In my last op-ed in the Capital Press I described the existing "predator pit" in the Kettle Range north of Highway 20 and wolves "prey-switching to livestock."

Since that time the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has removed the OPT pack and the Togo pack is under a pack removal order. New wolves are already moving into the vacated OPT territory.

The Grouse Flats pack in the Blue Mountains has had 4 depredations in the last 2 months and is now under a lethal removal order. In the Blue Mountains over a 12-year period hunter success has gone from 282 spike bulls harvested a year to 65, which is caused by decades of single species management of cougars and black bears and now the added protein needs of wolves.

WDFW biologists are in complete denial that the cause of these depredations is their single species management of apex predators with no regard for their effect on the prey base, causing hungry wolves to "prey switch to livestock."

The WDFW prefers to deal with the symptom, wolf/livestock depredations in isolation, spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars on preventatives, like range riding, which is presently designed to keep livestock away from hungry wolves, or Fox lights to keep hungry wolves away from livestock.

The WDFW is now writing a long overdue Post Delisting Plan, and its management goals appear to be mostly driven by management's ineffective political correctness and not based on historic on-the-ground science or common sense problem solving.

WDFW is ignoring their mandated responsibility and will not acknowledge the effect on ungulate populations that ever growing apex predator populations have created in other states and countries — and the extreme actions that have to be employed to bring those predator/prey populations back into balance.

Granted, it is difficult and costly to manage an integrated predator/prey policy but the costs of kicking the can down the road are extreme both financially and politically.

To summarize a few of the many examples:

• Tweedsmuir Park in west central British Columbia and the Hart range in east central B.C. To reverse the extreme caribou population declines, a 80% rate of removal must be achieved, according to the provincial government. A parallel cull is also proposed in the Hart range to remove cougars, which have focused on caribou as a prey source.

• The southern Alaska peninsula was a paradise of abundant wildlife with predators in balance with the prey base. Then the wolf population started to explode. In 2007 in the caribou herd, cows were 90% pregnant,  but only 40% of the calves survived the first 2 weeks and only 1% survived for 6 months. The herd was down to 6% of its historic population, mostly caused by wolves.

Across Alaska similar depredations on moose and caribou were playing out. In 2008, an Intensive Management Plan was carried out by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game severely cutting back on wolf populations in several management units and ungulates are now increasing in numbers.

• Idaho's wolf population was allowed to grow to approximately 6 times its federal delisting requirement before it was finally delisted and management was turned over to the state. Idaho has tried to manage this unrealistic population of wolves to minimize their adverse impacts on the prey base, with a Predation Management Plan. Elk calf-to-cow ratios and cow survival rates have declined to levels far too low to sustain elk populations for several reasons, including increased predation by apex predators, 90% of known deaths of marked cow elk were due to predation, 76% were caused by wolves, 88% of known-caused deaths of radio marked older calves were due to predation, of which 73% were caused by wolves.

In Idaho wolf-caused mortality is the major factor limiting elk calf recruitment and elk cow survival.

Idaho killed 395 wolves in 2018 to increase its fast declining ungulate base and to reduce livestock attacks while livestock depredations reached a record high with 175 confirmed wolf depredations in 17 counties.

Unlike Washington, Idaho contains large wilderness habitats that are becoming devoid of ungulates as wolves have changed ungulate patterns and pushed them onto the agricultural fringe for protection causing increased wildlife depredation on private grazing lands and cropland.

Is the WDFW going to manage for healthy robust ungulate populations at or near their habitat carrying capacity along with a sustainable predator population in balance, which will minimize livestock depredations and maximize the public recreational and hunting opportunities for all citizens?

Or is WDFW going to manage for "predator pits" leaving predators to seek their protein sources in backyards and from production livestock while forcing hunters to spend their dollars in other states?

Rural communities, hunters and livestock producers need to join forces and speak out against the animal-rights-educated wolf, cougar and bear biologists within the WDFW and put a stop to their single species approach to predator management and pressure WDFW into conserving the wildlife in a manner that does not impair the resource.

This is a call to action, as your comments are needed today on the scoping process draft environmental impact statement, which is a process to determine which issues are most important to be addressed for wolf recovery planning in Washington.

Send your email comments to

Or mail you can submit written comments to Liza Wood, SEPA/NEPA Coordinator, WDFW Habitat Program, Protection Division, P.O. Box 43200 Olympia, Wa, 98504

Dave Duncan lives on the High Valley Ranch in Ellensburg, Wash. He is a rancher, hunter and conservationist and represents Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation, a consortium of hunter organizations, on the state Wolf Advisory Group. He is also the chair of the Wildlife, Rancher, Sportsmen, ESA committee for the Washington Cattlemen's Association and has been closely involved in wolf conservation and management for over a decade.

Recommended for you