Dick Randall, a fighter for the West

by Betsy Marston

Staff was sorry to hear of the death of Dick Randall in Rock Springs, Wyo., at the age of 72. A fervent conservationist, Randall in his youth worked as an aerial coyote-gunner for the federal Animal Damage Control agency. Suffering from the effects of several air crashes, and more important, a change of heart about what he was doing, Randall quit the agency in 1971, then devoted his life to reforming it.


One of his most powerful tools for reform was photography. He'd studied under Ansel Adams in the early 1950s, and his devastating pictures of dead foxes, eagles and dogs - as well as coyotes, the intended target of deadly Compound 1080 - helped convince many Westerners that indiscriminate poisoning was a dangerous idea.


We got to know Dick during a tour of Wyoming's Red Desert, which, though marked by oil and gas wells and crisscrossing roads, still contains wonderful and very large wilderness areas. In 1988, during one of the paper's potlucks in Jackson, Wyo., we honored him as "one of the great natural resources of the West."


Dick was off fighting one of the Yellowstone fires that threatened a cabin he owned, so we didn't get to tell him in public how much we appreciated his wildlife lore and his generosity: Our photo file bulges with his pictures. All the payment he needed, he always told us, was a credit to his employer, Defenders of Wildlife, the nonprofit known for protecting wolves by compensating ranchers whenever the predators kill livestock - some $30,000 to 30 ranchers so far. Dick Randall lived a dramatic life, veering as it did from coyote-killer to coyote-savior; we'll miss his presence in the West.


*Betsy Marston © High Country News