WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

Select Page

Current work in wildlife, rivers, public lands, and climate

Press Releases

Grant County, NM moves towards ethical and scientific wildlife management

June 18, 2020
Madeleine Carey, WildEarth Guardians, 505-417-5893, mcarey@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Wildlife   Coyote
Silver City, NM—Today, the Grant County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to amend the county’s contract with USDA “Wildlife Services” (formerly Animal Damage Control) to prioritize non-lethal methods and prohibit the use of toxicants such as sodium cyanide bombs (M-44s) and compound 1080 on native wildlife. The contract still permits the use of cruel and indiscriminate traps and snares in the county. The vote comes after several years of pushing by grassroots activists and conservation organizations to modernize how Wildlife Services operates. The federal program has a reputation for using cruel, lethal tools and for being secretive. Last year, the county voted to prohibit leghold traps and M-44s before caving to Wildlife Services, who would not sign an amended contract.

“I am grateful to the citizens and commissioners of Grant County for leading the way on wildlife policy reform,” said Madeleine Carey, Greater Gila Guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “It is disappointing that the use of traps and snares remain as part of the contract, but today’s amendments are in line with public opinion, the best available science, and the future of wildlife management across the West.”

“It is a step in the right direction to mandate Wildlife Services use non-lethal tools first and then judiciously kill documented repeated ‘bad actor’ wildlife. Grant County’s ranchers and Wildlife Services can make the move to always using non-lethal tools and tactics first, as many counties and some states are currently doing,” said community activist, wildlife supporter, and Silver City resident Glenn Griffin.

“This vote shows real leadership from Grant County in terms of moving wildlife policy into the 21st century,” said Chris Smith, Southern Rockies Wildlife Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “However, I am disappointed to see the arcane and scientifically unsound tools of trapping and snaring left on the table. We are seeing a growing desire across the West to align wildlife-livestock conflict management with the best available science and compassion. Emerging non-lethal methods—more effective and wildlife-friendly—are the future.”

Between 2010 and 2017, Wildlife Services’ M44s killed at least 338 non-target animals in New Mexico. High profile cases in other Western states have seen domestic dogs killed and people injured. There is a litany of incidents around the state of non-target animals being maimed or killed by leghold traps, including in Grant County.

Wildlife Services has announced and funded a move towards non-lethal methods of wildlife management at the federal level. But the on-the-ground implementation of long-term, cost-effective non-lethal management has yet to become commonplace within the program.

BACKGROUND: Wildlife Services is a multimillion-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons, and aerial gunning to kill wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds, and other native wildlife. Most of the killing responds to requests from the agriculture industry. The program reported killing nearly 1.5 million native animals nationwide in 2018. Nontarget animals, including companion animals, and protected wildlife like wolves, grizzlies and eagles, are also at risk from the program’s indiscriminate methods.

coyote ray rafiti wildearth guardians

Photo of a coyote by Ray Rafiti.

Other Contact
Samantha Bruegger, WildEarth Guardians, 970-363-4191, sbruegger@wildearthguardians.org