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. Coriolana

    Wolves authorise Montana Governor kills. Stay tuned.

    Less facetiously, this should be recalled-from office and the human race.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dan

    Not as simple of a situation as most of you think this is. The wolf population is out of control with over 1800 in the tristate area. These wolves have taken out about half of the elk population in the yellowstone eco-system, There is no balance in the system. Of course CNN is over-exagerating what the governor wants to do. He stated that ranchers can protect their livestock and one pack of about 30 on the border of Montana and Idaho will be trimmed. There are excessive wolves on this border because Idaho declared the same thing as what our governer did 6 months ago. Now a handful of packs moved across the border for protection and have killed half the elk herd. He is not going to wipe out all wolves. Ask yourselves, why is a Democrat Governor, and 2 Democrat Senators want cotnrol of the wolf population in Montana and willing to go up against the same lobbies that put them into office?????? Because there is a real problem with the wolves. Also lets put some of those wolves back into their natural surrounding, Chicago, New York, Detroit and lets see people get in an uproar. How come the west gets a bad rap for being the only place that doesnt want wolves to take over. These urban Greenies wouldnt want them in their backyard stealing their dog.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Coriolana

      boohoo

      February 18, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      @dan–yea this is really emotionally charged and thats normal for people. I too believe in balance and managment. I dont believe it should be done by helicopter-that would make it even worse for people to emotionally accept-AND this day and age people are emtionally invested in the furry creature . Cant change that. So with that said-I believe there can and should be a way to humanely do this. People who are emotionally charged from this should also do research and understand why a population needs to be managed. Its the same as over population of deer in urban areas-it HAS to be done in the world we live in now.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • b0bc4t

      Dan, reabilitators have been rescuing wolves right in Westchestr County, within forty miles of NYC, and coyotes have made a comeback too, occasionally taking a small dog as they prey on suburban neighborhoods. You don't have a monopoly on the wildlife, just a misguided sense of superiority and lack of vision with respect to the human role in nature.

      Keep the livestock in check, rather than run loose on the landscape, and the wolves will prey on the sick and the weak.
      Be glad they don't classify you in that category as you hunt them down ... I see you have symptoms of dementia ......

      February 18, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    This story really misses the mark on a lot of the facts. Wolf populations are in the thousands and have been way over the target to get off the endangered species list for about a decade now.

    Yes, the wolves take out a lot of livestock, (that you and I live off of btw) but they do tremendous damage to the wildlife. This isn't the opinion of a few rednecks. This is an almost unanimous belief by all of the biologists and wildlife experts in the north west.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      @Steve- Excellent and accurate post.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. mttrailboss

    As a working cattle rancher in southwest Montana.., thank you, Governor Brian Schweitzer for caring about ranchers' and their cattle, and their livelihood. The last several years have been hard on working cattle ranches in Montana, with numerous attacks by wolfs. This year, we rode up on a herd of cattle feeding, that were being attacked and the wolf pack didn't even move, when they saw us. Its one of those things, you call.., 'its them or us'. Once again.., thank you Governor Schweitzer for protecting our livelihood and providing excellent beef to our country. Mike in Montana

    February 18, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • bil

      stupid trail boss: maybe i'll bring some of my friends from NYC/NJ to "speak" with you & your ranch hands. when they are done with you morons, we'll feed you to the wolves. bada bing

      February 18, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • April

      Oh, poor little working cattle ranchers, who graze your cattle on public lands for nearly nothing, destroying what belongs to everyone for selfish gain. Poor little guys! Whaaaaa, a few wolves are eating a few of your cattle (for which you are promptly and fully reimbursed), and sometimes you actually have to search for an elk to kill, instead of finding one in your backyard! Woe is you!

      Yeah, real tough, independent Montana man. How much does your state take from the federal government for every dollar you put in?

      February 18, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. terry botbyl

    What's next? Lets kill all the bears too, and then the Buffalo. Who needs wildlife and why give them a chance to live a natural life. Just because they are hungry and see food instead of housing and invasion of all their territories, acting normally will get them killed. What a shame that a better solution can not be found!!!!

