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. Andy

    Is Sarah Palin going to be a shooter? This sounds like a good time. They might be able to get a helicopter going. By the way the wolves from Canada and WY are related. They have been seperated in most part in this country because they were hunted to extinction.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. Marie MD

    It's amazing that a so called civilized country can't/won't find anoteer way to keep wolves from being needlessly killed. Are they going to use helicopters? I have the right barbaric idiot to help you out!!!
    Farmers in Africa and other countries use specicialized dogs to keep their herd safe from Cheetahs and lions. We can't do the same thing hee?????
    Of course, that would mean that the wolves would have to compete with the barbaric blood sucker hunters so guess who wins that fight.
    Montana, another state not to visit!!!

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

      Is that MD as in Maryland or Doctor? I'm in Maryland (great Democratic state) and I got to witness "the state" executing 100 geese in a truck gas chamber. We can't hunt deer here (the few organized hunts they have are announced and protested) and we have some of the highest Lyme disease rates. Just seems no state knows how to handle this very well.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      good stay home

      February 18, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      Where are you from i have asked that question a million times and dont alot of answer because peop[le know there state really isnt much better all states hunt certain things RETARD

      February 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LeeCMH

    I've traveled to Montana several times over the years to gain access to Yellowstone. I've stayed overnight in Billings, Helena, and Great Falls. There are many other ways to reach Yellowstone than Montana and I will choose them in the future.

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

      Good luck getting there Wyoming wants to control wolves and so does Idaho so I guess you will have to go to Disney Land instead

      February 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rancher

      look at a map moron

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

    Montana wolves, smoke a pack a day. Seriously, the whole "they were here first" arguement is pretty stale and beat to death. This is 2011, not 1861. We (humans) as a species have evolved, spread out, and developed. Wildlife species as a whole need to be managed within OUR modern society. The rancher is a human being, is higher on the evolutionary chain, and provides a food source to the American population, thus his or her importance is greater than that of the wolf. I eat beef, I eat lamb, but I don't eat dog. If you don't live in Montana, Wyoming, or Idaho, your opinion on wolves in these states holds no weight.

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

      Well, i live in Idaho, so guess my opinion holds weight, right? Wolves help to maintain a healthy and balanced eco-system, one that is to the benefit of everything. Wolves eat herd animals, herd animals population decreases, wolves have less food so their population decreases, there are less predators so herd animal populations increase, wolves now have more food so wolf population increase, and the cycle continues. These species do not need to be managed, what needs to be managed is our interaction with them. Telling people that wolf killings will not be investigated is in no way management of anything, but is wholesale slaughter of an ENDANGERED SPECIES. And speaking of arguments that get stale, the whole "wolves kill livestock, and need to die" is the oldest and stalest of them all. As several people have mentioned, ranchers get paid for livestock that are confirmed wolf kills, and taking into account that DOMESTIC DOGS account for 4-5 times the livestock loss of wolves shouldn't we open the season on them instead? Consider livestock lost to wolves the price a rancher pays for using public lands and not MANAGING their own ranch well enough to protect from wolf predation, there are plenty of ranchers who have taken appropriate precautions against wolves and lose very little to the animals while still living in close proximity of these great animals...there is a way to live in harmony with nature, it just takes a little extra work on our, the humans, part.....but guess when it is greedy that motivates you then this is not a satisfactory solution.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  5. reality

    I'm gonna grab my camera, head to Montana and shoot some wolves.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tsimbi

    @lesa with an e- Wolves do more than re-populate to replace fallen soldiers. The handful that was brought here from Canada in 1995 now numbers well over two thousand and increasing quickly. Few want them wiped out. Most simply want them MANAGED. States like Maine and Minnesota have proven that wolves can co-exist, but for God's sake, keep them controlled. It is absolute lunacy to allow complete protection to a top-of-the-food-chain predator and not expect drastic results. There is still a chance to save our wildlife, but you wouldn't know it by most of the absurd comments on here.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • LeeCMH

      Behind all this are rich farming and ranching corporations (and Wall Street) who want to extent their profits to public lands.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      @Lee- You are just another fool who has watched too much TV. Most ranchers have a tough life. And this is more of a wildlife issue than a ranching issue, but that wouldn't fit into your agenda, now would it?

      February 18, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • LeeCMH

      I would like to respond to your comment that attempts to delineate specific stakeholders in this controversy, but I have difficulty continuing with someone who uses name calling as a form of argument. Calling me a fools detracts from any substance you may want propose.

