September 27, 2023

Does Idaho really need another elk plan?

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This information can be found at Idaho for Wildlife website.

Many sportsmen believe that excess predator’s and environmentalists should go first!

Posted: Tuesday, October 1 , 2013 12:15 am
Steve Alder, Idaho For Wildlife

This is the longest response I’ve ever made to a big game management proposal that I don’t think should have ever been written, (At least at this time). In fact I believe it is a complete waste of time and is biologically and fiscally irresponsible. It is past time that the IDFG recognizes and admits the truth of the negative impact wolves are having on our back country elk populations. It is time that IDFG prepares and executes a comprehensive predator management plan similar to the time and resources exhausted on this elk management plan that will succeed in rebuilding our back country elk populations.

Canadian and Alaska wildlife managers have told us that regardless of weather, habitat or ungulate harvest the wolf will be the biggest cause of big game losses in our back country units. This has already happened to our elk populations in high wolf density regions. When you have this many unmanaged wolves it is like the “Tail wagging the dog” as far as effectively trying to manage elk. Many of our biologists still maintain that to rebuild elk populations in the backcountry the focus must be on habitat, harvest, weather, and predators. Typically predators will usually be named last.

Two years ago IDFG commissioners requested IDFG staff to prepare a comprehensive predator brochure for the state. When staff finally completed the last revision, the plan appears to be just a couple of pages to appease the environmental community. World renowned wolf expert Dr. David Mech has admitted, “That to hold a wolf population stationary it requires an annual take of 28-50% per year.” Even IDFG’s own 2011 Idaho IDFG Predation management Plan for the Lolo and Selway Elk Zones that isn’t being followed claims, “Wolf removal rates of 30-35% or less typically do not cause any long-term changes in wolf abundance, while sustained removals of 40% or more may cause long-term reductions.” Dr. Mech also stated that “Normal regulated public harvest such as is contemplated in the NRM is usually unable to reduce wolf populations.” Biologist Mark Boyce wrote, “That in areas where wolf hunting and trapping is allowed wolves become wary and more difficult to kill.” He continues, “This wariness makes it more difficult for removals by hunters and trappers to have a substantive effect on wolf populations.” In other words we know hunting and trapping alone will not provide sufficient results to rebuild our elk populations in remote back country locations. Where is the IDFG strategic predator plan to accomplish this criterion to rebuild Idaho’s elk? We are approaching winter where wolf control is the most effective time and we only have a limited window of opportunity. How many dollars have been allocated to reduce the backcountry zones by 50%?

I honestly believe this entire proposed elk plan is just another desperate effort to increase IDFG revenue by selling the “C” tag option which will have a serious impact on struggling elk populations. IDFG claims they will only allow “C” tags to be sold if elk populations are stable or increasing in a particular zone. The only problem is IDFG staffers want to “lower” the elk population objectives in many areas thus making them eligible for the “C” tag to be sold at a higher price. The result will be more revenue and less elk.

I wish to thank all of the IDFG commissioners for their efforts and hard work for Idahoans. This proposed elk management plan process increases my appreciation for the commission based Fish and Game decision making process in Idaho. Common sense and sound judgment must continue to maintain a strong precedence in all Wildlife management decisions in Idaho. The damage incurred to Idaho’s backcountry elk populations due to failed academia Science cannot be underscored. It is refreshing to see, (at least in writing), that the dept. is not claiming their primary goal for elk management is to “Manage for Non-consumptive purposes”, which was found in previous elk plans. IDFG biologists and wildlife managers truly accomplished their past goal of managing elk for non consumptive purposes. I hope their environmental partners and the wolves truly appreciate the outcome. I can attest that sportsmen will never forget this great environmental experiment gone bad that was accomplished with their funding and at the sacrifice of winter meat and lost hunting opportunities with family and friends. My hope is we never repeat these same mistakes again and we allow common sense and practical application to prevail over a bankrupt academia environmental agenda. I truly appreciate those commissioners that are standing up for Sportsmen throughout the vetting process of this new elk plan.

Most of my comments will be addressed to Region 2 and back country units where wolves have had a major impact on elk populations. I’m encouraged to at least see the language of “recovering” elk populations and “predator control” found more frequently in this new proposal. Let’s hope these are not just “Words” to appease the commission and public but result in “action” down the road. It is very refreshing to see the focus on predator control instead of blaming habitat for most of our elk population declines in the Clearwater as has been the standard in the past.

As with any management plan, a good knowledge of the past is vital to keep us from taking the wrong course again. I think it is imperative that our commissioner’s and others view history from a sportsmen’s perspective on what many with “Boots on the ground” witnessed and even documented that we believe brought about much of the destruction of our elk populations in the backcountry of Idaho. After listening to every IDFG commission meeting recording since 2007, I can attest IDFG staff continue to provide the IDFG commission with a different spin other than what is really happening on the ground. Many claim that most of the extreme environmental direction that damaged our elk populations occurred under Jerry Conley and his agenda. I disagree with this as many of the same top IDFG leaders and players who director Conley hired are still calling the shots and following similar agendas. In fact some long-term and retired IDFG employees have claimed the departments agenda towards radical environmentalism and non-hunting is even worse than the Conley era! Again, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it!

Credibility of the proposed new elk plan:

How can you effectively manage elk populations when you haven’t a clue how many you have out there?

One of the most negligent management practices of IDFG has been not proactively and consistently monitoring Idaho’s elk populations. In the proposed Idaho Fish and game elk management plan, the very first sentence in the initial plan read:”The revised 10-year plan will be based on hunter preferences and current elk numbers.” We wrote a letter to IDFG commissions about this ridiculous claim and fortunately someone finally removed this disingenuous claim but this triggered concerns about the credibility of this new plan. My first question is how can a projected 10 year elk management plan be based on current elk numbers if IDFG doesn’t have current elk numbers? We have observed drastic elk number decreases in most of our backcountry zones with high wolf density. In fact many zones have not been counted for 4-5 years. Example; the Selway zone which is in ground zero of wolf country has not been counted for 7 years! How can you manage for current elk populations with data from 2007? As an example comparing the last elk count in 2007 to the previous count of 2004 in the presence of high wolf density, the calf elk population dropped by 50% in just 3 years! (Click here for the 2007 Selway count).

