The federal government’s Wildlife Services program has come increasingly in the spotlight for its war on wildlife, and the latest death toll is as heartbreaking as it is shocking.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ironically named Wildlife Services has been in the spotlight for years over its incredibly cruel and wasteful killing of thousands upon thousands of native species – mainly at the behest of the agriculture and livestock industry – and its methods continue to put non-target species, pets and people at risk of being injured and killed.
Despite how ethically and scientifically unjustifiable its actions are, the agency has continued to spend millions of taxpayer dollars trapping, strangling, poisoning and shooting wild animals, and its death toll is staggering.
Numbers just released by the USDA show that of the 2.6 million animals the agency killed in 2018, 1.5 million of them were native species.
“I’m outraged that the Department of Agriculture continues to needlessly slaughter our important native wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle more than a million animals every year. Even pets and endangered species are being killed, and it has to stop.”
Species range from native carnivores including wolves, coyotes, cougars, bobcats and foxes to thousands upon thousands of birds and other wildlife like prairie dogs, along with far too many others who were killed unintentionally, including pets. Even more concerning is that the numbers are believed to be a low estimate because of underreporting.
“The barbaric, outdated tactics Wildlife Services uses to destroy America’s animals are appalling and need to end,” Adkins added. “Wolves, bears and other carnivores help balance the web of life where they live. They should be protected, not persecuted.”
Although there’s a way to go to ending this destructive and wasteful program, a growing number of counties have taken steps towards promoting non-lethal alternatives to wildlife management, dealing with “nuisance” animals, and promoting coexistence with wildlife by terminating or suspending their contracts with Wildlife Services – thanks mainly to pressure from animal and wildlife advocacy groups.
We also now have an opportunity to take away some of its weapons of choice with federal legislation that would ban the use of two deadly poisons Wildlife Services uses to kill wildlife – M-44s, or cyanide bombs, and Compound 1080.
Both are deadly and indiscriminate poisons used to kill predators, but they are incredibly inhumane and their use has continued to put non-target species, endangered species, us and our pets at risk of serious injury and death.
In May, Reps. Peter DeFazio and Matt Gaetz reintroduced the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019, which has been dubbed Canyon’s Law after Canyon Mansfield, a teenager in Idaho who almost lost his life and had to watch helplessly as his dog Kasey died in front of him after an M-44 was triggered by his home.
Hopefully the release of the latest death toll will help raise awareness about what this agency is doing to wildlife and increase calls for accountability and change.
You can help by signing and sharing the petition urging Congress to protect wildlife, us and our pets from Wildlife Services’ use of deadly poisons by passing Canyon’s Law.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 10 June 2019.