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

      @LeeCMH – Let's not forget the other "rich" corporation behind all of his, Defenders of Wildlife. Pull up their 990 form. For every dollar donated to them 38 cents goes to SALARY. In fact almost 50% of their money goes to salary and publications, not direct conservation. Compared to Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation where only 20 cents on the dollar goes to salary and over 50% goes to direct conservation and habitat efforts.
      This is the real reason that the target population for wolves is moving from 300 to 2,000 to 5,000. If wolves get delisted DOW would certainly lose a good chunk of its revenue from donations, and thus some would lose their jobs.
      Someone will argue that DOW spends on education, but education of what agenda? Let's not be naive and think only one side of the argument has incentive to press their own agenda.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • LeeCMH

      It is a shame that some organizations use "high" cause simply to run a money making organization. I think groups like this do not detract from the well known corporate pressure to use public lands for a whole host of exploitation and ruin. I live in Ohio. I see everyday what happens when corporations ruin the land.

      I agree with you regarding the RMEF. I spoke with some representatives of the RMEF at the PBR in Indianapolis recently and really like their approach. They are even speaking with the Ohio "lands people" about habitat in Ohio.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. denny

    I live minn. and the wolves here are killing every thing that moves.I wish our gov. had the sense to follow mont. gov. Lot of these comments are made here by people who don'T have any idea what the h– they are talking about , for example the one comment about putting up fence .That has to be the dumbest statement yet

    February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa spelled correctly

      @Denny...really we can't build 100,000 miles of 8-10' fences to protect a few wolves?
      Best comment of all of these... She also wants to have herding dogs or some sh ! t...

      February 18, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dan in Alberta

    Here in Alberta we allow cattle to graze on crown (public) land. The ranchers here know that by using the free grazing land they run the risk of losing some cattle to the elements and predation. This is the reality of getting something for nothing. The wolf population should be managed if they are dwindling the elk and deer population, but I doubt thats the case. The loss of 1 animal a day across the whole state is pretty tiny, this whole debate reeks of pandering to the ranching community, which makes up a good portion of the governors voter base.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      Dan- Where did your erroneous "one animal a day" figure come from? Since wolf re-introduction in 1995 tens of thousands of elk have been wiped out. Moose are almost non-existent in Yellowstone Park. The 148 sheep mentioned in the article were killed by 14 wolves, and not ONE sheep was eaten. Get a clue before posting.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan in Alberta

      I was speaking in reference to the livestock losses.

      The deer and elk populations are fine, they are transient between Alberta and Montana. We are experiencing major over population issues in the national and provincial parks due to a lack of natural predation. If the elk and deer population are indeed under negative pressures, fewer tags should be issued for hunting until the populations rebound. Likewise if the deer and elk are dwindling, the wolf population will fall as a result.

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

      right on target, Dan! and Tsimbi, when are you going to give up on your rants about the elk and moose? they are doing just fine, if you hunters and poachers would stop slaughtering them, there would be an excess of them that the wolves could eat and they would never have to look at a sheep! elk and moose are not endangered or threatened in any way, except by humans. the rocky mountain elk group is a hunting group, plain and simple.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      @guest – So we should let the wolves have all the elk, deer and moose so all of us who hunt have to rely on the cattle from the “corporate ranchers” to feed our families? You’re actually stating that it would be better to let the wolves slaughter all the elk, deer and moose, even if they just kill them for the fun of it and leave them to ROT? So instead of my family getting natural meat with no additives, preservatives or antibiotics, we have to start eating farm/ranch raised cattle instead of leaner and healthier wild game meat?

      I am a single mother who has hunted annually since moving to this great state 5 years ago and it has been almost that long since I have had to buy ANY beef products. I, my daughter and soon my son, hunt, kill and hand process (including smoking, making sausage, jerky & burger meat) all of our game meat and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You are truly deluded if you think that it would be better to waste these natural resources by letting thoughtless predators waste what my family cherishes. Hunters don’t “slaughter” anything, WOLVES DO! We use everything we can when we kill, we tan (or donate to be tanned) the hides, use all the meat we can and my dogs love to chew the raw, baked or smoked bones. I am not an exception among hunters, most of people in Montana have done things this way for generations. I learned everything I know from a multi-generational Montana hunting family and am proud to be passing this knowledge on to my children and someday their children.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan in Alberta

