Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Monday, February 23, 2009

Environmental Groups Call For End To USDA Wildlife Killing

Environmental groups have called on Obama to get rid of the USDA's Dept. of Wildlife Services, which is involved in mainly predator control programs (coyotes are a big target). Ranchers oppose the move.

From WildEarth Guardians:
WildEarth Guardians’ research reveals this agency is:

• Biologically Unsound - Wildlife Services uses a “sledgehammer approach” to wildlife management, meaning over one million animals are killed each year using non-selective killing controls such as poisons, traps, and aerial gunning. Animals killed also include threatened and endangered species, a number which has steadily increased since 2005. The number of carnivores killed has also increased since 2005, which is of particular concern to conservation biologists, since these animals play vital roles in ecosystems;

• Dangerous - Between 2002 and 2006, Wildlife Services failed several federal audits to safely inventory, store, and control access to chemical weapons, and in 2007 the agency itself admitted that it had experienced a “wake of accidents.” The aerial gunning program has killed at least 10 agents and injured 28 more. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency charged Wildlife Services for its illegal placement of a sodium cyanide M-44 (a highly lethal booby trap) on public land, which harmed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and killed his dog. Additionally, Wildlife Services puts little emphasis on using non-lethal methods, and puts few resources towards developing new, ethical non-lethal research;

• Unnecessary and Fiscally Unsound - Taxpayers are paying the bill for these activities, and Wildlife Services fails to protect the businesses it supposedly helps. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Services shows that most livestock losses come from weather, disease, illness, and birthing problems, and not predation. Carnivores killed less than 1% of cattle (0.18%) and approximately 3% of sheep produced in the U.S.;

• Out of Step with American Values - Americans value wildlife and abhor animal cruelty. Yet, Wildlife Services not only kills tens of thousands of targeted wild animals annually, their activities also result in the unintentional deaths of many others, including pets, using indiscriminate and agonizing poisons, torturous traps, and even dynamite.

This is what the USDA APHIS website has on the program:
The goal of the WS program is to manage the damage caused by wildlife, not to eradicate wildlife populations. Upon request, WS wildlife professionals implement or recommend effective management methods to alleviate or minimize predation. WS employees strive to remove only the predators that are causing the damage. To accomplish this goal, they direct control methods at only the specific animal or local wildlife populations in the area where damage has occurred. The WS program operates in accordance with its program wide Environmental Impact Statement, local environmental assessments and workplans, and Federal, State, and local laws and regulations, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Estimates of predator populations by State fish and game officials indicate that the number of predators removed by WS is small compared with overall predator numbers. Lethal control efforts of WS professionals typically remove less than 5 percent of a species' overall population. In many situations, the number of animals removed amounts to less than 1 percent of their total population. This amount is considerably less than the number of animals taken by hunters and trappers annually. The USDA's extension service, APHIS' National Wildlife Research Center, and the Federal Government's General Accounting Office confirm that lethal controls used by WS do not unduly threaten the well-being of Statewide predator populations.

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