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Murder Inc: Wildlife Services Brutally Kills Milli

The facts show it's time to put Wildlife Services out of business.

From time to time I've written about the many horrific and heartless ways in which Wildlife Services (WS) brutally maims and kills millions of animals, including "collateral damage"—domestic dogs and many other animals—who happen to get in the way of their reprehensible and interminable slaughter (see and). Now, a three-part series (see also and) by Tom Knudson of the Sacramento Bee on the clandestine activities of this government agency (written with the help of Brooks Fahy, Executive Director of Predator Defense, and others) exposes WS using irrefutable facts that should motivate everyone to publicly decry their killing ways. You can also preview a forthcoming movie called Wild Things that will appear this summer. To provide balance to WS's killing ways, this movie "introduces a new generation of progressive ranchers in the U.S. and Canada who are using non-lethal methods to protect their cattle and sheep from predation. These ranchers reject the idea (dating back at least to America’s westward expansion) that the only good predator is a dead one." (For more on ranchers who choose more humane ways to deal with potential predators please click here.) 

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Formerly called Animal Damage Control (ADC, that could also stand for Animal Death Corp), this group of wildlife foes, suitable called Murder, Inc., has tried to operate outside of public scrutinty but they can no longer do so. If you doubt their underhanded and intentionally clandestine ways, consider this quote by Dennis Orthmeyer, acting state director of Wildlife Services in California: "We pride ourselves on our ability to go in and get the job done quietly without many people knowing about it." As Camilla Fox, Executive Director of Project Coyote notes, "If people knew how many animals are being killed at taxpayer expense—often on public lands—they would be shocked and horrified." 

A summary of some of Wildlife Services egregious activities include

With steel traps, wire snares and poison, agency employees have accidentally killed more than 50,000 animals since 2000 that were not problems, including federally protected golden and bald eagles; more than 1,100 dogs, including family pets; and several species considered rare or imperiled by wildlife biologists.

Since 1987, at least 18 employees and several members of the public have been exposed to cyanide when they triggered spring-loaded cartridges laced with poison meant to kill coyotes. They survived—but 10 people have died and many others have been injured in crashes during agency aerial gunning operations over the same time period.

A growing body of science has found the agency's war against predators, waged to protect livestock and big game, is altering ecosystems in ways that diminish biodiversity, degrade habitat and invite disease.

In all, more than 150 species have been killed by mistake by Wildlife Services traps, snares and cyanide poison since 2000, records show. A list could fill a field guide. Here are some examples:

Armadillos, badgers, great-horned owls, hog-nosed skunks, javelina, pronghorn antelope, porcupines, great blue herons, ruddy ducks, snapping turtles, turkey vultures, long-tailed weasels, marmots, mourning doves, red-tailed hawks, sandhill cranes and ringtails.

The body count includes more than 25,000 red and gray foxes, 10,700 bobcats, 2,800 black bears, 2,300 timber wolves and 2,100 mountain lions. But the vast majority—about 512,500—were coyotes.

Aerial gunning is the agency's most popular predator-killing tool. Since 2001, more than 340,000 coyotes have been gunned down from planes and helicopters across 16 Western states, including California—an average of 600 a week, agency records show.

Between 2004 and 2010, Wildlife Services killed over 22.5 million animals to protect agribusiness. The agency spends $100 million each year, and Wildlife Services' job is to "eradicate" and "bring down" wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, bears, prairie dogs, and other wild animals.

In 2010, Wildlife Services killed 5 million animals (this number does not include the thousands birds the Service has since admitted to poisoning in 2010), including 112,781 mammalian carnivores such as coyotes, wolves, bobcats, cougars, badgers and bears. 

It's not radical to openly oppose the hideous killing by Wildlife Services. Wild Earth guardians has sued WS (see also), Project Coyote has an action alert to stop the killing of wildlife on public lands and to ban predator poisons, and the American Society of Mammalogists, a prestigious professional organization, has formally criticized WS. There is also a petition you can sign here.

Clearly, the killing ways of Wildlife Services have not worked and indeed will never work because their methods don't take into account what we know about the behavior and ecology of the animals who they wantonly murder. Professional biologists who don't typically get involved in these sorts of causes agree that Wildlife Service's war on wildlife will never work. The facts speak for themselves. 

Please help end the war on wildlife now. It's easy to do and think about how your money that goes into wantonly and brutally killing wildlife can be used for more positive causes.  

The teaser image can be seen here

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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