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. Mathman025

    So, how many CEOs did you authorize again?

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

    looks like i will be taking my vacations elsewhere this coming year. Where all those animals the wolf killed on public lands the greedy ranchers lease for next to nothing?

    February 17, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. greenbird321

    I'd love to know how many of the people defending the wolves are pro-'choice' when it comes to ab0rtion. I'm sure the hypocrisy is running rampant.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  4. Matthew

    I live in Dillon, MT which is 3 hours west of Yellowstone. Unless you live in this area you have absolutely no idea what the impact of wolves has proven to be. I know what wildlife was like here before the wolves were brought in and I know what it's like now. Elk are almost completely gone. Moose are also almost completely gone. Herds of elk were commonly seen while driving along the non-Interstate highways and moose were frequently sighted in the mountains. You are very lucky to ever see either of these species anymore. Forget herds; you're lucky to see a single elk. The few remaining bison herds? Those are in trouble as well.

    It is, however, a common thing to find a sheep or cow carcass. Uneaten, by the way - the wolves very often kill simply for the sport of it.

    The problems first started to appear very close to Yellowstone, but nobody cared because it was so isolated. It is now a problem not just in Montana but also in neighboring Idaho.

    What people fail to realize is that the wolves that were brought in were never native to Yellowstone. That was a much smaller species. These are very large and hardy grey wolves from the Canadian wilderness. It's ironic to me that people get in a terrific uproar about how you need to wash your boat thoroughly after taking it out of the water so as not to spread small creatures a mere 50 miles but then think nothing of bringing a predatory species hundreds of miles to a region where it is invasive.

    These wolves ARE invasive. They ARE destructive. And they are NOT maintaining the balance of herds. They are, in fact, ensuring that in another decade or two there will be no herds left.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      Amen Matthew. These people have no idea the impact these non-native creatures are doing to Montana's native wildlife.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • greenbird321

      Thank you for giving is some much-needed insight into the situation. I was siding with the Governor to begin with, but I'm glad to know some more, pertinent facts about this.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  5. Relentless

    I love how few of you have any clue what's happening in Montana.

    It's all just emotional kneejerk responses of "don't harm nature!" and "protect the livestock!" without any knowledge of the situation.

    Wolves were definately endangered, and struggled for several years. The last couple of years however have been pretty good for them.

    The natural cycle is for wolves to thrive for a while, overpopulate themselves, and starve. Then the deer & elk who were low on population make a strong comeback. It's between a 5 and 10 year cycle most of the time.

    The mere existance of humans and livestock complicate this issue. Livestock provide food for wolves when they should be starving. Hunters keep the deer/elk populations down when they should be booming.

    Right now there is no management system in place for wolves, which is the problem. They won't naturally maintain a population, they will rapidly swing in either direction without some intervention.

    Additionally, the 425 number is just 2 zones of Montana, and there are some larger areas that don't have an exact headcount.

    Wildlife conservation is an incredibly complex problem that ultimately has no good answers. This order, while harsh, is just a tiny step.

    And anybody using 1 liners to argue a single facet of this needs to do their homework and then come back. That doesn't mean reading a single wiki article either.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mike Goldsman

    It would be easier to listen to these anti-federal government states-rights types if they would agree to get off all federally owned lands (used for grazing, timber, mining, hunting, etc) and refuse federal farming subsidies.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      It would be easit to listen to these anti-ranching and farming types if they would agree to quit eating beef, pork, sheep, bread, cheese, milk, cereal and just graze off of there suburban Kentucky bluegrass.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. Colorado

    Send some here to help keep our elk population in Estes Park healthy. How about a pack or two? Killing off a beautiful animal because it cost you a couple of bucks is the wrong answer. Actually, it cost you more money because some of us wont spend our tourist dollars to go there. No more Glacier NP trips for me.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      Great we prefer to keep your kind out of here anyways. Have fun in your urban sprawl called Colorado.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. frs

