Washington, DC — A new coalition of conservation groups with a combined membership of more than 10 million is launching a campaign to abolish an entrenched federal program dedicated to killing wild carnivores. The groups argue that the predator eradication program is biologically counterproductive, uneconomical, inhumane, and creates serious safety hazards from widespread use of highly toxic agents and other lethal chemicals, equipment and techniques.
Wildlife Services, a euphemistically named arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spends more than $100 million in taxpayer money each year to kill one wild animal every 19 seconds and one wild mammal every 150 seconds, according to 2006 figures. Wildlife Services provides agents to poison, shoot or trap animals deemed a “nuisance” to ranchers, farmers, and others. Controversial techniques used by Wildlife Services include explosive booby-traps and aerial hunts.
The new coalition is coordinated by WildEarth Guardians, which has long opposed eradication of native carnivores, such as coyotes, bobcats, foxes, bears and wolves. The coalition is asking Congress to eliminate any further funding for Wildlife Services predator control efforts.
“Wildlife Services is premised on the notion that animals considered ‘varmints’ must be shot, poisoned or killed in their dens,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians, who organized the coalition. “Modern wildlife management has moved beyond the ‘shoot first’ approach peddled for decades by our Agriculture Department.”
Due to a rash of accidents, mishaps and security breaches, Wildlife Services is currently undergoing a nationwide safety review of its aerial gunning and poison management programs. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now considering a ban on two of the most deadly poisons used by Wildlife Services to kill wild mammals.
“The federal government ought to get out of the wildlife extermination business,” stated Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the conflict between federal agencies working to preserve natural predators, like the wolf, and Wildlife Services that seeks to kill wolves. “Wildlife Services is an unjustified, dangerous and needlessly cruel subsidy for agri-business.”
The call by conservation groups to curb the funding for Wildlife Services will undoubtedly be met by fierce resistance from livestock organizations.