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.

Post by:
Filed under: Animals • Environment • Montana • Nature • Politics • U.S. • Wolves
soundoff (1,003 Responses)
  1. Idaho_Redneck

    @ lesa with an e: Thank you. Your response is well thought out. I really do understand the emotion; you don’t want animals hurt or killed. I get it. However, if something is not done soon, the wolf will eat themselves out of house and home. And their prey species will be eliminated as well. This will result in an extreme unbalance of the environment, something we both don’t want. Deer and stray dogs? This problem is not unfamiliar to me. A highly controlled urban hunting of deer seems to be the only solution. Birth control, hazing, fencing, guard dogs and sounds at a high volume have all be tried without any noticeable effect on population of urban deer. Like the wolf, management is needed. Stray dogs are shot in my area. If an owner cannot be located, and animal control cannot catch them, then they are eliminated. Once again I apologize for how harsh this sounds, we have not found another solution to this problem.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. The dude

    I work for the federal lands agency and I lived in Montana doing so for about 6 years. The damage cattle ranchers do to the PUBLIC lands for there own gain is absolutely crazy. They want to use our land for there gain and kill everything that gives them problems in the "wild" they can. Sorry but you are joy getting my vote on this one ranchers. Clearly our political structure is broken due to all the lobbying out there. I love Montana and wish I lived there today but decimating populations of wolves I feel isn't the answer. Time for the ranchers to quit whining and remember it isn't there land anyway. I am all for if a wolf is on your property then kill it. But when the ranchers leave their cattle in the high country all summer to graze without anybody watching well losses should be expected. Good luck on this one Montana!

    February 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Idaho_Redneck

      You are completely right about the damage done by cattle grazing on the range, or the dessert as we call it. The ranchers do pay a small rent fee for each AMU, which is an animal management unit. It means one cow and one calf. However, compared to what cows to the dessert, their rent adds up to nothing, in terms of compensation for damage. If my cattle owning friends knew I had posted this on CNN, they would castrate me! I have seen this damage first hand, and know what I speak of.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Phoenix

    @ThingsRbad, My analogy was to point out how some people hunt, irresponsibly in some cases. With yourself being a hunter you know what I mean as you have undoubtedly come across some who shouldn't be allowed to own a gun, let alone fire one.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tizbad

    I think the Rancher's are CRYIN' WOLF !! Think everyone knows how that story goes..

    February 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality

      Well maybe some research needs to be done im sure the Gov of that state has gone out into the areas hit by the wolves he is acting on good intel. He is the rep of the people of the state not the wolves and some people on here calling the people rednecks lol what do you thank they call you lol could you survive in there shoes come on people open your eyes humanity is humanity and for the wolves they have adapted and survived for millions of years they will be on this planet for many more.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. J.L.S.

    I speak as a Mid-Westerner... yes, animal populations should be controlled. However, the moment certain species go on the *hit list* there is bound to be a small, but dangerous, population of over zealous hunters who will, in fact, illegally over hunt. There's is no controlling human behavior, and some people undoubtedly will over react, and eliminate as many wolves as they possibly can, feeling entirely justified by the law. I see a few of these possible over reactors have already posted. Most notably the individual that posted something along the lines of *I'd smoke a pack of wolves.* These are the folks I feel concerned would do far more damage to Montana's ecology. I see in the research there are already a number of 'collared' wolves missing. We can assume then, they are already being poached to some extent.

    I understand damages caused by wolves to prey populations, and to livestock. Losses that are unacceptable. However, I believe a wolf culling should be controlled by, and performed by, Montana's rangers/professional marksmen. that is a program that was implemented here to cull deer. It's quick and humane. That is tolerable.

    Opening the hunting of wolves up to the public, that is a whole other ball game... I would oppose that simply because some people have no sense empathy for animals in general, much less predators, and would kill for fun and in larger numbers than allowed. Which is my expectation of what will happen.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elvis 24

      There are so many comments here that I want to respond to I don’t know where to begin, so I guess I’ll start at the beginning. About 20 years ago the Federal Government decided to introduce wolves into the Yellowstone Park ecosystem. The States that would be affected by this decision, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, were told that once a sustainable population of wolves was attained, the States would be able to submit a management plan to the Federal Government, and if approved, they could take over the management of the wolves. A sustainable population is enough packs to provide genetic diversity, but not so many packs as to have a large adverse impact on ranching or elk, deer and moose populations.

      A few years ago, the Feds decided that they had reached a sustainable population and accepted proposals for State management. Montana and Idaho submitted successful proposals for wolf management. Both proposals included hunting as a tool for management to keep wolves within the target numbers. Wyoming’s proposal was that wolves be treated as predators and anyone could shoot them on site. Their proposal was denied.

      In 2009, in Montana, a wolf quota was set and a hunting season was conducted during the regular big game season. It was closed as soon as the quota was harvested. Hunters were required to notify the Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) if they harvested a wolf and the season was closed within 24 hours of reaching the State set quota. Idaho had a similar situation. Although no group was completely happy with this arrangement, it seemed to be a workable compromise between hunters, ranchers, and groups advocating the return of wolves. As Idaho and Montana were preparing for the 2010 season, a federal judge decided that wolves in Montana and Idaho should receive protected status again, not because their recovery was in any danger, but because he felt Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho had to be treated as one recovery area. Since Wyoming’s plan was not approved, then Montana’s and Idaho’s plans must also be set aside.