My question to the department is how can any business or organization create any type of strategic plan and business/organizational model without first knowing the current status of their inventory? You make the following statement in your plan, “Overall, the plan directs IDFG to maintain or increase current elk populations across most of the state.” How can you maintain or increase elk populations when you have no idea what they are? It is my opinion and the opinion of experienced successful big game managers in other states that Idaho must first conduct a comprehensive elk census prior to guessing how many elk they think they have or want to have. I would venture to say we have tens of thousands less elk than what the department is claiming. Look at the dates of the counts below. We only have 7 zones with current counts! Need we remind IDFG of the Lolo zone winter kill of 96-97 and how long it took staff to even acknowledge they had lost approximately 50% or greater of their elk and over 70% of the bulls? Again, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it!

Do you really think anyone believes Idaho currently has the same elk numbers we did back in 1999 when elk were at “near all time highs “as IDFG claimed?

In the January 1999 elk plan it states the following: “Overall, elk populations state-wide are near all time highs.” Currently IDFG is claiming we have 107,000 elk in the state. According to IDFG, this is almost identical to what Idaho had back in 1999. One 1999 survey shows 108,383 and another 102,700. How is this possible? Did Southern Idaho elk populations grow that much since 1999? Idaho Sportsmen can attest which direction the elk population has gone in most of our country north of Boise since 1999 and it isn’t upward or very positive. Again look at the harvest data and lack of proactive counts and decide for yourself if this is a credible statement.

Following is a breakdown of elk count frequency by zone throughout Idaho:

6 Zones that had no Counts: (IDFG claims they have the conservation officers that can conduct these counts from the road with their vehicles in the winter.) Panhandle, Owhyee, South Hills, Big Desert, Snake River and Bannock.

1 Zone that was last counted 7 years ago in 2007:

1 Zone that was last counted 6 years ago in 2008:
Elk City

4 Zones that were last counted 4 years ago in 2009:
Smokey Mnt.

5 Zones that were last counted 3 years ago in 2010:
Island Park

5 Zones that were last counted 2 years ago in 2011:
Middle Fork
Boise River

That leaves only 7 Zones with Current and up to date Counts:
Hells Canyon
Tex Creek


While IDFG was blaming poor habitat conditions instead of wolves for Idaho’s backcountry elk reduction, we saw that elk drastically changed their habits and browsing locations. For example we noticed in the Lolo, Selway and other backcountry regions with high wolf density that the elk were living in the steep, rocky, brushy finger ridges above the rivers. In an article in NRA’s American Rifle magazine the magazine writer took a bear hunt into the Selway and the Outfitter echoes exactly what we’ve witnessed regarding elk behaviour changes and the types of terrain and cover they have gravitated to for safety. The challenge is the academia IDFG and US forest service continues to have the same pre-wolf mindset from 20 years ago that these finger ridges need to be burned off to improve elk habitat. We’ve seen prescribed burns in the Selway the past few years that are burning up the elk’s hiding and security locations from the wolves actually making the elk more vulnerable to wolf predation.

Back in 2007, Ecologist Dr. Charles Kay informed us that Canadian biologists had learned that blaming habitat in high wolf density regions was futile. Dr. Charles Kay put me in touch with Canadian biologist Cliff White who provided me with elk data from Banff National Park. Mr. White emailed me elk count data from Banff where elk are not hunted that revealed a drastic decline in elk. After years of Canadian control measures to eliminate wolves, Banff had its first re-established wolf pack in 1986. (Click here for the Banff elk data) that closely models the downward trajectory of the Lolo, Selway and other Idaho backcountry elk zones.

Canadian data actually proves that burning to improve elk habitat in high-wolf density regions can actually reduce elk population growth rates!

Biologist Mark Hebblewhite wrote the following regarding how habitat influenced elk in the presence of high wolf density: Relative Sensitivity to Management Changes in Forage. There was essentially no evidence that the extensive prescribed fires (more than 77.22 square miles [200 km2] of burns) actually translated to increased elk populations in BNP. This was despite the higher forage biomass in burns (Sachro et al. 2005) and the higher forage quality for migrants in general (Hebblewhite et al. in press); migrants still declined due to wolf and grizzly predation. Furthermore, time-series modelling in both the Bow Valley and YHT area suggested that burning in areas with high-wolf density can actually reduce elk population growth rates (White et al. 2005, Hebblewhite et al. 2006). Although speculative, these studies suggest a bottom-up effect of fire on wolf numbers instead of elk mediated by rapid numeric responses of wolves. In essence, any increased elk productivity from fires translated to increased wolf productivity through a rapid numeric response. One caveat is that prescribed fires had high overlap with areas of high predation risk, which may have attracted elk to low elevation fires where they were killed by wolves.

The following are undisputed facts that Mark Hebblewhite published in the Banff study in 2007, with wolf densities comparable to those that exist in Idaho and Montana:
1. Wolves destroyed 90% of the elk population.
2. Improving forage made elk more vulnerable to wolf predation which reduced elk populations faster.
3. Wolves caused 56% of all moose fatalities and caused an 8% per year decline in moose numbers
4. Wolves drive woodland caribou to extinction.
5. Maintaining pre-wolf ungulate harvests in post-wolf landscapes is a fantasy and is incompatible with (so-called) “ecosystem management.”

Lets Blame Habitat on the Idaho Lolo Zone elk devastation!

