Washington, DC — The federal government is killing record numbers of warm-blooded animals, particularly carnivores, according to agency statistics compiled by Sinapu and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In addition, the number of federally protected wolves killed has been steadily rising – up six-fold over the past decade – with nearly 300 wolves dispatched last year alone.
Wildlife Services, a euphemistically named arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spent $108 million in 2006 to kill more than 1.6 million animals deemed a “nuisance” to ranchers, farmers, and others. That total includes a record number of mammals (207,341) up more than 21% over the previous year, including a record number of animals protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“We have one arm of the federal government trying to protect wildlife while a different arm is doing its best to eradicate the same animals – how much sense does that make?” asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Our federal government does not have a coherent let alone coordinated wildlife policy.”
The 2006 Wildlife Service kill totals for mammals were up sharply from previous years:
- A record number of gray wolves (278), the subject of a highly publicized reintroduction effort, were killed in numbers that are up more than six-fold since 1996;
- Another 116,610 mammalian carnivores, including 87,000 coyotes, 10,000 raccoons, 2,500 bobcats, 500 badgers, and 318 black bears were taken by federal wildlife agents who also killed 1,184 housecats and 512 dogs; and
- Approximately 50,000 animals from the rodent and rabbit families—the largest toll came from beavers (28,000), followed by nutria (2,500), and marmots and woodchucks (3,700).
“This annual carnage is just staggering,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, noting that Wildlife Services killed approximately six million animals in the period between 2003 and 2005. “Wildlife Services is like the wildlife equivalent of Blackwater, shooting first and deflecting questions later.”
Notwithstanding the record mammal toll, the majority of animals exterminated by Wildlife Services were birds, including more than a million starlings, and thousands of other avian species:
- Water birds such as 15,855 cormorants, 469 herons, 2,373 ducks, 13,603 geese, and 18,243 gulls;
- Raptors, including 298 hawks, 505 owls, and 12 osprey, as well as 4,871 vultures – important environmental actors that clean up carcasses; and
- 37,391 blackbirds – because they eat grains and sunflower seeds.
The two groups are calling for the federal government to get out of the wildlife extermination business and to divert resources toward management of wildlife populations that are coming into greater conflict with sprawling human development.