USDA’s Wildlife Services Sued Again: Enviro Orgs Ask Court to Halt Wildlife-Killing Program in Idaho

Story by Dan Zukowsk as published on EnviroNews.TV

“Conservationists contend that Wildlife Services operates primarily for the benefit of ‘ Welfare’ Ranchers…”

(EnviroNews Nature) — Four conservation groups filed a lawsuit on May 11, 2017, aimed at stopping the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from killing Idaho’s wild animals. The USDA’s Wildlife Services (WS) program killed more than 280,000 mammals and birds in Idaho during 2016. The animals axed include 3,860 coyotes and 72 gray wolves, along with cougars, black bears, feral dogs and more than 273,000 European starlings.

Plaintiffs in the suit include the Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity (the Center) and Predator Defense. The suit alleges that the USDA has never prepared a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

“Most people in Idaho would be shocked to learn how many animals Wildlife Services already kills in our state,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a Senior Attorney at the Center. “Now this reckless agency wants to slaughter even more of our black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, ravens, and other wildlife using nightmarish methods like poisons and aerial gunning, without even studying the environmental consequences. Such a lackadaisical approach to wildlife management is not permitted by the law.”

Wildlife Services, an arm of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), is described on the agency’s website as a program to “help people resolve wildlife damage to a wide variety of resources and to reduce threats to human health and safety.” APHIS received $1.1 billion in federal funding for fiscal year 2017.

Conservationists contend that Wildlife Services operates primarily for the benefit of ranchers. The program was the subject of a 2016 exposé in Harper’s Magazine. In a related interview with National Geographic, the author, Christopher Ketcham said, “Since its founding in 1885, Wildlife Services has served one purpose—to clean up the American West for the ranching industry, so they wouldn’t have to deal with predators or other animals they deemed pests.”

EnviroNews has previously reported that, nationwide, WS slaughtered 2.7 million wild animals in 2016. “Wildlife Services is stuck in the barbarism of the 19th century, before the full value of predators in ecosystems was understood,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project.

The USDA’s obscure, century-old wildlife-killing program traps and poisons these great many animals. It swoops in to shoot them from the air using both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Both neck and foot snares are used — methods considered inhumane by many prominent animal rights advocates. It kills coyotes with controversial M-44 cyanide bombs.

In what might be called “collateral damage,” reports of pets being killed are not uncommon. In March, 2017, a cyanide bomb left by Wildlife Services in Pocatello, Idaho killed a dog and poisoned its owner, a 14-year old boy. Between 1985 and 1993, 21 people in Arizona were injured by M-44s. A Utah man was left permanently injured and unable to work after being poisoned by one of the dangerous devices.

“It isn’t just wildlife that is directly harmed by the killing programs,” said Brooks Fahy, Executive Director of Predator Defense, in the press release. “These lethal weapons pose a risk to recreational users of public lands, their pets and the ‘nontarget’ species that die by the hundreds every year.”..”CONTINUED

I-Team: Federal agency spends more than $100M to kill predatory animals

Wildlife Services is a welfare program for ranchers, and on top of all the other ones where the government comes in, they do aerial gunning, they use traps and snares…They use all kinds of horrible poisons to kill animals.”

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LAS VEGAS – DISCLAIMER: Some of the images in this story may be disturbing.

Nevada Lawmakers are debating a plan that would remove hundreds of thousands of dollars from a program that targets predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, and bears.  The money is raised from hunters when they obtain their licenses, and it goes into programs that kill predators which prey on trophy animals such as deer or big horn sheep.

But the state program is a drop in the bucket compared to a little known federal agency that spends more than $100 million in public funding per year to kill animals.

The I-Team discovered that Nevada is a bloody battleground for coyotes and other predators. An obscure federal agency called Wildlife Services, which was created in the late 1800’s, spends huge sums each year to shoot, trap, and poison predators, such as coyotes, foxes, lions, bears, and birds.

Of the 12 bloodiest counties in the west, three are in Nevada.  It is no coincidence that Elko, Humboldt, and White Pine counties are all ranching centers.

“Wildlife Services is a welfare program for ranchers, and on top of all the other ones where the government comes in, they do aerial gunning, they use traps and snares,” said Wendy Keefover, Humane Society of the U.S. “They use all kinds of horrible poisons to kill animals.”

Keefover is the author of a study which asserts that Wildlife Services spends up to $140 million to kill millions of animals. The 8 News NOW I-Team reached out to the agency to get the numbers, but it has been reluctant to reveal just how many animals die.

“I think Wildlife Services has a culture of killing,” Keefover said. “It’s going to be very hard for them to be truthful.”  There’s a culture of shoot, shovel and shut up in that agency.”

Keefover’s study helped inspire a lawsuit in federal court which challenged the legitimacy of the science behind predator control, and because Nevada is ground zero for wildlife services’ killing machine, the suit was filed in the state of Nevada.

“Nevada’s wildlife services budget is somewhere close to $3 million; nationally wildlife services kills millions of animals a year,” said Dr. Don Molde, a wildlife advocate.  “The number is three or four million or more.  They kill birds; they kill mammals. They kill all kinds of things.”

Molde became a central part of the court challenge.  He says the hatred of coyotes in particular is way out of whack.

“Because the coyote is so hated by the people who manage it, Dr. Molde said.  “The wildlife services department, ranchers who complain about coyotes — to me the animal is demonized far beyond what it deserves.”

Coyotes and mountain lions prey on livestock from time to time, but the government spends more money to kill the predators than what the livestock are worth. It pays an average of $700 to kill a coyote and thousands of dollars to hunt a mountain lion.

Some methods are unnecessarily cruel and often have the exact opposite effect of what was intended.

“Randomly killing coyotes produces the wrong kind of coyote and makes the problem they are trying to address even worse,” Dr. Molde said.  “So it’s utterly crazy.”

Coyotes go into reproductive overdrive when hunted down because of the constant pressure, today’s coyotes these days are bigger, stronger, and their range has spread across all of North America.

In addition to federal money spent to protect livestock, the state of Nevada has its own pot of public dollars to kill predators. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are collected from hunting licenses.

The state anti-predator programs are designed mainly to benefit hunters, eliminating predators that might be a threat to desirable trophy animals like deer and bighorn sheep…(CONTINUED)

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