I understand the positive effects of the 1910, 1919 and 1934’s fires (and no wolves) in creating the once famous elk population in the Lolo. Contrary to the enviro’s and IDFG’s claims that Lolo elk numbers were experiencing a steep or even slow decline in numbers due to habitat conditions the real data suggests a completely different story. A 22-year Clearwater Elk Ecology Study (1964-1985) proved the elk in the Lolo were only consuming 25% of available winter forage. IDFG blamed poor calf recruitment on having to many old cow elk in the Lolo so they increased cow tags significantly. In my opinion, the reason the calf recruitment was low was uncontrolled predators, primarily black bears, were killing too many newborn calves. Bear and wolf loving biologist Steve Nadeau had even closed the fall black bear season in the mid 1990’s because he was afraid to many mature boars were being taken! Also recent studies (2006), showed no indication elk populations were being negatively impacted by poor habitat. The 1994-1995 IDFG aerial counts of the Lolo Zone showed elk numbers stable and or increasing! The truth is the Lolo had ample habitat and still does. The terrible winter of 96-97 produced over 200% snowpack in the upper Lolo zone and that one year cut the Lolo elk numbers by 50% or greater. IDFG director Jerry Conley blamed the winter kill of 96-97 to just poor habitat even though the elk’s habitat was covered up with snow for 6 months! No doubt that the poor calf recruitment was due to unmanaged bears. In my opinion, this one terrible winter precipitated the Crapo elk initiative where Senator Mike Crapo brought groups together to work on projects to stop the declining elk populations. Below is the IDFG Lolo elk population data from 1989-2010. In unit 10 the elk count increased from 7,745 in 1992 to 9,729 in 1994! In Unit 12 the elk count increased from 3,763 in 1989 to 3,832 in 1995. Due to uncontrolled wolf populations and the rugged terrain and remoteness, the Lolo elk population will never recover unless IDFG finally decides to aggressively control wolves and bears.


The credibility of Director Virgil Moore’s opening letter introducing the proposed elk plan.

In IDFG director Virgil Moore’s opening letter introducing the new elk plan, he states in the very first sentence that,“When I became director of Idaho Fish and Game in 2011, I said elk would be a top priority during my tenure.” I challenge this statement that elk was a top priority for director Moore’s agenda. Every article I’ve seen or can locate in the media regarding Director Moore claims when he was first appointed as director was involving holding a, “Wildlife Congress,” which was changed to the, “Wildlife Summit.” In my opinion, Director Moore’s obsession with the Wildlife Summit has done more damage to the credibility of IDFG than any single event since the department’s illegal participation in wolf -introduction.

Director Virgil Moore misleads the President of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation about the Wildlife Summit.
In the January 6, 2012 email below, director Moore promises RMEF president David Allen that he would include Mr. Allen in the Wildlife Summit agenda development and that he would get back to him. Director Moore not only didn’t keep his word about getting back to the CEO of RMEF as promised but never included RMEF or any traditional sportsmen’s groups in the Summit agenda. The only participants in the summit were environmental groups and individuals. When IDFG announced the Wildlife Summit in CDA in September 2011 they initially told the commission the following, “We’ve tried hard not to miscommunicate at this early stage that this is simply a means to raise more revenue.” “Specifically at this point we have ongoing outreach efforts as we speak; we’ve been talking to and working with representatives among the wildlife conservation oriented non-governmental organizations. ISCAC has been a great one, a partner with us to make discussions as have Nature conservancy and the Idaho Conservation league.” Now the Dept. is claiming in a recent article,“As far as trying to find non-consumptive funding, that was never the overall plan”, and “the summit was meant to renew enthusiasm for wildlife.”My question to Director Moore is if elk hunting was a top priority of yours as a director and you’re wildlife summit goal was all about, “creating a renewed enthusiasm for wildlife”, then why didn’t you include RMEF or any traditional hunting organizations in the agenda planning process of the summit? Why didn’t you “, get back to,” and invite a traditional sportsmen group leader to speak such as s David Allen instead of just environmentalists?

From: Moore,Virgil
Sent: Friday, January 06, 2012 5:09 PM
To: David Allen; Moore,Virgil
Cc: Kirk Murphy; Radocha, Dennis L; Rod Triepke; Unsworth,James; Keckler,Mike; Gamblin,Mark; Kiefer,Sharon
Subject: Re: Wildlife Summit

Thanks David for the willingness to work with us on the summit. We plan to include you and other sportsman groups in the agenda development. I agree the North American Model is a good theme to build the Idaho summit around and will discuss internally with my staff next week and get back to you.
I will review the date of the summit with staff to see if other options are available that makes sense.

IDFG reaches out to Western Watersheds leaders and other radical environmentalists during the Idaho Fish and Game Wildlife Diversity meetings being held state-wide.

Recently KAREN BUDD-FALEN from the Budd-Falen Law office in Cheyenne, Wyoming released a MEMORANDUM that Western Watersheds has issued at least 675 Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests just to the BLM and Forest Service, related to livestock grazing on public lands! Karen also released a SECOND memorandum how Western Watersheds and other radical anti-ranching environmental groups are using taxpayer dollars through (“NEPA”) “as the litigation tool of choice,” to follow through with their, “to do” list, to, “Get all cows and sheep off federal lands ASAP!” Over 400 federal court complaints were individually analyzed and filed by either the Western Watersheds Project (“WWP”), WildEarth Guardians (“WEG”) or the Center for Biological Diversity (“CBD”).

IDFG Director Moore and his summit leadership team were wise enough not to invite and engage the more extreme radical environmental groups to participate in the primary well publicized Summit meeting in Boise. But once the public Summit meeting was over in Boise, Director Moore ordered his regional supervisors in every region of the state to conduct regional Wildlife Diversity meetings. This time the meetings were more private and the more extreme environmentalists were brought to the table to advise IDFG. Their goal was to help IDFG seek for new alternative revenue sources for non-game funding but to also look at other funding alternatives for the entire budget. The radical anti-hunting environmentalists love this concept as this gives them hope of getting a “Seat at the table” of managing hunters and big game.

