One of four wolves shot by USDA Wildlife Services personnel north of Mountain Home, Idaho in September 2006. Photo: www.IdahoForWildlife.com
WASHINGTON, DC – According to records released today by WildEarth Guardians, “Wildlife Services,” the ironically-named branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, killed more than four million wild animals and pets in 2009 while spending $121,039,763. Last month, WildEarth Guardians filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking to track how this money is spent, but the agency continually sidesteps public scrutiny.
“Apparently, Wildlife Services is comprised of bands of secret agents. One group, the assassins, operates on our national forests and kills millions of the public’s wildlife using helicopters, guns, poisons, traps, and hounds. The second, the artful dodgers, play shell games in the dark with the public’s money,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians.
In 2009, Wildlife Services reported it killed 4.1 million animals and “destroyed” 18,000 more. That total includes a staggering 27,314 beavers; 988,577 blackbirds; and 114,522 mammalian carnivores (e.g., 1,775 bobcats, 82,097 coyotes, 480 wolves, 571 river otters, and 443 black bears.)
Wolves in Idaho and Montana are now listed as federally endangered.
In response to WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit, Wildlife Services and its parent agency, the USDA’s Animal and Health Inspection Service, stated that it could not answer the group’s simple request for line-item spending data. They agency stated that it tracks expenses using two different data bases: one that is “operational” and the other “financial”, but the accounting systems are “not interactive.” Thus, Wildlife Services claims it does not know how much it spends on its controversial operations such as shooting coyotes and wolves from helicopters. The agency further stated: “Wildlife Services does not have a managerial need for financial data at this finite level.”
“Federal agencies must be fiscally accountable to the public,” stated Steve Sugarman, WildEarth Guardians’ attorney. “It’s time for Wildlife Services to stop playing shell games and show the public what they’re doing with our money in the light of day,” he added.
Wildlife Services is biologically harmful and unselective for species killed. Many conservation biologists have noted that Wildlife Services’ carnivore eradications amount to a “sledgehammer” approach to wildlife management because of the breadth of the extermination. Wildlife Services uses indiscriminate and deadly means to slay wildlife—many are killed by mistake—even rare species such as kit foxes, swift foxes, and river otters.
“Of the 571 river otters it killed in 2009, Wildlife Services notes that 84% were killed accidentally. This is simply not tolerable: river otters are sorely lacking from many river systems,” said Keefover-Ring.