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. Cryssi

    JAKE nra redneck lol PLEASE

    February 17, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sam

    Management that is all us Montana folk want...... We don't want them eradicated simple as that........ How about you folks from the east coast take 600 to 1000 wolves in your states I would surmise most of you would be asking for management as well

    February 17, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jake

    With the nra comment I was talking about the people that want to do this for fine with a farmer shooting a wolf who's chowin down on his sheep. I just dont think the wolf should be hunted for sport...the trouble is how to regulate this all..

    February 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cryssi


    February 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Zac

    Jake you are naive enough to think that a wolf only kills the weak and old. Wolves eat calf elk. Let me repeat that WOLVES EAT CALF ELK. In large volume. The elk herds are incredibly poor where wolves are now. Calf recruitment is in the single digits. No where near the 30-40% of healthy elk herds. With such poor calf recruitment elk herds, moose herds, deer herds are dropping drastically. The Northern Yellowstone herd dropped from 23,000 elk in 1997 to a count of 4,200 this year. Even if wolves were out of the picture this year. That herd will take 10-15 years to recover from the damage that is done.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Naco

    The mid east is overthrowing its leaders and the Sudan divided. Time toi divide this country. Time to end this nation as well. Too bad Lincoln fought to keep the South. He should have let it become the 3rd world country is was on course to become. Arizona? Montana? Reactionary want to be separate countries. Eliminate the military and let each state defend itself. If they do not wanty a Federal government, let them see what is is like to be their own tiny country.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cheesekun

    So... if you have a vested interest in the wolves does that mean you can shoot the ranchers?

    And yes I was raised on a ranch

    February 17, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Craig

    I have a pet Timber Wolf. He's a great animal.
    I suggest everyone read a book called "Of Wolves and Men". It'll make sense for both sides of this issue.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jay Alt

    148 sheep lost from one herd? Sounds like there is some chance the herd is grazing in the wrong place. And a dollars that says they are grazing on federal rangeland. Personally, I'd like to see a mix of creatures on such terrain.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arglebargle

      They were probably lost through incompetence rather than wolves.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. renee

    i think it's time to let the governor get a head start and give someone a gun. see how he likes it! if the ranchers can't protect their livestock, they shouldn't have any.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Frenetik

    Wolves, and the rest of the wildlife population, were here first. We don't have the right to kill them off just because a few farmers lose some livestock. If it's a huge problem for farmers, tough,

    February 17, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      Great lets get rid of ranches and farms. Perfect what will you eat then??????? Retarded

      February 17, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Arglebargle

    Schweitzer is an idiot.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Roberta Sampere

    According to the article, there are 425 gray wolves in Montana. That is an average of 1 wolf for every 325 square miles. Gray wolves tend to have a home range for each pack (usually 5-11 animals) of 14 square miles. These numbers seem to indicate that there is no wolf overpopulation, that they should stay listed as endangered, and the Governor cares naught for the ecosystem of his state.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      Do your homework better..................wolves are not all throughout Montana yet. And that number is closer to 1200 in Montana alone according to other counts done

      February 17, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JustSaying

    I thought only Republican's were the heartless thugs who didn't care about the environment and its wildlife?? Say this isn't so!

    February 17, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cesar

    I would support this law on a national basis if it applied to Mexican drug dealers. They do so much more damage than these grey creatures just trying to survive.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
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