HELENA, Mont., Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer says endangered gray wolves that attack livestock can be shot and he has authorized the killing of entire packs of wolves.
Schweitzer told wildlife officers not to investigate or prosecute ranchers who shoot wolves attacking livestock, CNN reported Friday.
The Democratic governor outlined his policy Wednesday in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
"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 say they are frustrated by federal rules that protect wolves.
Department of Interior spokeswoman Kendra said wolf management should be turned over to states with approved management plans.
"But the governor's letter is not the answer," she said.
"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."
Gray wolves were listed as an endangered species in 1973 but Montana's two U.S. senators, Democrat Max Baucus and Republican Jon Tester, introduced legislation last week to remove them from the list, CNN reported.