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Taxpayer-Funded War on Wildlife Claimed 1.3 Million Native Animals in 2017

April 17, 2018
Michelle Lute, (406) 848-4910, mlute@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Wildlife   Common raven
MISSOULA, MT —Late yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s clandestine wildlife killing program announced its shocking death toll of animals killed last year. The ironically-named “Wildlife Services” program failed to disclose its expenditures, but historically has spent millions of taxpayer dollars annually. This year our tax dollars were spent to kill at least 1,320,075 native animals in 2017. Mass slaughter at similar proportions occurs year after year as Wildlife Services ignores public outcry and scientific criticism of the wanton killing.

Using public tax dollars to purportedly benefit a select few private agricultural interests, Wildlife Services employs traps, snares, poisons and aerial guns to slaughter wildlife and undermine public safety. Wildlife Services is so intent on killing millions of animals that the program even refuses to relent after it almost killed a teenage boy with sodium cyanide in March 2017. The boy is fortunate to be alive, but tragically watched his dog succumb to the poison after the boy accidentally triggered an M-44 sodium cyanide bomb placed on public land just behind the family’s home. In total, 149 dogs and 28 unspecified “domestic animals (pets or livestock)” died at the hands of Wildlife Services last year alone. The program brazenly admitted to “unintentionally” taking 39 lives between the two categories of domestic animals. Former Wildlife Services staffers have reported the program routinely under reports its body count, a sign of its entrenched “shoot, shovel, shut-up” mentality.

“Wildlife Services does not serve wildlife or the public funding its outrageously cruel practices,” said Michelle Lute, wildlife coexistence campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “As long as the program continues with its status quo killing, our public lands are neither truly public nor protected but instead managed to serve private agricultural interests at the expense of life, recreation and public safety.”

Despite the best available science indicating that indiscriminate killing of wildlife only exacerbates livestock-caused conflict, in 2017 Wildlife Services reported killing: 69,041 coyotes, 23,722 beavers, 1,001 bobcats, 2,167 gray foxes, 1,585 red foxes, 552 black bears, 357 gray wolves, and 319 cougars. Wildlife Services targets the most vulnerable and defenseless animals by destroying dens with countless young animals inside: 58,604 prairie dog burrows, 393 coyote dens, 128 fox dens, and 65 wolf dens. Even federally protected imperiled species find themselves in Wildlife Services’ cross hairs with an endangered Mexican gray wolf and two grizzlies bears killed last year.

“Spending millions of tax payer dollars each year to kill our native wildlife is fiscally wasteful, scientifically baseless and morally repugnant,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We call on the program to abandon its kill first approach, adopt science-based decision-making and spend public funds on effective non-lethal coexistence methods.”

WildEarth Guardians is working to reform the program to be accountable to the public and end cruel and unnecessary killing of native animals. Putting an end to Wildlife Services’ War on Wildlife is a critical step toward ensuring our public lands are safe havens for wildlife, people and their companion animals. Read more about our End the War on Wildlife campaign.


Other Contact
Bethany Cotton, (406) 414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org