Salmon Regional Work Group (RWG) – Wildlife Diversity Funding Meeting Minutes
Salmon Valley Business and Innovation Center Tuesday,
March 5, 2013, 3:00p.m.-5:30p.m.
RWG Participants: Gary Power, Lucy Littlejohn, Michele Tucker, Jody Brostrom, Lisa Whitman, Stephanie Smith, Travis Bullock, John Jakovac, John Goodman, Dave Reeder, Vincent Guyer, Mary Ann Oberhaus, Bill Bernt, Larry Zuckerman, Chad Fealko, Sherry Elrod, Jim Lukens, Hadley Roberts, Mark Davidson, Toni Ruth, Ron Troy, Louise Wagenknecht, Billijo Beck
Idaho Fish & Game participants: Steve Schmidt, Gary Vecellio, Beth Waterbury, Viki Harber


Recently, Steve Schmidt, the IDFG supervisor who is over two large IDFG regions spoke with members of Idaho for Wildlife on the phone and claimed the dept. no longer has the budget to control wolves in the backcountry and they probably don’t have the funds to even monitor our elk! With a 93+ million dollar budget many feel IDFG is not utilizing Sportsman and P.R. funding responsibly and the $ is not getting on the ground for crucial basic management practices such as game counts and predator control. The perception is that the Dept. chooses to fund what is of high value for them such as the Wildlife summit and wildlife diversity projects. In fact IDFG Director Virgil Moore gave IDFG employees who supported and participated in the Wildlife Summit an extra $2,000 bonus! This equalled to or exceeded the insulting pittance of allocating only $50,000 for wolf control this past year! Many Sportsmen feel that traditional big game management issues are taking the back seat to the non-hunting environmental community. Another concern is the proposed elk plan would drastically lower elk objectives in many zones allowing the new C tag to be used. By lowering the objective to generate more revenue due to the C tag, we are again placing our big game numbers in peril and not using prudent management to restore and rebuild our elk populations. Sportsmen’s concern are that even if IDFG received more funding it would be appropriated into non hunting programs such as more biodiversity and definitely not aggressive predator control.

2014 Fee increase Strategic plan to employ the Washington Monument strategy to secure funds!

Director Moore’s and his bureaucratically astute team closely model President Obama’s tactics to secure funding. They threaten the most vital services to be shut down such as aerial counting and wolf control. During a meeting with 3 IDFG supervisors on December 22, 2011 to sell me on the merits of the Wildlife Summit, Mark Gamblin informed me that one of the first services that would be stopped due to funding issues would be wolf control. IDGG is currently building the momentum in their PR campaigns to push for a 20% resident fee increase this next legislatives session. Regional supervisors like Steve Schmidt and others are informing the public how they must have this extra $ so they can perform elk counts or wolf control in the backcountry. They are fully utilizing the bureaucratic Washington Monument bullying tactics to exactness.

Director Moore’s massive Wildlife Summit campaign failed to produce his much anticipated new funding avenues from his environmental partners. Now he is once again forced to go back to IDFG’s loyal traditional Sportsmen and pretend he didn’t throw them in front of the bus in favour of the enviro’s as he once again asks them to foot the bill.

How can we trust that IDFG staff will follow this proposed plan due to being infected with an obsessive compulsive environmental disorder called “Ecosystem management?

Our Canadian experts have stated, “Maintaining pre-wolf ungulate harvests in post-wolf landscapes is a fantasy and is incompatible with (so-called) “ecosystem management.”
IDFG Big game manager Jon Rachael makes this point very clear below indicating ,”We can’t get more elk in the Lolo without having more wolves.”

In an April 7, 2010 Boise Weekly article titled “Predator and Prey,” State Big Game Manager Jon Rachael said, “The reality is, we’re a bit limited on what we can do to help that (Lolo) elk population.””We could manage for a much larger number of deer and elk, but that would be a larger number of wolves to go with it.”Rachael continued, “We’re so far removed from a natural human-unaffected landscape that’s it’s just not realistic.”” Eventually, yes, we would like to reach some sort of balance over time, but it’s not likely to be the balance acceptable or desirable for those folks that, for the last 100 years, looked at deer and elk as a food source.”

Idaho For Wildlife’s web page entitled, “Biologists, “explains why many Idahoan’s are apprehensive that rebuilding backcountry elk zones can become a reality due to the current radical environmental mindset of many of our biologists and wildlife managers.

How can we trust the IDFG staff to follow through with the direction of the commission?

Commission request ignored by the Department involving telling the truth of IDFG’s illegal participation in wolf re-introduction.

As mentioned above it is a fact that oftentimes sportsmen clearly have acquired knowledge that IDFG staff has kept from IDFG commissioners. In the February 2010 IDFG commission meeting in Boise, IDFG commissions complained of sportsmen who were constantly speaking erroneously and providing, “misinformation,” during public testimony. These complains were regarding “rumours” and “conspiracies” of how IDFG had illegally signed documents allowing wolves to be brought into Idaho. (Click here for the recording). Former Idaho legislator and current IDFG commissioner (at the time) Cameron Wheeler took the time to educate the commission how this “conspiracy” actually did occur and how IDFG “Cooperated with the introduction of wolves in opposition from “legislature, the governor and the commission itself.” He states “It’s been a tough pill for them,(sportsmen) to swallow and they ,(sportsmen) paid a “heavy price for this.”Commissioner Wheeler continued and said, “It’s a fact and needs to be ceded and its had a lot of impact on this dept.” IDFG commissioner Randy Budge indicated that if the information that Cameron was sharing was factual, that wolves were introduced over the objection of the governor, commission and legislature then this ought to be in included in the fact sheet. IDFG commission Chairmen Wayne Wright asked that all of the facts come forth on this fact sheet and that “more disclosure might be better and that they should state all of the facts.” IDFG director Cal Grown was asked to comment and he stated he wanted “full disclosure” and “that letter’s is going to cause us problems for a long time.” He continued, “It’s open I have it, I asked the previous director why did you do it,” “That letter when you start talking about it, it gets deeper and deeper.” Director Groen mention the permit that was also signed. “It’s difficult to discuss it, it’s there , I have it, I can give you the letters.” Chairmen Wright stated, ”I think that history would be real helpful if we (the commission) all knew exactly what happened.” The decision was made to put a wolf re-introduction time-line on the IDFG website and make it available to the public. Jim Unsworth commented that they could create a “Sunshine history” of wolf introduction and that’s exactly what they did! In this link to the wolf re-introduction time line, IDFG staff went to great efforts to create and develop this time-line for the purpose of “Full disclosure.” The dept. posted links to the illegal letter and permit but they omitted everything else that the commission wanted for transparency and “Full disclosure” regarding IDFG’s involvement in the introduction. Nothing in this “factual” time-line was ever written how IDFG’s participation was accomplished over the objection of the governor, legislature and commission. Click here to learn more about the illegal re-introduction of wolves into Idaho.

