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. Nathan H

    Wolves are a natural part of the Montana ecosystem, cows are not.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Nowletssee

      neither are humans and domestic animals, you OK with them (the wolves) taking out your children and pets? Or is it just ok if they take out other peoples property?

      February 18, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Nathan H

      It is my responsibly to keep my children and pets safe. One way to do that is to realize that I live in an area with wolves and take the necessary precautions. I have no sympathy for a bunch of ranchers who hammered a couple of boards together called it a fence and then complain that wolves are killing their herd. It is not like they didn't know their where wolves in Montana.

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

      you do realize that the wolves were reintroduced there right? You think the ranchers and humans did not live their prior to their reintroduction?

      February 18, 2011 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Nathan H

      I am well aware of that fact. They were reintroduced from Canada and Wyoming. Montana has already messed up their wolf population once and now after a concentrated effort to fix the situation they seem hell bent on repeating past mistakes.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. Daniel

    I thought Schweitzer was more balanced and that he practiced the art of compromise. This is disappointing.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  3. rioa

    This is a very simple problem do not support or a NO VOTE for Gov. Schweitzer and this problem will go away.
    Vote gray wolves instead..... and this magnificent family loving animals can live free just like we all try to do..

    February 18, 2011 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Schweitzer is out of office in 2012 due to term limits.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
  4. Martha

    i keep sheep in the mountains and i contend with mt. lions and coyotes (and sometimes young bear cubs)
    my solution has been to also keep livestock guardians (Tibetan Mastiffs) . If you have livestock, it requires some work, diligence and some intelligence to safeguard them against any predators. We can't as humans afford any more, to simply "wave a wand" (or a gun, or a poison) and make whole species disappear for our convenience. it is always sad to lose an animal and there are any number of ways that can occur. However if the state of Montana is only losing an average of 1 animal per day, (i'm wondering here what the head count of actual livestock is, in Montana and therefore, what is the percentage of losses to wolves as opposed to bloat, barbwired, poor husbandry, horrible conditions, such as feed lots, and other natural deaths) i'd say thats pretty darn good statistics for the ranchers.
    Sheep are the most vulnerable of livestock, so if you are hardy enough to raise sheep in Montana, perhaps start using serious working dogs (as all the older cultures do) and start staying closer to your animals at night, rather than in the house watching TV. The problem is people, as always, not the ageless interaction between species. .it sounds like a terribly tiny number of wolves, Shame on all of you who can't cope and have to slaughter mindlessly. Go ahead, get rid of the rare and magical wolf and then lets hear you wailing about the packs and packs of coyote that take down huge numbers of your sheep and cattle in a year or two.. don't say you were't warned. Farmers and ranchers, should be smarter and closer in spirit to the land and natural world, than politicians. We all know how politicians think. i can't imagine that, the Gov of Montana will actually get away with this. Maybe HE should be removed from the pack...

    February 18, 2011 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
    • jmacc77

      /appaud!!!!! well said.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. nw mt resident

    As one of the few commenting who actually lives where these animals are (see lazy creek pack in PDF). I would just like to reinforce the middle ground here, Obviously there are those who believe that no wolves should be killed and those who take the stance that they should wiped out. I see wolf and lion tracks almost daily and their kill often. they have clearly made a difference in prey populations here some of which should occur, but we should not allow the collapse of those populations when with some control the balance point can be reached quicker. i would just advocate for scientifically guided seasons as we had legally had. What has happened is that in certain regions a resurgence of both wolf and lion populations has occurred. Both serve very useful purposes in culling the weak and old. In time what would happen is that as they prey population dwindles, the predator too would decrease in population due to lowered birth rates and starvation. Then in some extended time the prey population would rebound as would the predator. A hunt really aims to do the same thing in a shorter time frame with less extreme population swings. There is little doubt that the wolf is a valuable element in our ecosystem. However the concentration in certain regions is more significant than this article would lead one to believe. Remember that right now in my region elk and deer can only occupy a very small portion of the total land area as the snowpack drives them down to the valleys. This leads to much higher densities than one might take a guess at looking at an atlas and a census. Remember too that as has been mentioned many times the wolves in this region are not the large dog sized wolves one might see on the lamar valley in yellowstone but are in fact a good bit larger. It as all well and good to say that people should not live where wolves are native but that ignores the fact the wolf and elk once widely ranged through the east and that the grizzly was a plains animal. We as humans have irrevocably changed the balance of the world and the best advice in these comments is to try to control our own population.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  6. 356

    It always has to be natures fault, and not ours. I hope the wolves find their way to someone's Mansion!!!!

    February 18, 2011 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. nw mt resident

    356 have you forgotten we are a part of nature? we have just become more dominant and resource consumptive.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. outawork

    I'd rather have less sheep and cows and more wolfs.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. lvnv

    Same crap different day. There's gotta be a compromise somewhere with the ranchers. They claim the wild horses in NV are ruining grazing land for sheep and cattle so they round a bunch up every year for slaughter. Real brilliant solution, let's just kill every living creature on the planet that gets in our way and see how quickly things become unbalanced.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. ThreatLevelMidnight

    When did Tester become a Republican?

    February 18, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. Park

    I bet these bleeding heart liberals would have had a fit when they dinasours were becoming extinct and we do well without dinasours. If there was never another wolf, no one would die and life would go on and I bet the world would still exist if all the whales died tonight. I say, lets enjoy these creatures but lets not worship them as Gods. To many wolves are endangering other creatures like moose and caribou in Alaska and cows and sheep in the lower 48 ????

    February 18, 2011 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      You can make the same statement about humans. If we all died out, then the world would go on just fine.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. Daryl D

    Maybe the MT Gov, should be putting people down as it is us humans thay have encroached on the wolves territories?
    How come we here north of the border can have a wolf hunt each year with a certain limit to keep our wolves population sustainable for years and our future children to enjoy?
    Maybe i MT needa to put in place the same things?
    wipping out a predator to only transplant more from canada at a later date is unacceptable!
    maybe canada needs to take a second thorough look at into piping our oil to the States to be refined to only be sold back to us here in canada saying it is a product of the united states with a much higher cost?
    maybe we should refine all our oil before piping it down and make the US pay a higher rate instead?

    February 18, 2011 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  13. Karol

    It's all about the sport of killing anything walking – insert Sarah Palin killing animals from a helicopter. These yahoos view these culls as nothing more than sport wrapped in contrived concern for animals not indigenous to the area – sick, ignorant hillbillies. My people were sickened with the killing of the buffalo for the tongues as much as the modern killing of wolves for the joy of killing anything – narcissistic SOBs.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. Karol

    The more things change, the more they stay the same – century after century of ingornance.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • collins61

      It must be frustrating being the only person on the planet that has such a deep understanding. By the way, nice tin foil hat.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. nw mt resident

    so, have you folks researched what apex predators used to live where you now do?

    why is ok for the folks in the rural west to have to leave or greatly change their lifestyle while all you folks just keep on consuming and living your highly impactful lifestyles?

    sound like you want us to live in a zoo

    February 18, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
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