      Ok now this is just getting ridiculous. Wolves don't kill game for fun, thats a bunch of crap. You'd think by the way some people talk they are maurading raiders killing everything in sight. Hunting is a priviledge not a right. If there is negative pressures on the elk and deer populations than the number hunting tags should be reduced. Nature does a much better job managing populations than people ever will. Without predation from wolves and other apex predators disease and poor genetics will ruin the herds over the long term.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      Wolves don't kill for the fun of it?????
      Tell that to this rancher in Dillon, Montana:
      120 adult male sheep in one incident!
      "They were running, getting chewed on, bit and piled into a corner. They were bit on the neck, on the back, on the back of the hind leg. They'd cripple them, then rip their sides open."
      Just because you've never heard of it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan in Alberta

      You were referring to elk and deer being maniacally slaughtered by the wolves which is a load of nonsense. Any rancher who isnt cheap would have dogs or fencing for those sheep. I don't pity morons who don't look after their property.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      Wow, ignorance knows no bounds… you really thing that if a pack of wolves would attack and decimate a fenced herd of sheep that it wouldn’t attack a herd of elk or deer the same way? You think dogs would have saved the sheep? A pack of wolves would’ve taken out the dogs first and moved on sheep. A fence you say? They were fenced; fences don’t stop wolves, unless it’s solid wood and about 8 foot high. I personally had a german shepard that could clear a 6 foot privacy fence, you don’t think a wolf could do at least the same? Also, in most areas in Montana you can’t fence pastures higher than 4 foot because it doesn’t allow for wildlife migration. These sheep were on private, fenced property being regularly looked after by the owner/owners family and they were attacked on more than one occasion. The only moron who seems to need pity, IS YOU!

      February 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. valeria

    OMG,,!!!! how can you do that that iir wroong.........

    February 18, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  10. fishn machine

    I agree ...with the wolfs lol.....I'm from texas and here in the capital of the usa ( I know we are not but should be ,Texas rules) we appreciate wild life un like morons from montana, here in texas we have the mentality and the strength to deal with this problem s , so in a way I do feel for the fellow montana man, who only got to second grade, its not enough that they mary their sisters and cousins, now they want to kill our furry friend..please people from montana, have comPation.
    Ps,, isn't forrest gump from montana ? Lol

    February 18, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Tsimbi

      Get an education, troll.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  11. SAH

    @Gun Nut

    "Gee Tom, My bet is you don't live anywhere near WY,MT,ID but you certainly have an opinion. Congrats!

    At least have some insight, the wolves that were introduced aren't the native wolves, they are canadian wolves, they are more aggessive and bigger than the native wolves. They attack elk and livestock in huge numbers. You probably don't care about that though, the wolf is pretty and should be protected. Come camping out here sometime, I'll strap a steak to you and you will get to see one first hand, BTW: they like to be petted too."

    I backpack into those areas all the time, never been concerned about Wolfs (Brown Bears(Grizzly) yes). You highly exaggerated the predation by wolf. What I've seen and have witnessed first hand is the high volume of pouching. Poachers all over the US are getting to be a real problem. I also do quite a bit Boundary Canoeing from Northern Minnesota up into Canada, you very rarely even see a Wolf. It's guys like you who constantly exaggerate these incredible animals into some kind horror story. You have no idea what talking about, you would have the wildness of some of the few remaining places turned into Disney Land. You're not a wilderness camper by any stretch of any-ones imagination.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      Brown bears are not Grizzly bears, though yes Grizzlies do have a brown color.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      @Elaine Brown and Grizzly are the same bear–Kodiak Brown is the same species just split by genetics because of the water boundary.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      Brown bear – Ursus arctos
      Grizzly bear – Ursus arctos horribilis
      Kodiak bear – Ursus arctos middendorffi

      All different species.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      Just because you didn't see them doesn't mean THEY didn't see YOU!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      they are sub species of the Brown Bear....

      February 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. tony

    I feel the same way about Republicans. Just look at the damage packs of wild ones have done all over the US.

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

    Sorry Compassion

    February 18, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. Frederick Le Murre

    Why the heck don't the ranchers use the heavy flock guardian wolf killing dogs like the Eurasians do, such as the Turkish Kangal or Caucasian Ovcharka?

    February 18, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      I agree–we are one of the only countries that believes using a gun is better than dogs...its crazy and Im a gun owner. Im sure this argument is going to go from managment to "why should i give up my guns"...its really just about people looking outside the box and try to figure out an alternate way to protect live stock. I say bring out the shephards!

      February 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. fishn machine

    I'm running withe Packkkkkkkkkkk!....I'm running with the Packkkkkk!!! And never looookkkking backkkkkkk...qqz

    February 18, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      Please do. I'd love to see how it goes over when you try to introduce yourself into a pack of wolves.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      I agree and don't forget what someone else on here said.....they REALLY like to be petted!

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