    February 18, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • April

      The buffalo (actually bison) have already all been killed, or very nearly so. There used to be millions, now there are thousands, mostly on ranches.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ken

    I guess I will take my money and vacations somewhere else. I will also pass the word to bikers and vacationers to stay out of that beautiful state as well. Why do you think we travel there, maybe because of the beautiful country and WILDLIFE

    February 18, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dan

    Most People in Montana dont want the entire Wolf Population wiped out, We want them managed, that is what the governor wants to do. We humans have taken over the planet so no natural ecosystem can sustain itself. We have to manage it. Do you hear me, manage it.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  8. Montana Fat Ranchers

    Who put Montana in the news? the wolfs! the people of Montana don't have anything to offer. The only thing they have is the beauty of a long state and the wild life that's it! now they want to kill wolfs after wolfs, and the wolf put Montana in the map! the wolf gave the people of Montana the chance to be known with an article! what is the population in Montana? less than one million citizens right? wow! i never heard of Montana State more than today! and why? because the wolfs are more famous!!!!! than the million citizens of montana!!!

    February 18, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. Real MT Cowboy

    FACT: Montana is the fourth (4th) LARGEST state in the U.S. (Alaska, Texas, California and Montana are the largest states). Montana has over 147 thousand square miles of land.
    FACT: Montana has the fifth (5th) SMALLEST population (less than 1 million people in the whole state)
    FACT: There are just 317 wolves in Montana.
    FACT: Elk out number people in Montana.
    FACT: Deer out number people in Montana several times over.
    FACT: Wolves are a natural predator in Montana
    FACT: Ranchers are demanding that federal and state lands be purged of wolves so that ranchers can use the public lands for grazing cattle and sheep.

    FACT: MICHIGAN is the 11th largest state in land size, 9 million people and 520 wolves.

    FACT: WISCONSIN is the 23rd largest state in land size, 5.8 million people and more than 700 wolves.

    FACT: IDAHO is the 14th largest state in land size, has 1.6 million people and 843 wolves.

    So, the Governor of Montana is saying that 317 wolves cannot share 147,042 square miles of land with less than a million people? It sounds like the cattle and ranchers lobby is doing a little quid-pro-quo with the Montana Governor. The lobby won't donate to the Governor's re-election campaign unless he kills the wolves. Political Corruption! And senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester seem to be on the take as well. While political corruption is nothing unusual, it seems too blatant for Schweitzer, Baucus and Testor to be demanding the right to kill a TINY but entire population of wolves just so that ranchers can use public land without bother.

    It's the cost of doing business. Federal lands are owned by ALL Americans. If you use federal lands, then you cannot exterminate every pest just to maximize your personal profits. Ranchers need to factor the losses into their costs and adjust their beef prices accordingly. Whatever happened to American ingenuity and innovation? Ranchers are still operating like they did in 1863...

    February 18, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      @ MT Rancher 🙂 I agree that ranchers need to step up and start thinking outside their boxes!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Mustang

      start thinking outside their boxes! they can't!!! don't you see the facts!!! less than one million people, the 4th biggest state only 350 wolfs and they want to kill them!! they can't think!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Texas Pete

      You are a moron if you think that wolves distribute themselves evenly. California is the most populated state in the US, but you would never know that if you happened to live in Death Valley.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Real MT Cowboy

      Pete – How funny for a Texan to comment. Texans would kill their own children for buck. After all, Texas has more prisoners then the entire country of China an Iran COMBINED. The state of Texas executes more people than any other country in the entire world – including China and Iran. Spare us your Texas morality – you don't get a vote.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      Amen!!! just add in that the ranchers pay about $1 per year for the right to graze their herds on PUBLIC lands and that defenders of wildlife pays ranchers for every animal lost to wolves. this is the most disgusting form of political payback i've ever seen... well, maybe giving Haliburten those Iraqi contracts was right up there, too....

      February 18, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      FACT: Montana HAD 317 wolves in 2006!
      FACT: Based on VISUAL counts as of 12/31/2009 there were a MINIMUM of 37 breeding pairs and a MINIMUM of 524 wolves in Montana.

      Reference: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Wolf population and Distribution facts – http://fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/management/wolf/population.html

      So in just 3 years they have almost doubled in population, even including the one wolf hunt Montana had (quota of 150 wolves).
      These are total predators that don't just kill for food but also kill for the fun of it. They have been known to kill an animal and leave the carcass to other scavengers ot just to rot. Maybe you'd all like some of these "beautiful" creatures in your back yard too, I say we relocate them to all the major metropolitan areas, if you dont like it, just DIE because the ENTIRE country was once their native habitat, so there's no where to move that would be safe. YOU have no more right to their native habitat than anyone in Montana does, so hurry up and die already so we can put wolves on your property too!

      February 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      Cowboy my a$$ probably wouldn't know the difference between a horse and a elk

      February 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. WhatShouldWorkDoesnt

    I must say that trusting ranchers to hunt wolves responsibly is ludicrous. I understand a need for safety and I understand protecting your livestock; but it won't happen with a gun in a man's hand. Telling a rancher they can shoot wolves is like putting a herd of cattle in front of a wolf and telling him to eat. Find a balance or else we will reap what we sow and find ourselves over-run with grazing animals that we can't control. Watch Lion King people. It's the circle of life.

