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. Eric, San Antonio Texas

    Are you kidding me? This is absurd. If a wolf kills an elk so what? Thats what wolves do they hunt prey and elk happen to be natural prey for wolves. I can understand shooting some salt shot at a wolf for getting after livestock but killing an endangered animal makes no sense to me. The wolves have been there long before man decided to call it home. Were do we draw the line? It isn't acceptable in the US to kill endangered whales, one could argue that the whales are damaging ships that run into them and are eating all the fish. This just isn't right to me, and believe me I'm not the tree hugging kind, I hunt and fish all the time but thats not the point. Without conservation we wouldn't be able to enjoy all that nature has to offer.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      Get yur facts straight before you talk because you are making yurself sound dumb and you are really going to talk being from texas wow

      February 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      you live in texas do you want wolves there I live in wy where there was 20,000 elk in jackson hole we are down to 8,000 since we got wolves. they kill elk cows and ripe the fetus out for fun not for food. 375 last winter in 1 week by one pack. if any state wants them we would gladly ship them. Joe in WY

      February 18, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • brandon in idaho

      Smoke a pack a day

      February 19, 2011 at 5:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      It's difficult to be informed off of such a biased article. The wolves aren't going extinct anytime soon, there are plenty in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Canada (where they shipped the wolves from). Another thing is that they wolves shouldn't be on the endangered species list, they have reached their cap AT LEAST twice and the federal government keeps raising it. When you hunt and fish for sport it's difficult to understand rachers positions on why they want to kill all the wolves. Domestic livestock is their livllihood, its like a theif that comes and steals money from you regularly to the point where you cant feed youre family anymore. Just so we know, those wolves MAY be the same species as the ones here previous but they are significanlty larger too, hence they require more food. Just something to think about.

      February 25, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • i don't give a %#@* what you think

      hey! do you not remember that wolves lived on the plains and were nearly exterminated over 100 years ago in MT because of the same reason! When trying to reintroduce wolves back to the Northwest they brought canadian timber wolves down from canada into MT. A completely different species, the only way to get rid of them is extermination. Tell me, have you ever seen a wolf rip a baby bison out of its mothers womb and eat it alive? These wolves are not meant to be down here. yes they can be majestic creatures at time but all in all, they are bloodthirsty killers and animals of all sizes will soon fall as victims if they are not killed. and mr. eric from texas, have you ever seen a wolf?????

      February 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Idaho_Redneck

    @ Elvis 24: Your account is accurate. I remember it well. About sending wolves to another state, an Idaho representative had a bill passed that any state that wanted a wolf shipped to them, Idaho would pay for the shipping and handling! Seriously, this guy was from Moscow. We had no takers. No one wants wolves in Central Park or in Golden Gate Park. And Kentucky has reintroduced Elk in the Smokey Mountains, very successfully. I am quite sure they don’t want wolves back in their state eating up all their hard work and money spent on elk reintroduction. Great post, well done

    February 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      At least he's making the opposition look completely uneducated on the issue.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      meant to reply to your post about fishn machine, oh well.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cryssi

    I might like to add that on a hunting trip with my husband in texas it was a joke not be mean and i told my husband i am not going to shoot a dear that i can litterally walk up to and just shoot without it running away or anything. There are some people who brag about this though

    February 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Idaho_Redneck

    Fishn machine is not drunk or stoned. He is baiting readers of these posts, trying to evoke emotions and distract from the issue at hand. A person that does this is known as a “Troll”. He appears to be a master of this, along with baiting, so that makes him a masturbator, doesn’t it? LMAO!

    February 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. arizonan44

    we need this in az also, I hope our governor follows.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Educated

      Really? Because there are less than 50 Mexican Gray Wolves left. There's probably 30 in AZ at maximum. It's not hard to keep wolves form livestock if you actually take care of your livestock. Wolves are terrified of people just being there, having guard dogs or fladry would reduce conflicts. Wolves kill .11% (that's less than one percent in case you can't read) of livestock, coyotes more than 10x as much, domestic dogs kill more than coyotes and weather kills more livestock than all predation combined.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fishn machine

    Sorry I'm married cryssi..and I'm from texas...gorge bush is my neighbor qqz......elaine please don't talk to me like a child, I'm not your husband lol

    February 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. NotaPoster

    wolves have to adapt or die. That's how natural selection works

    February 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • AgainstIlLogic

      Natural Selection isn't shooting a wolf with a high powered rifle, either they be man enough to take hunt them with spears or they leave, because its the humans that have to adapt, they were their first, like most other things we have killed in north america, we need to adapt to them.

      March 5, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. FarmersDaughter

    Honestly, this is bull. The real issue here is not the wolves – they're an excuse – this is about States' rights, with the governor thumbing his nose at Federal law. Look at all the comments that say "if you're not from Montana, stay out of our business". If wolves weren't such a convenient point of contention, there would just be something else picked to make a stand on.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      So are you for, or against state rights? Couldn't tell from your statement.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • FarmersDaughter

      My personal belief is that local issues should be worked out locally, but when the impact extends beyond the local it should be addressed by a larger authority.
      What's more important is, what do you believe? I would like to see more people talking about the real issue at stake here, rather than dumbing it down to "tree-huggers" vs "red-necks".