IDFG Resists accepting Wolf collars offered by RMEF

In early June of 2013, David Allen the president of RMEF phoned me indicting he was very frustrated with IDFG as they were dragging their feet on accepting $50,000 for free wolf collars. RMEF recognized a legitimate high risk threat for Idaho due to not having enough collared wolves on the ground. Mr. Allen was concerned that as of this Spring, IDFG had only about 40 collared wolves in the state. If Idaho cannot substantiate it has sufficient wolf numbers this could risk a review and potential relisting of the wolves by the Feds and we could lose state management. One long-term very knowledgeable legislator assumed the reason IDFG was against accepting the wolf collars is because this would result in more dead wolves. In fact “Wolves of the Rockies” spokeswomen Kim Bean said “wolf advocates would never buy tags because they fund only collaring and lethal control.” I’m guessing the dept. is also against spending the $ to collar wolves because they can gain traction by claiming they are low on funds and will use this as another “Sequester” political posturing tool to scare legislators into giving them another fee increase for 2014. We had to contact the office of species conservation, legislators and IDFG commissioners before IDFG would finally accept the $ for these collars. To overcome the spending excuse to trap wolves to be collared, volunteers have agreed to trap the wolves for free but IDFG officials have refused this offer. This resistance to accept this $50K from RMEF and not having more collared wolves clearly raises red flags. Some may question is the motive purely environmental as Director Moore has been attempting to appease these groups in order to secure alternative funding?

How can we trust the department with a new elk plan when we question the competence of wildlife managers?

In 2011, IDFG supervisor Steve Schmidt was promoted to manage two IDFG regions, (Salmon and Idaho Falls) to save on money. He was the only supervisor in Idaho that was given the charge and tremendous responsibility of managing two regions. Mr. Schmidt claimed in this article, “That while the Island Park herd is thriving despite the presence of many wolves in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding national forests and that it’s just, “concerns that wolves have caused declines in some of Idaho’s big game populations.”In the 8-2010 IDFG news bulletin, IDFG claims that “hunter Harvest was attributed as the primary cause of elk death in Island park.” What is amazing is how the Island Park Zone is geographically right next to Yellowstone National Park and yet Mr. Schmidt claims wolves haven’t been the primary cause of elk mortality in this area! Now open this Island Park Zone elk harvest graph and note how “hunter harvest” has been dropping significantly since about 2005. This clearly demonstrates that the Island Park elk herd is not “thriving” as Mr. Schmidt claims but is tanking. I don’t think local sportsmen would agree that it’s due to just “concerns” of wolves or excessive hunter harvest that supervisor Schmidt claims!

How can we trust that IDFG wildlife managers based on their past performance?

Vigilant Sportsmen fought desperately to save the Lolo elk Zone against a radical pro-predator environmental agenda that could not be stopped:
Sportsmen realize the importance of quality habitat for elk. The Fires in the Lolo region of 1910, 1919 and 1934 created incredible forage for elk to flourish in the 20th century. However in retrospect many now don’t believe the elk populations would have grown like they did with the presence of high wolf populations. After witnessing the damage wolves create even with good habitat many now believe the early 20th century wolf bounties accompanied by the fires were the primary reasons the elk numbers flourished. Our family has been hunting and hiking the Lolo zone for over 40 years and we’ve seen the habit change drastically. Even with the habitat challenges in the Lolo, IDFG has finally admitted the elk numbers are way below the habitat carrying capacity. In areas of the Clearwater where elk numbers have plummeted, IDFG Biologists and managers have historically blamed habitat primarily and predation lastly for the cause of the elk decline.

The terrible winter of 1996-1997 and the Lolo Zone Winter-Kill cover-up:

Click here for a letter I sent to former IDFG director Cal Groen charging IDFG with gross negligence for their terrible elk mismanagement during the winter of 96-97. This letter provides documentation that IDFG not only denied there was a serious winter kill in 96-97, but their science claimed the winter was just a “Normal” winter. The letter also contains evidence that the dept. doctored up a phony elk count in the spring of 1997 claiming the elk were doing fine! Then we learned that this phony 1997 elk count and study was developed on a computer! This letter was sent to Director Groen explaining to him why we chartered a winter flight into the Lolo during the terrible winter of 2007-2008 and that we did not want another repeat of their gross mismanagement like what occurred in 96-97. We knew during the winter of 2007-2008 that IDFG was not going to do anything to save our elk in the Lolo by being proactive responsible managers. From the time period of the 96-97 winter kill to 2007, we had learned a lot about IDFG’s environmental agenda to place wolf recovery over consumptive elk hunting. We knew this agenda also included not providing emergency winter feed to save starving elk in order to keep them “Wild” and concerns of cutting into their budget. There was a provision in the 1984 emergency winter feeding law that allowed the winter feeding $ to be funnelled back into the IDFG general fund if the money wasn’t used. The non/anti-hunting environmental groups and some of their allies within IDFG despise winter feeding elk. By pretending to be inept or incompetent about the terrible winterkills threatening Idaho’s big game, the department could avoid being held accountable for breaking Idaho law requiring them to provide emergency winter feed. Click here to read more about how IDFG has been neglectful to provide emergency winter feed in many other areas of Idaho.

2006 Plan to remove 43 wolves to help the Lolo Elk was designed to fail from the beginning:

(Click here)to read the following news article, where it states, “Some biologists and conservation groups question the science behind the plan,” (To remove the 43 wolves in the Lolo). Those biologists worked for IDFG and most still do. In fact current IDFG Deputy Director Jim Unsworth was quoted in this article when he was the Wildlife bureau Chief that, “When you have great habitat,” he says, “predators aren’t an issue.” In fact Doctor Unsworth and Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife closely echoed the same conclusion why the Lolo elk populations were dropping in the Lolo.

Ed Bangs explains to me in an email how IDFG 2006 science resulted in no wolf control that could have saved the Lolo elk herd under the 10j rule.

