Contract Killing: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Wildlife Services’ killing campaigns are not only brutal, costly, and ineffective—they may actually contribute to an increase in the population of the coyotes targeted by the agency.

In the second part of The Sacramento Bee’s three-part series investigating Wildlife Services, published Tuesday, reporter Tom Knudson sheds some light on the dubious rationale behind the agency’s methods. [I discussed the first installment in my previous post.]

“For decades,” writes Knudson, “Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has specialized in trapping, poisoning and shooting predators in large numbers, largely to protect livestock and, more recently, big game.”

“Now such killing is coming under fire from scientists, former employees and others who say it often doesn’t work and can set off a chain reaction of unintended, often negative consequences.” [1]

(Many readers will recall that I made a similar argument in my February 2011 letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—no “relation” to Wildlife Services, though they seem to share the same penchant for lethal control methods and secrecy—regarding their ill-conceived Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex Integrated Predator Management Plan.)

“With rifles, snares and aerial gunning,” writes Knudson, “employees have killed 967 coyotes and 45 mountain lions at a cost of about $550,000. But like a mirage, the dream of protecting deer by killing predators has not materialized.” [1]

This despite a significant increase in the killing. Read more

Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up

In FY 2011 alone, Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, killed nearly 3.8 million animals—including pets and endangered species. All of it funded by American taxpayers.

According to its website, the mission of Wildlife Services “is to provide Federal leadership in managing problems caused by wildlife.”

“WS recognizes that wildlife is an important public resource greatly valued by the American people. By its very nature, however, wildlife is a highly dynamic and mobile resource that can damage agricultural and industrial resources, pose risks to human health and safety, and affect other natural resources. The WS program carries out the Federal responsibility for helping to solve problems that occur when human activity and wildlife are in conflict with one another. The WS program strives to develop and use wildlife damage management strategies that are biologically sound, environmentally safe, and socially acceptable.”

A three-part investigative series in The Sacramento Bee this week promises to challenge each of the three points from that last sentence, exposing the controversial and secretive practices of Wildlife Services. Indeed, the first installment, which ran Sunday, suggests that the agency, a little-known part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service, is often the source of human-wildlife conflict. Read more