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WildEarth Guardians Seeks End of Aerial Gunning & Poisoning of Wildlife on Public Lands
DENVER -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture should stop sending its agents up in aircraft to shoot coyotes and planting lethal cyanide booby traps on the nation’s forests and other federal lands, according to a formal request filed today by WildEarth Guardians with the Obama administration.
"Federal wildlife-killing programs are unsafe, illegal, and reckless," said Wendy Keefover-Ring, Director of Carnivore Protection for WildEarth Guardians. "We call upon the Obama administration to protect our native carnivores on the Nation’s public lands."
WildEarth Guardians asked President Barack Obama to issue an Executive Order and/or that the Departments of Interior and Agriculture develop an administrative-rulemaking process to implement a new management paradigm for native carnivores on the Nation’s public lands.
The petition highlights the science documenting the critical role that carnivores play in ecosystems and also asserts that lethal control methods reflect an outdated value system that inappropriately elevates livestock production above wildlife.
"Our federal government and others indiscriminately kill tens of thousands of animals on public lands each year," stated Keefover-Ring. “While one federal agency spends millions of dollars to restore species such as wolves, another spends millions to slaughter them. Today, we have asked the Obama administration to end the war on our wildlife by stopping aerial gunning and poisoning on federal lands."
The petition alleges that aerial gunning is not being adequately overseen by the Department of Interior, as is required under the Airborne Hunting Act. Under the Act, individual states are required to file annual reports with the DOI that provide information about aerial gunning permits issued, the kinds and numbers of wildlife killed, where they are killed, and why. It appears the Department is not requiring states to file reports and comply with the law.
"In April, we filed a records request with the DOI, and seven months later, the agency has been unable to show us that it is adequately monitoring aerial gunning activities for the past ten years-including acts that appear to be illegal," stated Keefover-Ring. "So we have called upon President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to place an immediate moratorium on aerial gunning activities."
In early October, the Associated Press reported that an Idaho man, Carl Ball, illegally fired upon wolves, and possibly killed one. It appeared that neither the Idaho Department of Game and Fish nor the Department of Interior had initiated a law enforcement action against Mr. Ball although the incident occurred in June.
In April, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services agent was fired from his job for complaining about illegal aerial gunning activities involving mountain lions in Nevada.
The lack of accountability likely contributes to the fact that aerial gunning is not only deadly for wildlife, but often times for pilots and gunners as well. “We have documented 119 aerial gunning accidents. Pilots fly into power lines and trees. Gunners shoot their own engines, and when they fail to make a clean kill, they double back into their own turbulence and plummet from wind shears,” stated Keefover-Ring. “Ending aerial-gunning activities makes sense given the danger to both wildlife and people.”
The petition also targets two poisons: sodium cyanide capsules (used in M-44 ejectors) and sodium fluoroacetate (known as “Compound 1080”), a toxicant used in “livestock protection collars” strapped to the heads of sheep and goats. Both agents are classified by EPA as having the highest degree of “acute toxicity.” Compound 1080 is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, water-soluble toxin considered by several countries as a chemical weapon for its potential threat to water supplies. Compound 1080 has already been banned in California and Oregon but remains legal in eleven states.
WildEarth Guardians also argues that the coyote hunts do not provide relief to agribusiness, or the ungulate-growing business (some state game and fish agencies attempt to artificially bolster ungulate populations for hunting revenues). Studies show that the coyotes compensate for killing operations by bearing larger litters, permitting more animals in the pack to breed, or through immigration strategies. Coyotes indirectly protect ground-nesting birds such as sage grouse because they prey on smaller carnivores such as foxes that utilize birds as food.
"When top carnivores such as coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions thrive, so does the balance of nature. Their presence ensures better ecosystem function, particularly in the arid West, and their presence dramatically increases the numbers of other species present. Americans appreciate and value knowing that wild wolves, bears, lynx and other carnivores thrive on our national forests. It’s high time to end the war on wildlife," stated Keefover-Ring.