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. A Solution

    Anatolian Shepherds might help.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  2. fishn machine

    Can't we all just get along......

    February 18, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  3. fishn machine

    This is why I'm moveing to healthcare,low crime rate,you can have special brownies,and yea they respect the wolfs lol.......

    February 18, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. brown

    People kills not Wolf kills ya dumb azz!

    February 18, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      That shows just what a "dumb azz" you are!

      February 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BigBearUSMC

    Why dont you people bashing on Montana ask the people of Vancouver Island about having a top predator that has no natural enemies. The Cougars are thriving on that island with multiple attacks on humans every year and oh yeah. The deer are still everywhere. So saying that the wolf needs to be left alone until a natural depletion of its food source naturally fiixes the problem is BS.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. EMB

    Unlike humans, wolfs do not kill for the thrill. They kill to survive. They target the weaker members of herds which ultimately helps the overall health of those herds. People fail to recognize that wolves may not eat every day and are not always successful when hunting. I therefore find it ironic that hunters complain about "their" prey being dessimated by wolves, when in fact the wolves will make far better use of the kill than the hunters and have worked harder for it. Wolf kills help to support an entire ecosystem. Human kills help to support egos and hobbies.

    I fully recognize the choice of ranching as a lifestyle is an extremely hard one which most of us can't live up to; however, I struggle to feel sorry for the ranchers who consciously made choices to set up shop in areas with wolf populations. Of course, the argument will be that the wolves were not always there. But the cold hard facts are that the wolves were there first and almost completely wiped out due to ignorance and the perceived privilege of being human. Humans have a lot to learn.

    Instead of the constant legal battles to remove or reinstate wolf protection and reimbursing ranchers for certifled wolf kills, wouldn't our time and energy be better spent on trying to reach a win:win scenario? Personally I would rather have the government $$ go toward protective barriers to prevent wolves from coming into contact with ranchers' herds than to have to make a choice between the two.

    If it comes down to it though, I support the wolves.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. munch

    Round up all the illegal mexicans and ship them to montana! Round up all the wolves and ship them all over the country. You bet your ass Montana would be cryin bout how all these mexican'ts are takin ur jobs. We all have problems is our states. Ill take a wolf and give you the 30 mexicans living in the volkswagon beetle in the alley behind my house! Management is the key. If we can MANAGE(key word here) to get rid of these mexican'ts, the counrty would prosper with all tey are takin from us!!!

    February 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • fishn machine

      Lol another redneck crying ,,"THEY TOOK OUR JOBSSSSS"
      ...I have compassion for the hard working mexicans that come to this country to take the jobs that our lazy over weight people don't want.......god bless the mexicans that mowe my yard...thank you jose,pancho and juan ..
      Sincerely ..gorge bush....

      February 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jeff

    The state of montana is just protecting it people just the same as the wolfs are protecting its pack I thank if the majority of humans were being attacked by three or four wolves they would fight too survive and some may become vendictive toward wolves is that not nature in the big picture survival

    February 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kreidus

      Yeah that's true, but the article is talking about ranchers being allowed to go out and eradicate any [packs of] wolves that "happen to be a threat" to their livestock. So that means that any rancher could go out and say "hey these wolves are jeopardizing my cattle's' lives" and shoot to kill as many as they so pleased under sanction of the law whether they were attacking or not.

      However I do know that generally if you shoot a shot gun into the ground near a wolf, or sometimes even in the air, that this will more than likely scare the f*** out of them and they will high tail it off that rancher's property. But on the off chance that the wolf were attacking a person, then yeah, you are right, protecting oneself and others nearest you tends to come first. I really don't see anybody just standing there letting themselves get mauled to death by a wolf without at least trying to get it off...

      February 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bones

    So if there gonna kill off wolves for them surviving by eating what they my find, does this mean we can eliminate the trophy hunters and the poachers who have a massive effect on wildlife populations. Also if everybody would stop moving from the city and deciding to live in the country it would help. Urban development also contributes to the wildlife population dwindling.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Let's think for a second. First, find ONE sample in the last 100 years where "trophy hunters" caused "massive" population damage to an animal. I want to know what it is. That is obviously a biased opinion trying to be passed off as a fact. Second, if a "trophy hunter" went around killing ranchers livestock they would be thrown in prison, after all the issue at hand is both wild prey and domestic prey.
      I would love to hear what you have to say.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    The governor should be dressed as a wolf then put on a ranchers farm and see what happens q

    February 18, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Opinionated Americans

    Let's all just brush this underneath the carpet and pretend like the issue is non existent. NO ONE CARES.

    So pack up your books and essays and stop writing. China wants their wall back.

    P.S For all the post above. TL ; DR. Too long, didn't read.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kim Backer-Kelley

    I think is wrong in so many ways. WRONG

    February 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Idaho_Redneck


    February 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. RAWR

    Sometimes I wonder if these people think. I get that it is horrible for a rancher to lose part of his/her livestock. I get it costs hard earned money. But do they not get that they are giving people license to wipe out a part of a species? Can you say Passenger Pigeons? I'm no animal activist by any means but it honestly hurts me to hear that the governor would allow such idiocy.

    I think he needs to re-evaluate how much weight this decision of his actually has.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      From a political viewpoint Gov. Schweitzer (Democrat) should've been more sensitive in the choice of his wording for this statement. People also need to stop making ignorant generalized statements about the people of MT. Conservation of wilderness areas and wildlife populations is a Big Deal here and no, we're not all gun toting rednecks.
      I like that many of you plan to never visit here though, too many people already. Keep up the good work.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • belle517

      What I think is that this whole country was historically wolf habitat and you should make yourself extinct so we can re-populate your area again.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. It's me

    If they're killing peoples livestock what's next the owners children the only logical way to stop these wolves is by lethal force kill these damned things seriously don't just kill them I'm sure their coats make a nice warm coat haha

    February 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • lesa with an e

      OMG here we go..."the wolves are going to eat my children" fear mongering...sigh

      February 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
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