For decades, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture has operated with relative impunity, killing wildlife at an alarming rate in an ultimately ineffective attempt to protect the livestock industry.
Wildlife Services is a $30 million (yearly) program that exists, in their words, “to provide Federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.” What this means in practical terms is more than 100,000 animals killed annually with little regard to safety or good science.
Thanks in part to a hard-hitting Sacramento Bee exposé, this secretive agency is starting to see the light of day. This series by Sacramento Bee Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Tom Knudson described the demonstrably indiscriminate and inhumane methods Wildlife Services employs in the name of livestock protection.
Among the most indiscriminate are baited head snares, leg-hold traps, body grips, and a poisonous sodium cyanide projectile device called an “M-44” (infographic). All of these are deadly to numerous non-target species. The Bee found that this haphazard approach has led to the accidental killing of more than 50,000 animals since 2000. Wolves, bald eagles,endangered California condors, golden eagles, and multiple family pets have been accidentally killed by Wildlife Services.
|Wildlife Services M-44 Sodium Cyanide Device|
The series further shows that the agency’s approach is ineffective. An 8 year, $500k Wildlife Services operation in Nevada that killed 1,000 coyotes and 45 mountain lions in an effort to boost mule deer populations”didn’t make a difference”, according to a biologist tracking the project.
People are also at risk. Members of the public, and WS employees have been exposed to cyanide when they’ve accidentally triggered spring-loaded poison cartridges meant to kill coyotes.
Despite public pressure, USDA has steadfastly resisted any attempts to reform Wildlife Services. Congress needs to hold oversight hearings and bring this agency to account for its ineffective, and occasionally illegal activities. Please email your Member of Congress today and urge that they support Representatives DeFazio and Campbell’s request to investigate Wildlife Services.