The IDFG proposal to kill 43 wolves in the Lolo in 2006 never happened because IDFG “Science” was written that “Habitat” was killing off our Lolo elk! Ed Bangs explained this to me in an email. (Click here).He wrote that the USWS had specific language written in the 10j rule that if “Predation” was the primary factor that was negatively impacting elk populations then the state could implement the 10j rule and provide wolf control to save our elk. Instead IDFG biologists wrote that habitat was the primary cause of the elk number decline in the Lolo which nullified the ability to use the 10j rule to remove the 43 wolves. What is ironic is that both Ed Bangs and David Mech believed at the time of this 2006 study that the Lolo was at or near the Peak of wolf density and saturation levels. It was also at this time that we were seeing wolf killed elk very frequently in the wintertime in the Lolo. Had this been an honest study and we could have utilized the 10j rule, this would have tremendously helped our Lolo elk population. Doctor Unsworth also claimed at the bottom of the newspaper that, “Reducing wolf predation through aerial gunning and trapping says Unsworth, is, “the last tool in our toolbox.”

2-19-2008 Sportsmen Charter a flight in the Lolo during the bad winter of 2007-2008 in efforts to try and get IDFG’s attention again to save our elk:

Because of concerns of another terrible winterkill similar to that of 96-97 and knowing our elk population in the Lolo was already terribly damaged due to unmanaged wolf predation, we had to try and get IDFG to do something in desperation to save the remaining elk in the Lolo. This time it was much worse because wolves had been in the Lolo for over 10 years and we knew the elk numbers were extremely low. The hungry wintering elk would be driven to the bottoms of the North Fork River canyon in the Lolo Zone making them easy prey for ravenous wolves. When heavy snows settled into the North Fork of the Clearwater, IDFG would work with the Forest Service to close the road against snowmobilers. They claimed the snowmobiles would traumatize the wintering elk. Many of us knew the elk felt safer with the human activity that with wolves everywhere harassing and killing them. Some felt IDFG had the roads closed so people would not see the terrible damage the wolves were doing to the elk. In hopes of getting IDFG’s attention to save our elk, I chartered a fixed wing flight into the Lolo and created a YouTube video showing the amount of deep snow and the lack of elk observed. By November of 2008, I pulled this video when I was convinced that IDFG commissioner Fred Trevey was honestly doing everything in his power to handle the wolf crisis in the Lolo and was truly listening to concerned sportsmen.

2-29-2008 Idaho Fish and Game responds by chartering their own flight and creates their own video to magazine sportsmen and continue to deny the damage to our elk in the Lolo.

Our flight and video definitely got IDFG’s attention but not with the honest response we had hoped for. Instead of acknowledging the truth they went back into denial, cover-up and marginalization of concerned sportsmen. Within a week, the department rented and chartered an expensive helicopter and created their own video along with a full page article on the front page of the Outdoor section of the Lewiston tribune attempting to claim the elk were doing okay in the Lolo and kindly marginalized our concerns. They were able to use the helicopter to get lower to the ground allowing the chopper blades to provide the necessary noise and trauma to get the elk moving so they could get some photos of the elk trying to winter and feed on the ice in the middle of the river.

2-2008 Orogrande creek slaughter article. Due to the IDFG closing the primary North Fork of the Clearwater Road in the Lolo due to “Concerns over snowmobilers harassing elk,” concerned sportsmen took 4 more trips to document more wolf predation. This all occurred in just one small tributary of the North Fork of the Clearwater called Orogrande creek. These trips were from Feb 28 – Mar 9th of 2008.

3-13-2008 Dr. Professor Jim Peek writes article in the Lewiston Tribune, “Nothing goes to waste in nature”. This gem suggests how scavengers benefit from eating surplus killed elk. No doubt to the timing of this article as it coincides with IDFG’s propaganda machine to marginalize the devastation occurring in the Lolo. Dr. Peek was very instrumental in wolf introduction and was IDFG deputy director Jim Unsworth’s college professor. Dr. Peek worked with and advised IDFG and the environmental group called the wilderness Society simultaneously all through wolf re-introduction. No conflict of interest here! Professor Peek was recently used as the expert witness and authority in the law suit against the IDFG by Western Watersheds, Wilderness Society and a host of other environmental groups to keep IDFG from using helicopters to radio collar wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness! Professor Peek is responsible for brainwashing many of IDFG’s brilliant biologists on the innocence of wolves! Dr. Peek also recently has been working with IDFG on their Wildlife Diversity team in search of alternative funding.

4-2008 North Fork of the Clearwater Predation report:
On the very first day the North Fork of the Clearwater River opened back up for motorized access, sportsmen returned to the area to take more predation photos. One man braved crossing a dangerous avalanche to take some of these photos.

2- 2009-North Fork documentary where we prove elk are less afraid of humans than wolves.
During this trip, we came across a cow elk with a collar on it that had recently been killed by wolves. We used a Satellite phone and called IDFG to report the location of the elk so the dept. could retrieve this expensive collar. Since IDFG knew we were in the Lolo taking photos of the damage being done to our elk it wasn’t a coincidence that days after we returned from this trip an article appeared on the front page of the Outdoor section of the Lewiston Tribune marginalizing surplus killing by wolves!

Elk Predation photos are digitized and public awareness increases.

While wolves were at their peak level in the backcountry and wolf killed elk were more numerous to view, those taking photos and complaining of the predation occurring in the Lolo were marginalized and ridiculed by the IDFG. One of these men was Lewis Turcott. He took many of these predation photos in the Lolo using an old 35 MM camera. In 2008 he finally owned his first digital camera. Mr. Turcott lost 5 dogs to wolves in the Lolo in 1999 and has dedicated his life to document and photograph the terrible wolf predation in the Lolo in hopes of exposing the truth of what was happening to his beloved country. Louie would actually camp out for weeks at a time during the winters to film the horrific predation taking place on the elk winter ranges. On February 22, 2007, I invited Louie to my office where we spent the day scanning his old 35MM photos so we could get them digitized. Within days of digitizing the photos we were emailing these photos far and wide to educate the public. The website was created to host these photos and get public attention of the truth what was happening to our elk.

IDFG admits that wolf re-introduction sped up wolf recovery by 15-20 years in Central Idaho!

