Government-sanctioned wildlife slaughter continues

Resident bald eagle in Summit County, Colorado guarding the nest.
Resident bald eagle in Summit County, Colorado guarding the nest. @bberwyn photo.

Federally licensed hunters and trappers killed 2.7 million animals in 2014

Staff Report

FRISCO — A lot of things have changed in the U.S. during the past 100 years, but some things have not, including the frontier-era mindset among some people that makes it OK to willfully slaughter wildlife.

Even as some branches of the government expend considerable resources to protect and conserve plants and animals, another secretive agency continues to routinely kill millions of animals, including wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, beavers, foxes, eagles and other animals deemed pests by powerful agricultural, livestock and other special interests.

In 2014, the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Wildlife Services branch killed more than 2.7 million animals, according to new data publicized by the Center for Biological Diversity. That’s down from more than 4 million in 2013, but still far too many for wildlife advocates, who are stepping up their call to reform the agency.

The report shows that government-sanctioned operations killed:

  • 322 gray wolves
  • 61,702 coyotes
  • 580 black bears
  • 305 mountain lions
  • 796 bobcats
  • 454 river otters
  • 2,930 foxes
  • three bald eagles
  • five golden eagles
  • 22,496 beavers

The program also killed 15,698 black-tailed prairie dogs and destroyed more than 33,309 of their dens.

“It’s sickening to see these staggering numbers and to know that so many of these animals were cut down by aerial snipers, deadly poisons and traps,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These acts of brutality are carried out every day, robbing our landscapes of bears, wolves, coyotes and other animals that deserve far better. Wildlife Services does its dirty work far from public view and clearly has no interest in cleaning up its act.”

Agency insiders have revealed that the agency kills many more animals than it reports.

Many animals – especially wolves, coyotes and prairie dogs – were targeted and killed on behalf of livestock grazers and ranchers.

The new data also show that hundreds animals were killed unintentionally including 390 river otters, as well as hundreds of badgers, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, jackrabbits, muskrats, raccoons, skunks, opossums, porcupines and 16 pet dogs.

The data show that the federal program has refused to substantially slow its killing despite a growing public outcry, an ongoing investigation by the Agriculture Department’s inspector general, and calls for reform by scientists, members of Congress and nongovernmental organizations.

“Wildlife Services continues to thumb its nose at the growing number of Americans demanding an end to business as usual,” said Atwood. “This appalling and completely unnecessary extermination of American wildlife must stop.”

Just since 1996 Wildlife Services has shot, poisoned and strangled by snare more than 27 million native animals.

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