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Wildlife Services under Fire, Releases Annual Kill Numbers

May 8, 2012
Wendy Keefover (303) 573-4898 x 1162
In This Release
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Wildlife Services under Fire, Releases Annual Kill Numbers

Overall Kills Declined, but Native Carnivores Endured Increased Mortality
Contact: Wendy Keefover (303) 573-4898 x 1162

Denver,Colo. – Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department ofAgriculture, has unexpectedly released its annual kill numbers for fiscal year2011 several months earlier than in previous years. The agency reported it killed 3.8 million animals,a 25 percent decrease from FY 2010, although the largest decline is representedin one million fewer non-native starlings killed, while agents killed greaternumbers of mammalian carnivores, especially coyotes and raccoons.

“The veracity of Wildlife Services’ kill numbers is always suspect,”stated Wendy Keefover, director of carnivore protection for WildEarth Guardians.“It is a secretive agency that uses unknown data collection techniques and is politicallymotivated to undercount the number of animals their agents kill with the hopesthat no one will notice.”

“Guys who kill non-target animals don’treport it,” said Gary Strader, a former Wildlife Services agent. “There’s not afraction of the non-target kills reported by the guys in the field. Figures lieand liars figure.”

Wildlife Services has been under fire recently, which mayhave prompted the agency to release the annual kill data months earlier thanhad been the agency’s previous practice. First, the Sacramento Bee published a critical series of articles and an editorialexposing the agency’s killing programs. Then, WildEarth Guardians filed alawsuit that challenged the agency’s 18-year-old management guidance as flawedand devoid of modern scientific principles, and for operating aerial-gunningcraft in designated wilderness areas. Third, last week a federal district courtin New Mexico ordered Wildlife Services to produce budgetary information andother data as part of Guardians’ ongoing litigation under the Freedom ofInformation Act. Finally, thousands of Americans have contacted their Congressionalrepresentatives in the past month requesting that Congress investigate WildlifeServices and cut the agency’s budget.

“The misnamedWildlife Services is a carpet bomber of the West because of the scale ofindiscriminate killing of native wildlife,” said Jim Baca, former director ofthe Bureau of Land Management in the 1990s. “If Congress is serious aboutsaving money, this is where they should start.”

Wildlife Services reported it killed nearly 1,400 housecats, more than 400 domestic dogs, 14 American white pelicans, and 2,983meadowlarks in FY 2011. Other notable changes from the previous year include:

  • The number of raptors (hawks, falcons,owls, and vultures) killed increased from 7,798 in FY 2010 to 11,061 in FY 2011,representing a 42 percent increase.
  • Mammalian carnivores (wolves, coyotes,bears, bobcats, fishers, cougars, weasels, skunks, raccoons, and foxes) killedincreased by three percent from FY 2010, from 112,781 to 116,093, with thegreatest increases in the numbers of coyotes and raccoons killed.
  • The number of animals poisoned bycyanide M-44s increased by a whopping 31 percent from FY 2010 from 14,155 to18,587, with the biggest increases in coyotes killed: 2,300 more coyotes thanthe previous year. The numbers of animals reported killed by Compound 1080dropped to 17 from previous years’ (2008 to 2010) average of 27. (These twopoisons have been the subject of regulatory review by the EnvironmentalProtection Agency after Guardians petitioned for a ban these toxicants in 2007(with a decision expected next year), and now as part of a bill pending inCongress.)
  • The number of animals killed by aerialgunning increased from 42,431 to 48,811 (15 percent), with the greatestincrease in the number of hogs shot from aircraft. Notably one cougar wasreported killed by aerial gunning in Texas. (Wildlife Services has never beforerecorded aerial gunning cougars, although a former employee has contented theagency engages in the practice part of a whistleblower lawsuit against theagency.)

The mammalian carnivore with the greatest level ofexploitation was again coyotes, with 83,695 killed in FY 2011 (a 3 percentincrease from 81,035 killed in FY 2010). Most coyotes were killed by: shot fromaircraft (32,758); trapped/snared (21,618); or poisoned by sodium cyanide M-44booby traps (15,217). Wildlife Services also eradicated 453 coyote dens thatsheltered coyote pups.

“Wildlife Services spends millions of taxpayer dollars onkilling coyotes, a practice that has increased coyotes’ range by threefold inits 100-year history,” added Keefover. “Killing coyotes must be like a drugaddiction for them – they just cannot stop even though it’s really unhealthy, unfruitful,and puts the public and their agents in harm’s way.”

While WildlifeServices has released its kill data, the agency has not yet reported its FY2011 expenditures. The agency’s website states that general budget informationwill available in August 2012.

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Seethe Sacremento Bee’s Exposé


SeeNews about WildEarth Guardians’ Litigation

AP: Washington Post


Sac Bee


Court House News Service



Other Contact
“The veracity of Wildlife Services’ kill numbers is always suspect,” stated Wendy Keefover, director of carnivore protection for WildEarth Guardians. “It is a secretive agency that uses unknown data collection techniques and is politically motivated to undercount the number of animals their agents kill with the hopes that no one will notice.”
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