IDFG Big Game manager Jon Rachael admits in this article that, “All the (central Idaho) reintroduction did was move the timeline ahead 15-20 years.”
What this translates to is that when past IDFG director illegally signed the permit and letter to physically allow the Feds to bring wolves into Idaho, this expedited wolf recovery in Central Idaho by 15-20 years! Or from a sportsmen’s perspective this illegal act by IDFG destroyed elk hunting 15-20 years faster than the preferred plan of Natural colonization from Canada. In fact it is possible to have circumvented much of the damage caused by wolves due to the fact that Idaho would have had 15-20 more years to work on wolf delisting and state management. What is ironic, is that wolves were not rapidly moving down from Canada as quickly as expected. While Central Idaho elk were being destroyed by wolves, elk hunting and harvest actually was increasing in some units of North Idaho during the same time! It wasn’t until approximately 5 years ago that the Panhandle elk populations began to be negatively impacted by wolves. These units had an open cow season until 2012. Due to the “Insertion” of wolves facilitated by IDFG, elk numbers in Central Idaho wilderness and backcountry units dropped rapidly and then began to spread outside. This is why Idaho law and policy makers objected to this “Hard Recovery” plan that they knew IDFG wanted instead of “Natural Colonization.”

IDFG’s illegal permit authorized additional wolves to be “translocated” and injected into rich Central Idaho elk herds:

Due to the special permit and letter that IDFG illegally signed this allowed the USFWS to not only bring in the initial wolves in 1995, but gave them the authority “Translocate” additional “Problem” wolves all over Idaho’s back country. In fact the USFWS translocated 117 wolves into then NRM from 1998-2001 and many of these additional wolves were released throughout Idaho’s elk rich backcountry devastating these elk populations.

Sportsmen compile their own elk Harvest Data and graphs as another tool to save our elk.

Prior to and during wolf introduction, IDFG’s budget also grew and the dept. began spending millions on expensive new office buildings for every region in the state. While building their bureaucracy with Sportsmen dollars their management and spending values began to change towards non-consumptive and bio-diversity. The Department no longer even maintained the current elk count frequency let alone increased the frequency as promised due to wolves being on the landscape. Due to the lack of current, proactive elk monitoring and denying and attempting to cover up the damage being caused to our elk we decided to put together elk harvest graphs along with the hundreds of predation photos to attempt to show the world what was happening to our Lolo elk population. The Lolo zone received so national attention about its elk numbers plummeting but we knew the other backcountry elk zones would soon follow this same trajectory. We knew tracking elk harvest alone was not completely scientific but over the years it became apparent how the elk harvest data closely paralleled actual aerial elk count trends.
In 2013, we updated our Idaho elk harvest graphs from 1989 to 2012. We utilized IDFG harvest data both from the department’s website and from IDFG Biometrician Bruce B. Ackerman. (Click here to see the graphs). These graphs should be a very disturbing reminder to prudent wildlife managers and concerned Sportsmen as to the current downward trajectory of Idaho’s once famous elk herds and how serious this issue truly is.

Elk Diseases

In the state wide management section of the 2013 elk plan proposal, IDFG staff dedicated 6 full pages (30-36) to diseases that can impact elk. Just as IDFG failed to listen to Canadian experts on the damage wolves would inflict on our elk populations until it was too late, we are seeing IDFG once again following the same course of inaction regarding the threat of Echinococcus granulosus now found rampantly infecting our elk in the form of Hydatidcysts in wolf country. We have photos of elk lungs on our website of many infected elk where their lungs were almost completely destroyed by Hydatid cysts chock full of thousands of tape worm heads. Some bull elk are not acting normal or even wild when hunted. Some bulls are staying down in the valleys during the fall and easily shot. When some of these elk have been field dressed, the lungs are almost completely destroyed by Hydatid cysts. This explains why these bulls are not running away and or heading for the high country. Even Ed Bangs knew E.G. was going to be more of an issue in elk when he sent me an email in January 2010 stating the following: “However I believe there is no doubt that wolves have speeded up the transmission cycle in wild ungulates.”This is the tapeworm that causes visible cysts in lung of wild ungulates.” Not surprisingly, IDFG did not list Echinococcus granulosus (E.G.) even once in their 2013 elk plan as a disease of threat for elk. Seven years ago, (2007), IDFG discovered 66% of Idaho’s wolves tested positive for E.G. Now almost every recent wolf necropsy tested positive for E.G. Just in the Salmon, Idaho valley alone, Idaho For Wildlife has sent in 11 wolves for testing and 100% of the necropsies tested positive for E.G! The threat to humans is also being minimized by IDFG. Please review our wolf disease section of our website for more information.

Emergency Winter Feeding

The amount of $ some of our ranchers and farmers pay for hay is excessive and most do not get adequate compensation for this. Click here to read this letter of desperation from a rancher near Salmon. It is a law for IDFG to provide emergency feeding when necessary. As evidenced by every harsh winter, we learn that IDFG biologists and managers would make lousy weathermen! The problem is many of the biologists were taught in college, “Purist”, environmental beliefs that any type of winter feeding makes the elk not wild. So in terrible winters, IDFG allows our elk to starve to death on the ranchers back yard in order to keep them wild! The other reason is our IDFG doesn’t want to spend the $ when it could go for bonuses for helping on the IDFG summit or expenses to wine and dine the wolf loving environmentalists! The excuse they use not to feed is that all of our elk will immediately contract Brucellosis and CWD, spread it far and wide, abort all of their calves and the end will come to hunting and ranching! Note how often IDFG mentions CWD and Brucellosis in the 2013 elk proposal. Due to the landscape of fear where elk have moved closer to human populations to avoid ravenous wolves, the elk are more condensed than any time in recent history. Emergency winter feeding if conducted properly would actually disperse the elk out more than they currently are. Ranchers are suffering record levels of crop damage because of this “Landscape of Fear” environment. Even with a new 2012 emergency winter feeding bill, IDFG continues to refuse to provide emergency winter feeding in most cases where it is needed.

