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. Ray Jackson, MS

    Arrest and prosecute this governor as an example to the rest.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Zac

    Schweitzer is fed up just as I am with people NOT FROM HERE telling us how to manage our state. We had a great management program until the federal government got involved.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Erika

    Frenetik – The wolves weren't here first. They were reintroduced as a small pack (of 30, I believe), rather than creating a real wildlife corridor down from Canada with the original population. So now we have an inbred population of wolves with no wildlife corridor, no natural way of population control and no artificial population control (because Washington DC dictates it). I'm a Seattleite, liberal, and very environmentalist, but after visiting Montana multiple times and seeing dwindling numbers of Elk and Deer – I'm for wolf hunting.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. American Dreamer (roving gawker exile)

    I am from Montana and grew up on a ranch and can attest to the fact that the loss of one animal a day in the entire state is a ridiculously tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep in the state of Montana. We are talking dollars and cents. The wolf are currently at a barely sustainable number. They cant be reduced without causing inbreeding which will ultimately wipe them out. It is incredibly greedy of these ranchers to risk the extinction of the wolf in this area just to save a small fraction of their annual earnings. Most of these ranchers are already multimillionaires. There are very few small family ranches left in Montana.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Roberta Sampere- Think about it.

    Your nice calculation may be accuarte, much like the accuracy of saying there are no bears in Central Park, there for, bears are indangered in Central Park. Geographic location of the wolf population is not relative to every square mile of Montana.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      Used to bear on the land Central Park sits. Lets reintroduce them but hey lets get a non-native species like panda bears and then call them endangered. Yeah dumb just like Canadian wolves in Montana.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cryssi

    How mant times i have heard that they were hear first we dont have the right blah blah blah I personally think the life of a human being is more important than any animal. People want to control them a lil better if they are coming close enouph to yur home to where they can harm yur children livestock pets ect I would kill them because i dont know maybe my family is more important to me than a few wolves. If you eat any meat wear leather use certain cosmetic products than shut up u are a RETARD

    February 17, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • alice

      I keep reading that people are more important than animals and that wolves are a danger to humans in Montana. What do the statistics show about wolves attacking humans in Montana?

      February 18, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      Y dont u look it up its called google. I simply meant if wolves r that comfortable coming that close to yur house it cant be good if they dont end up hurting you than they will someone elce. I live down south am from the montana I own a cabin in montana that me and my family use in the summer. I was shocked to hear what my niebors had to tell me last time i was there horses dogs cats all disapearing or found dead. there was even a man who went missing cant prove what is was though

      February 18, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dave

    Here in Alaska we have thousands of spare wolves we'd be happy to send to you. Any of you East Coast Bunny Huggers that would like a dozen or so just drop us a line and we'll oblige.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Zac

    Schweitzer is a great govenor who cherishes Montanans and Montanas resources.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. gene

    Is failin palin coming to take out these beautiful animals who are just living their lives?

    February 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. john

    I just have two comments. First, defending your property (sheep, cattle, your children) is something we have the right to do. Second, almost all of you need to turn your spell check on, and take a refresher course in grammer. That is all.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • alice

      John, Grammar ends in -ar, not -er. I'm not trying to be mean, just thought it was funny.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. arizonamom

    Why don't the Montana ranchers do as the goat/sheep/cattle farmers in africa do – they have Anatolian Shepherd dogs protecting their flocks from cheetahs. The dogs are taught to chase the cheetahs off without physical attack, when possible. And, this is working wonderfully well for these ranchers and saving the lives of endangered cheetahs.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ruthie666

    Cut off the free grazing on all Federal land! That will cost them a lot more than any wolf kills.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      Let's cut off our food supply of beef and small grains........great idea retard.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Erika

    Also misleading – according to US Fish & Wildlife, there are more than 1706 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Washington in 2009. The article makes it seem like there are only 319 wolves left. You can read the entire report from US Fish & Game (who are NOT sponsored by any industry!) at:

    An actual quote from the report (funny how CNN did not report this): "By every biological measure the NRM wolf population is fully recovered. Resident packs now appear to saturate suitable habitat in the core recovery areas and dispersing wolves routinely travel between them and successfully bred."

    Also: "No threats were identified... that could threaten the wolf population in the NRM DPS in the foreseeable future".

    February 17, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. RJ

    so there's like 500 of them in those 2 locations... thats really low, don't shoot them.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. wow

    wow what a moron. allow the killing of entire packs of wolves.. thats great for the functionality of the ecosystem

    February 17, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
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