Animal traps that grip or snare are banned in L.A. as ‘inhumane’

Jim Robertson-wolf-copyright

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to ban traps that snare or grip coyotes, bears, foxes and other animals in the city, deeming such traps inhumane.

Under the new rules, commercial trappers cannot use traps that grip or snare any part of the animal, with the exception of traps set for rats, mice and other small rodents. Angelenos are banned from using any trap “that maims or causes the inhumane death or suffering of any animal,” the rules state.

Commercial trappers can still do business using other kinds of traps, which can include cage traps that involve a locking door.

However, the Department of Animal Services will also put forward regulations to ensure that such traps are not used inhumanely — for instance, by leaving an animal caged for a long time in the summer heat.

All traps “can be inhumane through negligent care or use, but snares, bodycrushing and body-gripping traps are inherently inhumane,” a council committee focused on animal welfare wrote in a report. Besides banning snare traps, “the Department is requesting the authority to establish reasonable rules and regulations regarding the use of humane traps and the treatment of the trapped animals.”

Wildlife protection groups say banning snare traps will prevent needless suffering and keep other animals safe. Trapping sounds “safe” to people, but there’s no guarantee that the targeted animal is the one trapped and killed, said Randi Feilich, the Southern California representative for Project Coyote. Pets can also fall victim to the snares, she added.

“If you’ve ever seen an animal trapped in one of these traps, you would never, ever allow them to be used,” said Skip Haynes of the wildlife protection group Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife.

Animal trapping groups did not speak at the Wednesday meeting, but Dan Fox, president of Animal Pest Management Services Inc., argued in an earlier letter to the council that cage traps were not effective in catching coyotes and that snare traps could be a humane option if used correctly. Experienced trappers consider whether other animals are in the area before setting traps, he wrote.

The new rules “will remove any efficient methods of trapping predator animals, and increase costs for residents without addressing the true issue” — people ignoring the existing rules, Fox wrote.

The ban was first proposed by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell and seconded by Councilmen Paul Koretz and Tom LaBonge.

“Mahatma Gandhi once said … a society can be judged by the way it treats its animals,” O’Farrell said before the Wednesday vote. “Colleagues, banning these cruel and sadistic torture devices to deal with our wildlife is the way to go.”,0,5874191.story#ixzz2yWoFGogR

Help Ban Wildlife Killing Contests in CA

“A society that condones unlimited killing of wildlife for fun and prizes is morally bankrupt.”  ~ Dave Parsons, Project Coyote Science Advisory Board

Dear Friend of Wildlife,

We need your help to prohibit wildlife killing contests in California! At the request of Project Coyote, the California Fish & Game Commission voted unanimously on February 5th to consider a statewide ban on wildlife killing contests. Project Coyote representatives made the case for a ban, after which newly elected Commission Vice President Jack Baylis put forth the motion to move forward on a formal rule-making process to consider prohibiting wildlife-killing contests statewide. Commission President Michael Sutton supported the motion stating, “I’ve been concerned about these killing contests for some time. They seem inconsistent both with ethical standards of hunting and our current understanding of the important role predators play in ecosystems.” Read more here and in the articles in the sidebar. Watch our video:
Wildlife Killing contest Video Play Button Still

As a result of the Commission’s vote, a formal rule-making process will commence and the issue will be agendized at the April 16th Fish and Game Commission meeting in Ventura; public testimonies will be heard before the Commission votes on whether to permanently ban wildlife killing contests statewide (the vote on the proposed ban will not take place until June or August).

Now is the time to write- email or snail mail- favoring the ban! (please see talking points below).
California Fish and Game Commission P.O. Box 944209 Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Please cc your letters to California Department of Fish & Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham at and to Project Coyote at  as we are tracking the letters sent.

Join us in Ventura on the 16th to express your support before the Commission. Details/agenda will be posted here.
Please also sign our petition on this issue here.

Wildlife killing contests are ethically indefensible events allowing participants to kill wildlife to win prizes. They are ecologically reckless, not only harming individual animals, but also altering predator-prey dynamics, disrupting the social dynamics of predatory species, and increasing threats to public safety, all for fun and prizes. They have no beneficial management purpose but, rather, promote gratuitous violence against wildlife. They demean the immense ecological and economic value of predators in an ecosystem while teaching children to hate and trivialize the lives of predators.

Additional talking Points (please personalize your letter):

1. Commend the California Fish and Game Commission and the Wildlife Resources Committee for prioritizing the issue of modernizing predator conservation and stewardship statewide. California has the opportunity to set the trend for the nation by moving this great state toward more responsible, science-based, and ethical wildlife stewardship. These regulations and policies should reflect current science, conservation biology, and the ecological principles of ecosystem-based management as well as proven coexistence practices which will yield better outcomes for wildlife and people. The first logical step toward this goal is to end those practices that violate these standards; we must outlaw wildlife killing contests.
2. Wildlife killing contests, “derbies” and “drives” are conducted for profit, entertainment, prizes and, simply, for the “fun” of killing. Such thrill kill events perpetuate the wanton waste of wildlife. Prizes and awards are given to those who kill the most individuals and the largest (and sometimes the most females). This is not about sport or fair-chase; predators are often baited and lured in with distress calls of wounded young placing wildlife at an even greater and unfair disadvantage.
3. No evidence exists showing that indiscriminate killing contests control problem animals or serve any beneficial management function. Coyote populations that are not exploited (that is hunted, trapped, or controlled by other means) form stable “extended family” social structures that naturally limit coyote populations through defense of territory and the suppression of breeding by subordinate female members of the family group. Indiscriminate killing of coyotes disrupts this social stability resulting in increased reproduction and greater pup survival.

