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. Jon

    No, we cannot have hungry wolves endangering Montana's elk population; those elk are for hunters to "harvest."

    February 18, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      Yep, elk and deer feed my family every year, I haven't bought a beef product in YEARS!!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tsimbi

    Dear Animal Rights people- This has WAY less to do with ranching and WAY more to do with the wildlife that is suffering by the re-introduction AND PROTECTION of these predators. If you got educated on the issue, you would all be on the side of those who want wolf populations managed.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      Tsimbi you are so angry–not everyone is running on emotion here..there are a lot of good ideas floating around. Are you a rancher? IN Montanna? If you knew about survival of the fittest you would know that in wolves if you decimate packs-they will breed to recoup a loss. Thats the whole reason NOT to take out a whole pack. You dont have to insult people who dont agree with you-just read and let it go. No one has a great answer on what to do yet. Its all good...its just a blog.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. Emilio Esteves

    McDonalds Authorizes Cow Kills.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. Aezel

    Montana: Rednecks with guns.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      P.E.T.A. – People Eating Tasty Animals

      February 18, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      thank God for rednecks they feed your sorry a$$

      February 18, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Emilio Esteves

    KFC Authorizes Chicken Kills

    February 18, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tony

    This is why Montana hates out of staters. Think about how ignorant your comments are. Montana is full of a bunch of dumb redneck hicks? I want all of those people who said nasty things to not eat a hamburger or any meat products for the next month. Without the ranchers you wouldn't get your daily McDonalds. I don't tell you how to manage your cities or states don't tell us how to manage wolves. We actually live here all year round instead of being dumb tourists that think the entire state is a national park. I think we should let the wolves go in Central Park and see what happens. Families actually live here just remember that.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Mustang

      Listen your Montana state is not the only state that offer meat. We have 49 other states. We'll kill your economy starting today. you'll feel it in a months or so.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      Mustang your a moron Montana will do fine without you

      February 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Emilio Esteves

    Aezel: Big Mouth Immigrant

    February 18, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. tamars

    The governor of Montana is ignorant. Wolves feed on the weak and ill thus saving human consumption of fouled meat that ranchers couldn't care less about as long as they make their profit. Boycott all meat products that come from Montana. It's easy to trace the source of the meat.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. Emilio Esteves

    Democrats Authorize Fetus Kills

    February 18, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. tstorm

    Governor Schwiezer, you're a PIG. I hope you're recalled soon you piece of human rot! I think the wave of anti-Republicanism, like they're experiencing in Wisconsin, needs to spread to other states like Montana so we can rid of these monsters!

    February 18, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • reality

      The governor is a Democrat.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Lena

      Um, tstorm, Governor Schweitzer is a Democrat ....

      February 18, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      Your so ignorant.....he's a democrat......and he's termed out so he won't be running for governor again anyway!

      I'm guessing that if you couldn't be bothered to research the governors political party before making a comment that makes you look stupid, you probably haven't done any research about wolf recovery and populations either. Keep your knee-jerk reactions to yourself, your definately to ignorant on the subject to comment about it!

      February 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      He's a Democrat you moron

      February 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ELH

    Let the wolves alone. When they are done eating all the deer and elk, they can eat cattle. When the all cattle are all gone they can eat the governor. Hey Gov, did e bite cha?

    February 18, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tsimbi

    A friend of mine who is currently reading these posts made the comment "The smart people are outnumbered by the idiots". And the "idiots" here are truly "Idiots". They automatically rant about killing wolves when they know nothing about the situation. If they could see that moose have all but disappeared from Yellowstone park in 15 years, and deer and elk populations aren't far behind, they might think twice about their knee jerk reaction to an emotional article. Get the facts. Google "Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation" and read the letter from it's Director to the Defenders of Wildlife. If you can't take ten minutes to do so, STFU.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      I am from Idaho, my family has been in Idaho for several generations. Most of my relatives are hunters including of elk. I also have a degree in zoology. I agree most people who post on both sides of the issue speak from emotion and not from an understanding of the issues. While the director of the RMEF has a better understanding than some, his letter still uses selective evidence to support his position, the tone of which is also more emotion based.

      Finding unbiased facts on such an emotionally charged issue is always difficult, but of course this is what shapes public opinion and from that public policy.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  13. kimberly

    We are the top of the food chain. Sorry but you need to remember that. that are not talking about torturing the animals but controlling them. I lived in an area where they were jumping walls and getting pets and got a little kid. Since when did animals became more important then humans?

    February 18, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Baphogoat

      Animals have always been more important than people.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  14. bil

    killing any animal on public land is ridiculous! using the MT gov's. "logic", i can "kill" ranchers on public land? ranchers are animals, no? makes me extremely sad to be a democrat. wolves keep a balance of the deer & elk herds by thinning them out. kill all the wolves; what's next? kill all the elk & deer because there are no more wolves to kull the heards? time to kull the "herds" of greedy ranchers in MT & elsewhere who get federal subsidies. 319 wolves? wow. if it was 319,000-MAYBE kull a few. seems like MT needs more chlorine for the gene pool! and YES! i do live close to MT-CO

    February 18, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Jbark

      Just because you live in Colorado doesn't mean you have the first clue for what's best in Montana. Go to and you will see for yourself what these worthless creatures do to the local habitat. Wolves had their chance they lost, and now they belong in a zoo, or in a tighly controlled national park.

      February 19, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. MasterBlaster

    About time..! And Im not from Montana. Do you idiotic people think that that natures will regulate their numbers? They will be like starving polar bears after the elk run out and then you will have large numbers of hungry wolves. Read the history books, most every one that had a rural life in the early 1900s and all of game biologists knew that they needed to go, and then all was fine once they eradicated them. Then these new children were born that all live in the city and grew up watching cartoons and they are so smart now and have a better idea.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Real MT Cowboy

      Read the history books? Polar bears? In Montana? Dude, go back to kindergarten and learn to actually READ those books. There are no polar bears in Montana.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      so called cowboy you missed the point

      February 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
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