      This decision, and the Federal Government’s inaction since, has led to a tremendous amount of frustration in Idaho and Montana. I believe that is what the governor was trying to express. In the year since protected status was reinstated, wolf populations have grown exponentially in Montana and Idaho and elk, deer, and moose populations have had a direct inverse relationship. Hunting is not only a traditional way of life for many Montanans, it is also extremely vital to our State’s economy. The loss of these herds is devastating to many Montanan communities. And, although relatively few Montanans are actually ranchers, the economic loses they have endured are also substantial. It will take years to rebuild the sheep herd of the rancher near Dillon who lost it when a pack decided to kill the sheep for apparently enjoyment. They didn’t even eat the sheep. It has been said the wolves, humans and sharks are the only animals that kill for the “fun of it”.

      Now, let me address some of the other comments directly. To the person who was going to destroy Montana’s economy by not coming here to tent camp. Good luck with that. Hunters spend millions more here every year than do tent campers. Last summer, unfortunately, we had some tent campers who were killed by a grizzly for no apparent reason while they slept in a crowded campground. So if I might make a suggestion, next time you visit why don’t you try one of our world class resorts instead. It is safer and much better for our economy.

      To the people who suggest we relocate wolves to other parts of the country. Seriously, why don’t we give that a try? I am reading a biography of Daniel Boone and I am struck by the fact that he was hunting wolves, elk and buffalo in Kentucky before it was a State. I know the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has sponsored reintroduction of elk to this region. Why not wolves and Bison? Again, I am serious. I have never been to Kentucky, but I’m sure the Federal Government could come up with a number that would be a sustainable population for this region too. We have more than enough and would be happy to share. It might be educational for all of us.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dr. Delhi

    ____ Kill Baby, Kill !! ___

    February 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Wolfone

    Ranchers need to get Dogs. There are many breeds designed just for protecting livestock from Wolves. Wolves hunt livestock because it's easy. A pack of Great Pyrenees would deter even a pack of Wolves. The Wolves just can't risk that kind of fight.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality

      I sure they do have dogs to protect the heard but reality is that most plans dont survive the front door if the wolfs know there is a dog they will just hunt in numbers its there instinct. And if the govenour is willing to take a chance like that against federal gov he is acting on good intel. In the big picture the Gov is protecting the humans of his state not the wolves they cant vote.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. fishn machine

    How would you like it if the wolves ate your children!!!...leave the wovels alone!!!!!!!!!!

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

      Again, the genius speaks.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      I am from montana married to a texan live in florida and have lived all over the united states.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. fishn machine

    Its crazey that this montana. red neck ranchers can.....afford all these dang cows beer and liquor and they can't buy a couple of pittbulls.....get you some!!!!!!::::::or call mike vic...

    February 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      Are you drunk or something? Serioiusly? You seem to have trouble forming coherent statements; and you're making TX look really bad – luckily I know everyone there isn't like you.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      You are so retarded i actually feel really bad for you. My family has always had german shepperds pit bulls bigger meaner dogs and several have been killed by wolves like i said you need to learn the facts before you run yur mouth. I would love to know what state u r from by the way

      February 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Montana Resident

    You people who critisize this action have no room to talk. You have to actually live in montana to see the destructive effects of the non-native grey wolf. Our game populations are starting to dissapear. The grey wolves are huge and they can weigh anywhere from 185lbs. to 400lbs. I mean these things get massive. I am a hunter and in the past couple of years i have not see or heard any elk or deer during hunting season and I have been hunting all over the state of montana and trust me I have hiked where ever I could to find game. Not having meat for the winter is horrorible. If we can get the numbers down to 300 or less that would be the perfect balance.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality

      I agree with you i thank some people dont live in reality if they walked into your reality they would have to adapt and maybe then they will see the truth of the matter. A wolf at three hundred pounds would scare a person how loves them for there beauty or maybe if they see one hunting them because they have nothing else to eat because they have eaten all the elk.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cryssi

    Montana saved bisin from exstiction lets not forget that they would have all died if it wasnt for montnana look it up so i think we can handle animal pop ourselves

    February 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • kayaker247

      what's a bisin?

      February 18, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kansa

      Was that in English?

      February 18, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      sorry bison if you dont know what it is y r u asking about my english

      February 19, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      ok if you want to know what a bison is its called google i thaught every person knew about that.

      February 19, 2011 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
    • fido

      Cryssi can I put it in your Ass than your mouth

      February 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. fishn machine

    What would dave crocket say???????

    February 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. No.

    He is not drunk. He is excelling in the art of "trolling" and he is succeeding because it is making you angry. Obvious troll is obvious.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. fishn machine

    Its Amazing how much we care about the wolves, and nobody has mention anything about the poor people of egypt

    February 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mountain_Trail

      That's because this article is about wolves in Montana, not about the people of Egypt. Pretty simple,

      February 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chopswell

      Besides...I care a helluva LOT MORE for the indigenous wolves here...than an entire global region of religious fantasists!

      February 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cryssi

    My husband has to agree with me to a texan has no room to talk about hunting alot of texans shoot things for silly reasons its true so dont get all but hurt

    February 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31