      February 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      I feel that states and regional areas should have more power to adress local issues, and I feel that this wolf situation is indeed a local one. I live in MT and I don't think Gov. Schweitzer will allow a mass execution of the Grey Wolf species. I know there are certain "hunters" out there that could try to take advantage of this and go on a wolf killing spree, but theyll get into big legal trouble if they do. Unfortunately I feel he came off too strong and there will be even more opposition from environmental groups to keep the grey wolf from being delisted from the endangered list. I'm involved in several environmental groups and many MT residents are conservationists who live here to protect and enjoy nature. We keep big industry out of this state because we don't want the pollution, and we understand the importance of keeping the ecosystem in ballance.
      Grey wolves used to range all over North America, and due to lower population of people and less disturbance of natural habbitat by people MT is one of the last places they have to thrive. We're going to protect them up here, but we can't let them take over either.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • FarmersDaughter

      Very well spoken. I wish more people were as articulate and thought out with their comments.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Cryssi

    Exactly so stop talking u idiot I have been to texas many times people pull out thre guns all the times shoot animals that arent even a big threat they just dont want them in there yard

    February 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cory

      Everytime Cryssi writes something, I feel like I'm becoming more and more illiterate! If you try bashing someone about facts, maybe you should do the same, or shut the hell up! I'd be more then happy with you keeping your mouth shut!

      February 19, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ronnie

    Why are stupid people in positions of power to make these kinds of decisions? We the people need to start rising above these idiots and kick them out of power. Wolves are a natural part of the ecosystem. They are supposed to hunt and kill. Why does MAN not get this? The governor of Montana is a clueless idiot and should be shot right along with the wolves. It's time to put a stop to people in positions of power thinking that they have authority over living things.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      So you're ok with shooting the wolves so long as they shoot our governor too? That totally makes sense. What else do you know about Gov. Schweitzer? Or did you form your opinion completely from this article?

      February 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Thinktank

    Introduce them to the boarder of the US and Mexico, there are plenty of fat juicy sheeps down there all running wild and free.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Idaho_Redneck

    Simpson adds language to budget resolution to delist wolves
    Submitted by Rocky Barker on Mon, 02/14/2011 – 10:03am.
    Idaho Republican Rep.Mike Simpson said he will add a provision to the continuing budget resolution necessary for the government to continue that would reinstate the 2009 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the gray wolf in Idaho and Montana.
    The language is clean and simple. It doesn't give environmentalists the minimum numbers they wanted added nor does it give Gov. Butch Otter the additional protections he wanted in the event wolves were relisted in the future.
    “It makes no sense to call wolves in Idaho and Montana an endangered species," Simpson said. "Not only do wolf populations far exceed recovery goals, but without proper management those populations have grown to the point where they are adversely impacting other wildlife populations in the region and wreaking havoc for ranchers, hunters, and public land users in Idaho."
    Simpson praised both the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, Otter and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for getting wolves to the point they were ready to remove from federal protection.
    "The Service and the state have successfully recovered the species to the point that it can be properly managed, and the law should reflect that," Simpson said.
    Here's the language:
    SEC. 1713. Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this division, the Secretary of the Interior shall reissue the final rule published on April 2, 2009 (74 Fed. Reg. 15123 et seq.) without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule. Such reissuance (including this section) shall not be subject to judicial review.

    Submitted by Rocky Barker on Mon, 02/14/2011 – 10:03am. Idaho Stateman

    February 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Educated

      Independent scientists have concluded it would take thousands of wolves to make a genetically sustainable population. Inbreeding is bad. I don't understand how Minnesota has 3000 wolves in one state and they're fine yet between three very large states 1700 wolves are far too many.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Idaho_Redneck

    Problem solved as long as the budget is passed.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Educated

      Not in MY country!

      March 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MSU-Student

    The Grey Wolf was taken off the endangered species list more than 3 years ago, and now over 150 live in Northwest Montana, as well as Wyoming, and Idaho. Montana FWP's have debated over these past years and yet there is still no open hunting season on the Wolf. Rather, this is for rural Montana ranching and the protection of livestock. Regardless of if they are reimbursed for destroyed livestock, it all comes at a price. The fact of the matter, is that they do damage elk herds. Numbers in Bozeman alone have decreased over the past two years. So for all of you, that think this is a matter of the "White" mans domination, or redneck negligence, you truly do not know what you are speaking of

    February 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • MSU-Student


      February 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hilo, HI


    The Meat Industry seems to own our politicians. They are way too powerful, like oil barons.
    The way the Beef Council sued Oprah for simply saying what we were all thinking at the time -That Mad Cow Disease made her not want to eat another hamburger; followed by the poorly named 'Veggies Laws' making it illegal in some states to speak out against that industry -what ever happened to Free Speech? Controlling the FDA -lobbying against Right-to-Know laws like revealing country of origin or if the meat is from a cloned animal. Grazing on Federal Land, OUR land, Free and Clear. Going unchecked as the #1 polluter of US rivers -cattle waste run off from the Mississippi River was destroying the Gulf of Mexico, a Dead Zone the size of Texas, long before the BP spill......
    now the loss of a few livestock justifies a wolf kill? Ugly business going on here.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Wow!!! You need to smoke a bowl and hug a tree. I see a tofu burger in your future.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Educated

      I agree. I eat BISON a REAL AMERICAN meat. After all they are here naturally (unlike destructive non-native cattle) and can handle themselves against the natural predators that live here.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
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