Millions of animals are being killed every year by the federal agency that claims to have “leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.” Wildlife Services kills family pets, threatened and endangered species and other animals who were not targeted, but who are now dead all the same. This federal agency is funded by taxpayers to help protect property, natural resources, and reduce risks to humans, but it has unfortunately developed a reputation of carelessness and routine cruelty to animals.
As a wildlife rehabilitator, I have seen the horrifying trail of misery and death that’s left behind. Our first step to save animals at the mercy of this publicly funded agency is to petition to see exactly how Wildlife Services is using our money -- so we can hold them accountable to do better.
As part of our rescue and rehabilitation work, we go to people’s homes to help resolve wildlife conflicts. Not too long ago, our rescue team found a horrible mess of maggot-eaten baby raccoon carcasses after a Wildlife Services trapper killed the mother. The person who called Wildlife Services for assistance at her home was incorrectly told this was a male adult raccoon with no babies. And so days later, they were left to deal with the traumatic and frustrating experience of rotting baby raccoons in their home.
Wildlife Services agents reveal next to nothing about their methods of resolving cases. In the field, they answer to no local authority. Agents act with impunity and without oversight. How are we to know why and how the animals were killed and the reasons that so many non-target animals suffer as a result of this agency’s work?
On June 7, the Washington Post published the latest statistics reported by Wildlife Services. In 2013 Wildlife Services agents killed over 4.4 million animals. Roughly half of those killed were native species. The article says those killed include “75,326 coyotes, 866 bobcats, 528 river otters, 3,700 foxes, 12,186 prairie dogs, 973 red-tailed hawks, 419 black bears and at least three eagles, golden and bald.” This a nearly 25% increase over 2012’s 3.4 million killed, about half which were also native species. Why the increase? No explanation for this increase is offered.
From the front lines of protection and rescue of injured or orphaned wild animals, I am petitioning the administrators of the secretive and controversial animal control program of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) known as Wildlife Services. Specifically I am requesting that Administrator Kevin Shea, and Deputy Administrator William H. Clay, bring transparency and accountability to all of this agency’s wildlife damage control activities.
Against decades of scientific, practical and ethical recommendations, Wildlife Services continues to trap, shoot from helicopters, poison, even burn young mammals in their dens. These practices often seem to be the first course of action rather than a last resort. The first step to improving this is that Wildlife Services must publicly disclose how much it’s spending on each case it’s taking on and details on what methods are used.
Without oversight, Wildlife Services has been shown time and again to use excessive lethal methods, killing in any manner or number which they see fit – quite literally burying the evidence.
- Robert “Monte” Merrick (Co-founder and co-director of Bird Ally X, co-director of Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, member of Board of Directors of the California Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators (CCWR), and chair CCWR's Advocacy committee.)