Washington, DC — Only a negligible percentage of American cattle was lost to wildlife predation in 2005, according to new U.S. Department of Agricultural figures released today by two environmental groups, Sinapu and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Yet, taxpayers and ranchers are spending an estimated $300 million per year on lethal and non-lethal predator control, more than three times the estimated cattle losses caused by wildlife.
The new cattle production and losses numbers were compiled by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), an arm of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2005, cattle production was higher than the year before in virtually all categories. Predator-caused losses from all species, including dogs, amounted to only 0.18% of total cattle production over the year:
- Poor weather caused substantially more cattle deaths (45% more) than all forms of wildlife predation;
- Dogs kill more livestock than any other species except coyotes. Dog-caused cattle deaths equaled the totals for the more storied predators (cougars, wolves, bobcats and bears), combined; and
- Coyotes were responsible for more than half of all recorded cattle losses. At the same time, the number of coyotes killed by federal eradication agents is on a par with cattle killed with by coyotes (90,000 versus 97,000, respectively).
The cattle inventory for 2005 ran to 104.5 million head. Disease, illness, weather, theft, calving complications and other non-wildlife causes accounted for losses of 3.86 million cattle during the year, while predators of all types killed 190,000 cattle. The number of predation losses was actually greater than in 2004 (190,000 versus 147,000) but, with booming cattle production, the percentage of losses stayed roughly the same.
“Disease, weather, and birthing problems cause far more headaches for livestock producers than do carnivores,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu. “Ironically, producers can do nothing about the weather and calving but are willing to unleash a paramilitary assault using poisons, aerial gunning, and hidden explosive devices against native wildlife.”
Ranchers and farmers reported spending nearly $200 million on non-lethal forms of wildlife control, such as fencing and guard dogs. Taxpayers spend approximately $100 million per year for lethal wildlife control in the form of Wildlife Services, another USDA branch formerly known as Animal Damage Control. In 2004, the last year for which numbers are available, Wildlife Services killed a record 2.7 million “nuisance” wildlife in response to requests from ranchers, farmers, and municipalities.
“On one hand we have federal agencies spending millions to protect wildlife and then we have another federal bureau spending millions more to exterminate the same wildlife—and, of course, they do not coordinate with each other,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Each year, bad weather kills many more cows than predators but no one is calling for weather control.”