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. sarah

    oh and frank, if it was my livestock i would move it somewhere the wolves don't live

    February 17, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Trev

    If you haven't been to Montana and seen this first hand, shut up!! This is a problem, they were introduced to quickly and breed to quickly for the rest of the animals to respond. They don't kill for sport? I have seen more than one deer struggling for its life with its hind quarters eaten out. Obviously that pack wasn't very hungry if they were filled up by two deer roasts. 319 wolves in the northwest pupulation zone... B.S.!!!! In two days of hunting in northwest Montana I saw 10 different wolves, guess that means that i should be able to see every wolf in Montana over the course of one hunting season. This is a problem adn needs to be dealt with, and at least our governor has the balls to stand up and do something about any problem Montana may have, which is hard to say about most politicians

    February 17, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sarah

    no they dont kill for sport. when you saw that dear being killed and eaten by the pack? wolves hunt in packs and bring their prey down that way. its easier for them because they already have a difficult life. you say tht no one who hasnt been there doesnt know what its like? you have no idea what the life of a wolf is like. can you say hypocrytical?

    February 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trev

      it wasn,t killed and eaten, it was wounded and left to die

      February 17, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • sarah

      now that is a different matter. you may not know it but wolves are actually afraid of humans. they probably heard, saw, or smelled you or something esle they deemed threatening enough to abandon their hunt and leave. here is one thing for certain though and that is, what wild animal would waste time and energy on chasing down and killing an animal such as a deer for no good cause. it is not practical for the animal, who would want to conserve their energy for better things, unless they have a suicide wish. and wolves, though intelligent, are not evovled enough to try to kill themselves

      February 17, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Got Trev's Back

      Your right, wolves do hunt in packs most of the time. But they will kill for sport while they are killing for food. They are amazing predators and can go into a frenzy with the thrill of killing. Since adult wolves can only eat about 20lbs of meat per meal, most of their kills go to scavengers when they are done. Wolves usually do not return to an old kill to finish as they enjoy the thrill of the hunt and fresh kill. So, when they go after herds of elk or a rancher's sheep they go on a killing frenzy (some might call it killing for sport) and only eat what they need for that day. Their only natural predator is us. If we don't regulate them in some manner than you will soon read of humans being attacked as well. And yes, I know two differen't people that have been cornered by wolves in the past two years and were lucky they didn't become the meal.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. B. Collins

    Can we please stop killing animals as a way to resolve 'alleged' problems. There has to be a better way then killing wild Mustangs, Sea Lions, and now Wovles. Do we wonder why people become desensitized to the taking of life?

    February 17, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tommy

    I was hoping that the ranchers would build a better defense for their livestock! Most of them prob have thousands of acres! Why does the Wolf have to pay for what it does naturally! Lets move all the poor ranchers to Utah, put up a fense around the border, all the cattle and sheep inside! Post some border agents to keep out the illegal wolf, animals saved, ranchers happy, im happy! 😉

    February 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • sarah

      one would think someone would try that wouldn't they? i mean, people did it when they introduced cattle to the great plains

      February 17, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. TeenWolf


    February 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. andy

    Not ok with this. Want to keep nature out then build bigger fences! Maybe once a stray bullet kills a person they will rethink this!

    February 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nancy

    Poor wolves they are just trying to survive. It's a little harsh it should only be allowed if the animal is a threat to people.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. William

    Someone please invent a time machine so I can go back to a country where people didn't treat animal killing like it was slaughtering children.../facepalm...

    February 17, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. SADIE

    Although I am not usually for wanton killing of animals, if a wolf attacked my way of making money and supporting my family you better believe I would at least chase them off. If they kept it up then yes I would kill them. It is easy for people to say 'poor wolf' when they live in the city. Unless you are faced with a wild preditor you don't know how you will react.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Glem Pashni

    There is no logical reason for killing William. Pray with me. Dear God, help William see the error in his reasoning. Fill his soul with your whole love. In Jesus name we pray, amen.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. WQhofe

    One livestock a day? Wouldn't it be cheaper to compensate the farmers for the loss??

    February 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sanity please

    Funny how so many "enightened" individuals are willing to label an entire state as inbred because a lame duck goveroner with nothing to lose makes policy contrary to federal law and thinks it will stick. He's just kicking the anthill. You should all be ashamed.and for those of you who won't be visiting...I promise I will not miss you.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Redge

    @sam just so you know while most states were complaining of budget shortfalls Montana had a little under a billion dollars in surplus general funds... To add my comments about the wolves, the federal government and anyone who doesn't live in an area where livestock is a big part of local and state tax revenue they need to be handled immediately and if the federal government won't then individual states must step up to the plate and put some kind of management strategy in place.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kavita gunaji

    Like I read on this blog, the killing of an almost extinct species is a federal and moral crime. Why does the law not go against human wolves such as the drug lords instead? How about rounding up these animals and finding them a good purpose such as their use instead of dogs? They could be trained you know and they are known to be more ferocious and intelligent than regular domesticated dogs. I for one like the wild wolf that catches its own prey rather than the lazy housebound dog that most Americans do when they feed them their low sodium high protein oh so oo la la meals. The next thing we will see is hospitals in which they get round the clock care and heart transplants. This is outrageous – that you favor one species over another – and the thought of rounding up and killing entire clans is like what they did to the Russian monarchs during WWI. I think the Montana governor descends from blue collared workers who do not know better. In fact, they are that because they could not think at their SATs. Give it some thought before you become a Nazi for the beautiful wolf.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Say What?

      Wow. This has to be the most worthless post on here.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
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