A controversial USDA program targeted by wildlife organizations has been hitting the news again. This comes as a new report shows that the program was responsible for the deaths of more 1.75 million animals in 2021.
The USDA’s Wildlife Services says it aims to “help people resolve wildlife damage to a wide variety of resources and to reduce threats to human health and safety.” This relates to ecosystem management, agriculture, and economic concerns, among other issues. This goal has led the program to intentionally kill scores of animals each year, as well as to inadvertently take the lives of others. While they target certain invasive species that are considered a threat to ecosystems, like wild hogs, many native species are also impacted.
In its 2021 report, the program reported killing 1.75 million animals, the majority of which were non-native or invasive species. However, more than 400,000 were not. That includes 324 gray wolves, 433 black bears, 200 mountain lions, 24,687 beavers, and 714 river otters, as well as scores of coyotes and bobcats.
The Center for Biological Diversity has been working for years to push for changes to the program, with the organization taking legal action against it in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Texas.
Collette Adkins, the center’s carnivore conservation director, says, “It’s stomach-turning to see this barbaric federal program wiping out hundreds of thousands of native animals. Killing carnivores like wolves and coyotes to supposedly benefit the livestock industry just leads to more conflicts and more killing. This is a truly vicious cycle, and we’ll continue to demand change from Wildlife Services.”
A segment of the 2021 deaths – 2,746 – were also unintentional. That includes bears, bobcats, mountain lions, foxes, otters, deer, turtles, wood ducks, herons, and even dogs. There were also two fishers unintentionally taken.
The largest share of invasive species that were killed included more than 1 million European starlings and nearly 144,000 feral swine. As for native species, the highest total among mammals was more than 64,000 coyotes.
Last year’s numbers were somewhat down from more recent years, including in 2019 when 1.3 million native species were killed.
Wildlife advocates are pushing for a more humane way to address conflicts.
Adkins says, “It’s inexcusable that Wildlife Services continues to target rare and ecologically important animals like wolves and grizzly bears, forcing them to suffer and die in cruel traps and snares. Taxpayer-funded wildlife slaughter needs to stop and be replaced with a program that provides nonlethal tools that effectively prevent most conflicts with wildlife.”
For its part, Wildlife Services says it “strives to reduce damage caused by wildlife to the lowest possible levels while at the same time reducing wildlife mortality.”
To read more from its 2021 report, click here.Whizzco