want wolves to stop killing your cattle, the only real solution is to reduce the massive cattle population. This is a cycle that won't end, as you have a theoretically limitless population of a prey species (thanks to humans constantly maintaining their numbers for beef production) and a predator in an environment where natural prey is either decreased or pushed out of their range. Either outsource your cattle or reduce their population, otherwise it is impossible to keep a stable population of wolves AND expect them not to attack cattle.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • sw

      Ahuizotl has it right. Too bad most people won't understand it. It all actually logical if you can think like that. Traditionally, western livestock herders were carving their piece of land from a totally wild area and have always thought they had a right to shoot anything and everything that interfered with their livelihood. Not only were the animals there first, but the populations of all native species were in check. As time went on wolf numbers probably jumped as they had more prey with the livestock. It would have caused their other prey to drop in number. As the wolves were being killed off, the deer and elk populations jumped to abnormal levels. These are the levels of deer and elk that are being noticed as very low now. No comment on the number of livestock that now live in the areas. It"s just sick. You would think that technology could be applied to developing new ways to non-lethally deter the wolves from killing the livestock. There is an inbetween where the wolves and the ranchers can live together. Yes there is give and take on BOTH sides. The wolves have to go after their natural prey whuch is more difficult. The ranchers have to deal with an occasional loss. Everyone has to deal with compromise in norml life. The ranchers just don"t want to as they have never had to before. We will end up in a situation where suddenly the wolves have been wiped out again.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      ok retards you dont think people have tried moving animals higher fences ect if a wolf wants a sheep maybe yur dog they will get it. If you want to save them all so bad than take them home with let them be around yur pets famely we will see how that works out for ya

      February 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. David

    One fallacy in the arguments into the effect on deer and elk herds is that the wolf is to blame for wiping out large herds. The predator-prey relationship of these two animals co-evolved. Predators help keep the population of their prey healthy by causing an environmental pressure that selects against the weaker and sick animals. It has been argued that hunters have replaced the role of these predators. While we can keep their populations in check, the techniques used, such as hunting, do not select for ill animals. Ultimately, the lack of a predator species weaken the populations.

    Let us remember, livestock are not a native species, they are introduced to these environments. While some might argue against their presence, I like my steak too much. I believe a balance needs to be met, part of this is accepting that the effects the environment will have on these animals including predators.

    The re-introduction of wolves is just that, re-introduction. Ranchers is the past decided to systematically wipe out the wolf population so as to be able to introduce their livestock. Much of the same mentality this governor has at this point.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      Dave- This isn't 1700 any more. Elk were originally a prairie animal and now live in the mountains. Wolves are smart and avoid towns. This keeps these animals in close proximity with each other and the elk are suffering drastically. Google "Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation" and read it's president's letter to the Defenders of Wildlife. It will straighten you out.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      the rocky mountain elk foundation is a hunting group. they want to ensure an excess of elk to make the hunting easy. don't fall for their PR that they are in any way an environmental group. they want to be the only predators in the west. elk are not an endangered or even "threatened" species. they are being driven into the mountains by cattle and sheep ranchers, who are destroying all of the wild land for free. also, defenders of wildlife pays ranchers for every animal lost to wolves. they also have been trying to teach ranchers how to avoid or minimize wolf kills.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. fishn machine

    Lmao............yea.....will be the cattle than....I hope they only eat the people from montana for being such a nature nusens

    February 18, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Oh My

      You know I can not tell if you made a good point or any point at all with the poor english and misspelled words in this post. Please if you are going to take the time to interject your opinion make sure that you spell and use the english language correctly.

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


      February 18, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. spoo

    this idiot cowboy that montana has as agovernor should be trown to the wolves. it is just so frustrating that poeple without any capacity to think and find a middle ground solution to problems get into positions of power and use it to favor their extreme positions. i am fuming !!!!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. EBF

    Keep the cattle away from the wolves! The wolves were there first. This governor is a fool. "To continue enjoying Montana's wildlife" he said, then states the wolves will be killed. That is always their answer to kill. Inhumane act.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. fishn machine

    Gees if I see any montana resident today, I'm going to punch them in the face

    February 18, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • mttrailboss

      Go ahead and try, 'fishn machine'. Come up to Montana. I can't wait. Doesn't matter what city or town in Montana. Montana men, can take care of themselves, like they have been doing for generations. My ranchhands would like to talk with you, after I'm finished with you. Mike in Montana

      February 18, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. ixnul

    Thats it! im writing my congressman! i propose that wolves be allowed to fill ranchers and their families at will since they murder the wolf population. lets not forget that ranchers also murder cattle and sheep, not just a few hundred, but EVERY ONE that goes through the ranch. clearly there is an overpopulation of ranchers in montana that is destroying the ecosystem. ITS OPEN SEASON! gonna get me some ranchers this season!

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

    White people think they are the center of the universe. Anything that disturbs that order must be rubbed out. Nature does not work for white people. They want to control nature and change it to fit their needs. White people wiped out the natives, the bison,the forests and the wolves and now they are whining because something might interfere with their world. They have many reasons why they are right but they are truly ugly, ethnocentric and soul-less people.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • kimberly

      really how is this a race issue. Get a life and find another place to whine.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • outwest

      It has nothing to do with being white or any other's called being a human and existing. We humans have been existing and "interfering" with our natural environments since the beginnign of our existence. Lets see, even the lost natives of south america "Impact" their environment. It can be managed but not avoided. The results of our "impact" on our environmental system has led to the kind of lifestyles we all so thoroughly enjoy. It has led to the fact that you likely drive a car, live in a warm home, have clothes on your back (or did you just assume that the wool or cotton or whatever material that was used to make your shirt just came from nowhere). The fact that you could even post the rediculous message you posted is evidence of the fact that you too, a fellow human being, has benefited (or apparently been cursed according to your views) by the fac that human being do what human beings do in order to EXIST as human beings. This has nothing to do with being white!. If you don't like to benefit from the fact that you too are a human being, get rid of your clothes, home, car, computer, telephone, food, and move out into the wilderness with nothing but sticks and stones and see how long you survive. Until then, stop being a hypocrite!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Davey G

      White people huh? Ever been to Africa pal? Seen what's been done there by people of Color. How about South America? The companies raping that continent are owned by latins. Oh, and head off to China some time and see how jacked up that country is at this point. Get a clue.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • kimberly

      well said outwest

      February 18, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  13. LEL

    Absolutely anyone with a brain in their head can tell you that wolves have no appreciable impact on livestock populations. This governor is clearly behaving irrationally.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      The major impact is to wildlife, not livestock. But you know that with that brain in your head...

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

      You have never been there and actually seen the wolves in action. Two or three cows a day for one rancher definitely has an impact on his ranch.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  14. Rod

    Typical politician. Let's exterminate a species if it will get me a few more votes.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  15. fishn machine

    Lol....yes I agree ixnaul......I'm calling reberen jackson and tell him people from montana are being raceist lol

    February 18, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
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