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Wildlife Services' War on Wildlife Slaughters Imperiled Species and Dogs
Kelly Nokes, 406-209-9545, firstname.lastname@example.org
MISSOULA, MONT. — Today, the federal government’s secretive wildlife killing program released last year’s alarming kill statistics. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Wildlife Services” program within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, spent millions of taxpayer dollars to kill 1,681,283 million native animals, largely at the behest of the agriculture and livestock industries.
The casualties include 284 cougars, 384 gray wolves, 480 black bears, 731 bobcats, 20,334 black-tailed prairie dogs and the destruction of 36,480 of their burrows. The program killed 1,511 gray foxes, 1,534 red foxes, 21,557 beavers, and one critically endangered Mexican wolf. Coyotes suffered the highest death toll with 69,905 animals killed. The program also admitted to killing 17 domestic dogs. Former Wildlife Services employees estimate that fewer than half of the killings are actually reported, meaning these numbers are likely hugely under-representative of the actual carnage.
“It is a tragedy that our government continues to needlessly slaughter America’s wildlife year to year,” said Kelly Nokes, carnivore campaign lead for WildEarth Guardians. “Wildlife Services’ cruel killing of native animals is based on disproven anti-wildlife bias and undermines the critical natural systems upon which we all depend.”
In 2015, the program used a variety of highly contentious and cruel tools, including trapping, poisoning, and shooting from airplanes to kill over 3.2 million animals, including over 1.6 million native animals. While the program’s work to address the serious threats posed by invasive species is important, the killing of native wildlife is not based in science and is ineffective at addressing purported conflicts. The best science shows that when coyotes are killed, especially the alpha males and females, the remaining subordinate population breeds more to compensate, which increases the likelihood of human-wildlife conflict. Similarly, when wolves are indiscriminately killed, the pack structure is destabilized and the likelihood of conflicts with livestock increases. Killing these animals destabilizes the self-regulating intra and inter-pack dynamics of these species, exacerbating rather than solving alleged problems.
Several courts have recently struck down Wildlife Services’ cruel and unscientific practices. In December 2015, a federal court faulted the program for failing to adequately analyze the impacts of its wolf killing activities in Washington State. In August 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made clear that conservationists can challenge Wildlife Services’ wildlife killing activities. Numerous additional cases are currently pending challenging the program’s wildlife killing throughout the West.
“Wildlife Services’ killing of native wildlife is scientifically baseless, ethically bankrupt, and fiscally foolish,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “Most Americans would be outraged to know that millions of dollars of their hard-earned money is spent on killing wildlife using cruel traps, snares, and aerial gunning.”
Conservationists are calling on the program to end the killing of native animals and instead devote public resources to aiding the resolution of human-wildlife conflicts utilizing the wide variety of effective non-lethal control techniques.
“It is long past time for the killing to end. We call on Congress to defund Wildlife Services’ killing of native wildlife, and for the program to adopt sound science, not the rhetoric of the tiny minority of anti-wildlife special interests,” said Cotton.