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Avian Poison Causes Most of the Deaths, Banner Year for Aerial Gunning Kills
WASHINGTON, DC - Wildlife Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, exterminated nearly five million wild animals and pets in 2008-a record number and a 125% increase from the 2.2 million animals killed in 2007 [see Figure 1]. The agency also saw a 40% increase in the numbers of animals killed from low-flying aircraft. The agency, which released the kill records last week, has yet to provide its 2008 annual expenditure of taxpayer money for animal extermination.
“Wildlife Services killed a record number of wildlife, including gray wolves, birds, and other wildlife, at a time when most Americans have deepened their commitment to conservation,” stated Wendy Keefover-Ring, carnivore protection director for WildEarth Guardians. “Wildlife Services, with their penchant for mass exterminations, is grotesquely misaligned from American values.”
In February, WildEarth Guardians released a report to the Obama administration and Congress entitled War on Wildlife: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Wildlife Services”, which details the problems associated with the Wildlife Services program and calls for its elimination.
In the recently disclosed records, Wildlife Services claims that the numbers of “predators, raptors, and vultures declined slightly in FY 2008 compared to FY 2007.” Despite this statement, WildEarth Guardians has calculated an increase in the number of native carnivore kills, using Wildlife Services’ own numbers. Even though slightly fewer raptors (eagles, hawks, owls, and vultures) were killed in 2008, more than 2,000 mammalian carnivores (badgers; house cats; foxes; mountain lions; river otters, raccoons; ringtails; skunks; and gray wolves) were killed by the agency than in 2007 [see Figures 2 and 3].
One reason why the kill numbers dramatically increased from 2007 to 2008 is a result of Wildlife Services’ claims that it is using modeling to better calculate bird mortalities from the avian pesticide, DRC-1339. This toxicant is mainly used in feedlots and experimentally near sunflower plantations in North Dakota and South Dakota. The records show that of the five million species killed in 2008, 86% were killed with DRC-1339, including 1.6 million cowbirds, 1.5 million starlings, and 880,752 blackbirds [see Figure 4].
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency tasked with protecting species, has called DRC-1339 the mammalian equivalent to strychnine because of its lethality,” stated Keefover-Ring.
Previous to the War on Wildlife report, Wildlife Services was not counting all the birds it poisoned with DRC-1339 since the toxicant takes up to three days to act, and their carcasses were not being found and enumerated.
“Wildlife Services’ rampant use of DRC-1339 in the biosphere raises several alarms. It kills ‘target’ species, and causes indiscriminate secondary poisoning of avian scavengers including ravens, owls, and magpies. Wildlife Services has even admitted that DRC-1339 can bioaccumulate in mammals such as house cats,” she added.
Common bird species considered “targets” such as grackles are in chilling decline, according to recent scientific reports.
“Because it has used DRC-1339 with zeal over the past two decades, Wildlife Services deserves the unhappy burden for its tremendous part in exterminating America’s bird populations-even those species specifically protected by federal laws,” Keefover-Ring added.
Wildlife Services also reported killing a record number of species using aerial gunning in 2008, a 40% increase when compared to the average of the years between 2001 and 2007. The species most often found in Wildlife Services’ cross hairs in 2008 include coyotes, feral hogs, and gray wolves [see Figure 5].
The aerial gunning program has been under scrutiny for several years, due to numerous fatalities and aircraft accidents. Additionally, a Wildlife Services whistleblower recently filed a complaint through Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) attorneys. He maintains that his Wildlife Services’ colleagues had killed several mountain lions illegally in Nevada while conducting aerial gunning operations.
“We call on Congress to take away their guns, poisons, and low-flying aircraft by terminating lethal control funding,” added Keefover-Ring. “We need to explore options other than execution that are built on the foundation of coexistence.”
View Wildlife Services’ accident record. Click here, then “Federal Aircraft Accidents."