    What a stupid decision. Period. Just stupid.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. TLC

    Just a note: If you are going to comment on a news blog, don't use text messaging abbreviations. You look lazy, illiterate and negate any point you were trying to make.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. Greg

    Here's what they have done to one elk herd here in Idaho: Lolo elk herd before wolves = 20000 after wolf reintroduction = 1700. They do not need to be eradicated but they need to be managed. This is the issue for people in all the affected states, MT, WY and Idaho. The initial target for a sustainable population was 300. Once that was reached the target moved again. It's time to get proper management of this magnificent animal.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    The Wolfchant is now alive!

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

    Tester is a democrat. Great Reporting CNN.

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

      yep, hes a democrat. stupid mistake, but were they hoping it was a bipartisan move for some reason? Definitely sloppy journalism

      February 18, 2011 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
  13. D

    round em up and slaughter them (just like they would slaughter you if they had the chance)

    February 18, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      So...if it were up to you there would be no hippos, tigers, lions, crocodiles, sharks, etc left on the planet?

      February 18, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
    • collins61

      There certainly would be no stupid question asking Daniels, thats for sure.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Drinker


      February 18, 2011 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Hilo, HI

      Do you mean the cattle herds that are the #1 pollutant in US rivers -infecting crops like spinach with DISEASES THAT HAVE CAUSED HUMAN DEATHS? I agree, round 'em up once and for all.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Loriel

      You are an ignorant fool. The only animal who intentionally hunts down living beings for the sole purpose of killing them for sport is humans. Wolves are rightfully afraid of people. There have been only a very few reported cases of wolves attacking a human and so what? How many of their pups have we killed? How many have been hunted from planes? Poisoned? Shot? Trapped? Don't expect me to feel sympathy. We have waged war against the animal kingdom and if one animal attacks a person it is viscious. The ONLY viscious creatures are humans. I can see you now stupid little troll.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Matthew

      I'm sorry, Loriel but you are wrong. These wolf packs regularly kill for the sport alone. We know it's for the sport of it because they do not eat the carcass.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  14. wolflover

    just so you all in montana know ky has brought the elk here to help them and have introduced the wolf in to this area to help repopulate them so i know about the wolf we are however over ran with coyotes and deer so it does now hurt my feelings if the wolves hunt them and kill them we have hundreds of accidents due to deer and coyotes and the coyotes are what is killing the livestock in this state not the wolves that ky turned loose here

    February 18, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Cryssi

      I live down south have for many years. I addmit the comment wrong.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      The coyotes in urban areas in most states are a REAl HUGE threat! NOT WOLVES!!!!!
      Last year we had a cat that got out killed by them. It was horrible and broke our hearts he was only a six month old house cat!!!.
      Animal control did nothing and will do nothing!!!!!
      We see them all the time on the dense populated streets of City of Tustin in Orange County CA.
      We beg for help and get none and every day peoples pets are being murdered in their own yards !!!!
      More and more lost small dog and cat notices go up every day. It is so sad you know most were a coyote meal and will never be found!
      Why won't anyone do something about these vicious coyotes??? Will it take the death or serious injury of a child for something to be done???
      They are doing nothing to protect us from the real danger coyotes and instead kill an endangered species! What a farce!

      February 18, 2011 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
    • fearlessdude

      Elizabeth, coyotes are not vicious, they want to eat. If you leave a small pet out they will take it but they also keep down the rodent and rabbit population. For your information I like coyotes and I like wolves, I dislike house cats and I dislike small yapping ankle-biting nuisance dogs. Bring on the coyotes.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Coyotes are not a threat in urban areas, nor are they a threat to pets. A 20 year study of the coyotes roaming Chicago showed that they were scared away by dogs as small as a Pekingese.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. John N. Florida

    Hope somebody sells those wolves some Stingers. That'll scare the He!! out of that li'l old Piper Cub.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
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