Donnelly, Idaho rancher is forced to sell personal items for hay to feed his cattle and to keep elk alive

Click here to see how a Donnelly, Idaho rancher was selling off items on ebay to pay for hay to not only save 73 elk from starvation but also his own cattle! Currently wolves have caused elk to congregate more than ever for safety.

Wyoming has record bull elk harvest in spite of 8 million dollars less revenue!

The September 2013 RMEF bugle magazine devotes much emphasis on the success of Wyoming’s elk program.
Recently we spoke with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department about their winter feeding program. They have 23 feed lots in Wyoming. 22 of them are operated by the state and 1 by the Feds on the Jackson Hole elk refuge. When feeding elk near livestock, they are careful the elk are fed separate from the cattle to avoid potential disease transmission. When feeding elk where no livestock is present, they disperse the feeding stations to further separate and disperse elk. One Wyoming official said if anyone thinks elk are not “Wild” in Wyoming due to winter feeding, come try and hunt them in the fall and see how tame they are! We are not advocating opening up regular feed stations like Wyoming. What we are suggesting is noting the success of Wyoming’s elk program and for IDFG to stop allowing our elk to die during bad winters. It is the law and it is the right thing to do! (For more information on emergency winter feeding see the following two links below)


IDFG, follow your own plan! (click here) Page 8 reads: “Sport harvest is IDFG’s primary tool for predator reduction in the Lolo and Selway zones. IDFG may authorize agency control actions on predators where hunter harvest does not sufficiently reduce predation impacts.”
Sportsmen apathy needs to stop! We all need to get more involved communicating to our commissioners and legislators about our concerns with the direction of our future with elk hunting and management.

Is IDFG listening to their long-term staff that is not in upper management? Many of these men and women are avid outdoorsman and we need to ensure their advice and suggestions are heard. In my opinion, many are under paid and some need to go. If some of this bureaucratic environmental waste is cut, funds could be utilized to increase wages for quality staff. Radical environmentalism is expensive and no doubt is suffocating the potential of both quality people and projects from obtaining their potential.

Consider year-around hunting and trapping in elk zones below objective.
Alberta man provides suggestions for Idaho; In December of 2011; I interviewed a successful wolf hunter in Alberta who provided some ideas that Idaho might consider to improve back country elk populations.

Maintain 150 GPS collared wolves in Idaho to keep the Feds and the environmental community satisfied and take every measure possible to reduce wolf populations to this maximum level. Hopefully someday we won’t be required to have wolves. If this happens then I recommend building a triple electrical fenced facility near Sun Valley, ID with armed guards in elevated vantage positions. Arm the guards with fully automatic weapons with night vision scopes in case of an escaped wolf. Let the enviro’s purchase elk from elk ranches to feed the wolves and sportsman can pay for the armed guards and artillery!

Listen to Wyoming! Wyoming spends millions on predator control. In 2012 they set a new record for bull elk harvest! Maybe consider listening to a few of these folks.

During harsh winters, involve sportsmen to help with emergency winter feeding projects. This can bring IDFG and sportsmen together and will increase the trust and credibility of the dept.

We need to remember that in the original USFWS EIS statement from 1994, we were sold that,” A recovered wolf population in the central Idaho area would kill about ten cattle (1-17), 57 sheep (32­92), and up to 1,650 ungulates each year. A recovered wolf population will not affect hunter harvest of male elk but may reduce harvest of female elk 10%-15% and will not measurably impact hunter harvest of deer, moose, bighorn sheep, or mountain goats. A recovery wolf population will not measurably impact ungulate populations in central Idaho.”

Fund trapping expenses
Concerned Sportsmen put up the funds to build Idaho’s elk populations in the 1930’s. Now it appears we are going to be forced to do this again because of IDFG’s refusal to spend our $ to control predators. Sportsmen have finally resigned to the fact that IDFG will not control wolves in the back country to save their elk and our coughing up their own funds. A relatively new group in North Idaho named Foundation for Wildlife Management is attempting to collect donations to help reimburse up to $500.00 per wolf for trapping expenses. This is all due to Director Moore not making back country wolf control a top priority to save elk. Most trappers have found they cannot afford to trap wolves in the backcountry due to high fuel and other costs, so wolves remain out of control. IDFG allocated only $50,000 out of their $94,000,000 + budget for wolf control this past year which is actually an insult to license purchasing sportsmen of Idaho who truly care about restoring elk populations. My question to director Moore is how can you rebuild elk populations in the back country if you won’t make it a fiscal priority? You told us two years ago when you’re budget was $20,000,000 less that you had plenty of $. Isn’t it amazing that we can afford to buy what we want and that which meets our values?

Stop wasteful studies and spending in IDFG
Many of IDFG studies are, “over the top”, regarding environmentalist. Climate change and a pro predator agenda driven studies are rampant within the dept. Consider hiring a legislative led external efficiency consultant team to analyze all of IDFG’s programs and expenses. Ascertain what studies are crucial, relevant and meet Idaho’s legislative charge and direction. Determine if some projects and programs can be eliminated. Look for opportunities to increase funding for predator control to rebuild elk herds. Get IDFG staff off of radical environmental boards and groups that propagate climate change and Landscape conservative cooperates that are consistent with the YTY initiative. The time and $ that was wasted in the Wildlife Summit and this proposed elk management plan are both good examples.

It is my opinion and that of many others that a “wolf preservationist” or an environmentalist cannot successfully rebuild elk populations in Idaho’s backcountry regions. I think IDFG director Moore is one of the nicest men I’ve ever met in the IDFG but in my opinion he is an ardent environmentalist and must consider resigning if elk populations are to be brought back in Idaho’s back country. Aggressive pulsed predator removal actions and environmentalism are not conducive with each other. We have received complaints from current and past IDFG employees that Director Moore has been recruiting and hiring new employees based on whether the applicant was a hunter or not. I don’t know if this is accurate but it is definitely the perception. This “bottom down” hiring practice has been implemented in other agencies to facilitate the desired philosophy and the long-term management objectives of that organization. Most of my above recommendations can and will be accomplished with the correct leadership and management. If IDFG would just follow its original common sense legislative charge elk can be brought back from predator pits and numbers can be significantly increased in our back country game units


Steve Alder