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

      Lion King get off the couch and go outside

      February 18, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    It's totally bias that one man can have the authority to kill off a species that has been in that state for generations. How would he feel if the tables were turned and he were in these magnificent creatures shoes. They are natures balance keepers and they have a right to be here also, greed and politics should not dictate whether they have a right to live. How would you feel if a species had that right to do that to you. Let them live and be in peace.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      These are total predators that don't just kill for food but also kill for the fun of it. They have been known to kill an animal and leave the carcass to other scavengers ot just to rot. Maybe you'd like some of these "magnificent" creatures in your back yard too, I say we relocate them to all the major metropolitan areas, if you dont like it, just DIE because the ENTIRE country was once their native habitat, so there's no where to move that would be safe. YOU have no more right to their native habitat than anyone in Montana does, so hurry up and die already so we can put wolves on your property too!

      February 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheila

      Nobody said anything about exterminating the entire wolf population. It needs to be controlled; let them live in peace? Wolves aren't really peaceful animals; you know the idiom "throw him to the wolves"? They're actually quite vicious, and reproduce quickly.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Patty

    This is another ridiculous proposed plan by a Governor who refuses to look at any other options. There is a Hungarian bred dog – the Kuvasz that has helped many farmers out West save their flocks of sheep. These dogs are not pets. As puppies they are placed with the livestock and virtually become 'one of them' always staying with the animals and ferociously defending them against wolf packs. I know that these dogs are kept with sheep – why couldn't they stay with a herd of cattle? It's amazing and alarming to me how quickly we humans pick up the gun and shoot these animals dead. Didn't we learn anything about the delicate balance of nature and the ecosystem the last time we almost eradicated this species? Wake up people – there are other options out there. Also, isn't the BLM trying to eradicate the herds of wild mustangs out on the ranges in order to placate the cattle ranchers? Hmmm, something is truly amiss here.

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

      Try making the "sheep dogs can do the job so we don't need guns" argument to the rancher in Utah who had his very large and aggressive sheep dog killed by a single wolf and had another of his dogs serioiusly injured in that same fight against the wolf (that's two 100lb sheep dogs against one wolf for those who are counting) and see how the argument stands up. If you don't believe me that wolves can and do kill these sheep dogs too, do a little research on ksl.com for the story. I'll save you the time http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=11858806

      February 18, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      YES the Kuvas is a GREAT alternative...i dont understand why Ranchers arent chiming in on this. And you are correct-the dogs arent family members of the humans-they protect their "pack" the livestock. This would be a great alternative...so lets hear it ranchers...why havent you used this?

      February 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tsimbi

    So many people who don't live around here- and don't have a clue- are commenting from emotion they have from this article only. You don't know anything about wolves and how they have impacted the wildlife in our area. Please take a few minutes and go to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's web site. Check out the letter that their President sent to the defenders of Wildlife. It says it all. Wolf numbers have FAR exceeded goals, Environmental groups are pushing to double them. Wildlife is vanishing while Environmental fat cats line their pockets with YOUR well-intentioned donations.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Tia tata cuenta cuento

      whatever. no emotions it's the wolf rights.... anyway some one up there said in a comment: "the people of Montana don't have anything to offer, the wolf put the citizens of Montana in the news"

      February 18, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tia tata cuenta cuento

    Oh you guys are in trouble! guess what? we used to camp in your state almost every year. no more! no mas! you kill the wolf and we kill your economy how about that?

    February 18, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      Oh, boo hoo, please come back and camp here, preferably in a remote area with no medical services.....maybe a pack of wolves will kill you, your pet(s), and your kid(s), at least then the rest of us wouldn't have to worry about your stipidity further effecting the gene pool! Unless you've actually done some reseach into the FACTS about wolves, don't bother to comment, your just presenting an uneducated, knee-jerk reaction to what you THINK sounds like a bad situation!

      February 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      Oh and if you think that not camping here will kill our economy, you'd better stop eating steak and any wheat-based products because our economy is much more dependent on those commodoties than on your measly contribution to tourism.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      because your $10/night camp fee did so much for the economy. We don't want you here, keep your polution and garbage elsewhere.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      Good one less treehugging moron in Montana

      February 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Glenn

    Can we shoot the governor? An endangered species is not a tool for hunting. I was raised where you kill what you can eat only. If the government spent more money on reserved land instead of themselves the wolf would have it's own home.

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