4. The importance of predators in maintaining order, stability, and productivity in ecosystems has been documented in scientific literature. Coyotes and other native carnivores provide myriad ecosystem services that benefit humans; these include control of rodents and rabbits which compete with domestic livestock for forage and which are associated with plague and lyme disease.   5.  Wildlife killing contests perpetuate a culture of violence and send the message to children that life has little value and that an entire species of animals is disposable.   6.  Wildlife killing contests put non-target animals, companion animals, and people at risk.

********** Thank you for speaking up for wildlife!

Ignorance Abounds

Because I love wildlife and wilderness, I’ve always chosen to live in the wildest places I could find; places where nature reigned (as much as humanly allowable); the kind of places about which rural real estate agents routinely advertise that “wildlife abounds”.

Well, if you spend much time in rural America, you know that wherever wildlife abounds, ignorance is even more abundant.

Yesterday, I came across another dead beaver, killed by an ignorant ruralite who enjoys dispatching any wild animal that crosses their path. The excuse? “Beavers eat our trees; seaDSC_0128 lions eat our fish; coyotes and wolves eat our deer and elk, prairie dogs eat our livestock’s grass,” etc., etc.

The real reason? It’s “fun” to shoot, snare or run over them as happened to the last four beavers I’ve seen dead along the road.

I’ll never forget, while I worked as a substitute school bus driver for the local district, when we passed a beaver carcass on the shoulder of the road, the students all jumped for joy and screamed “Oh, cool!” The kids have the excuse that no one has ever taught them any respect for life, or that everything in nature has its place. I still haven’t figured out what excuse their parents have for remaining so ignorant.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2014. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2014. All Rights Reserved


Whither the Hunter/Conservationist?

By George Wuerthner On March 5, 2014

Many hunter organizations like to promote the idea that hunters were the first and most important conservation advocates. They rest on their laurels of early hunter/wildlife activist like Teddy Roosevelt, and George Bird Grinnell who, among other things, were founding members of the Boone and Crocket Club. But in addition to being hunter advocates, these men were also staunch proponents of national parks and other areas off limits to hunting. Teddy Roosevelt help to establish the first wildlife refuges to protect birds from feather hunters, and he was instrumental in the creation of numerous national parks including the Grand Canyon. Grinnell was equally active in promoting the creation of national parks like Glacier as well as a staunch advocate for protection of wildlife in places like Yellowstone. Other later hunter/wildlands advocates like Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie helped to promote wilderness designation and a land ethic as well as a more enlightened attitude about predators.

Unfortunately, though there are definitely still hunters and anglers who put conservation and wildlands protection ahead of their own recreational pursuits, far more of the hunter/angler community is increasingly hostile to wildlife protection and wildlands advocacy. Perhaps the majority of hunters were always this way, but at least the philosophical leaders in the past were well known advocates of wildlands and wildlife.

Nowhere is this change in attitude among hunter organizations and leadership more evident than the deafening silence of hunters when it comes to predator management. Throughout the West, state wildlife agencies are increasing their war on predators with the apparent blessings of hunters, without a discouraging word from any identified hunter organization. Rather the charge for killing predators is being led by groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and others who are not only lobbying for more predator killing, but providing funding for such activities to state wildlife agencies.

For instance, in Nebraska which has a fledging population of cougars (an estimated 20) the state wildlife agency has already embarked on a hunting season to “control” cougar numbers. Similarly in South Dakota, where there are no more than 170 cougars, the state has adopted very aggressive and liberal hunting regulations to reduce the state’s cougar population.

But the worst examples of an almost maniacal persecution of predators are related to wolf policies throughout the country. In Alaska, always known for its Neanderthal predator policies, the state continues to promote killing of wolves adjacent to national parks. Just this week the state wiped out a pack of eleven wolves that were part of a long term research project in the Yukon Charley National Preserve. Alaska also regularly shoots wolves from the air, and also sometimes includes grizzly and black bears in its predator slaughter programs.

In the lower 48 states since wolves were delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act and management was turned over to the state wildlife agencies more than 2700 wolves have been killed.

This does not include the 3435 additional wolves killed in the past ten years by Wildlife Services, a federal predator control agency, in both the Rockies and Midwest. Most of this killing was done while wolves were listed as endangered.

As an example of the persecutory mentality of state wildlife agencies, one need not look any further than Idaho, where hunters/trappers, along with federal and state agencies killed 67 wolves this past year in the Lolo Pass area on the Montana/Idaho border, including some 23 from a Wildlife Service’s helicopter gun ship. The goal of the predator persecution program is to reduce predation on elk. However, even the agency’s own analysis shows that the major factor in elk number decline has been habitat quality declines due to forest recovery after major wildfires which has reduced the availability of shrubs and grasses central to elk diet. In other word, with or without predators the Lolo Pass area would not be supporting the number of elk that the area once supported after the fires. Idaho also hired a trapper to kill wolves in the Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness to increase elk numbers there.

Idaho hunters are permitted to obtain five hunting and five trapping tags a year, and few parts of the state have any quota or limits. Idaho Governor Butch Otter recently outlined a new state budget allotting $2 million dollars for the killing of wolves—even though the same budget cuts funding for state schools.

Other states are no better than Idaho. Montana has a generous wolf six month long season. Recent legislation in the Montana legislature increased the number of wolves a hunter can kill to five and allows for the use of electronic predator calls and removes any requirement to wear hunter orange outside of the regular elk and deer seasons. And lest you think that only right wing Republican politicians’ support more killing, this legislation was not opposed by one Democratic Montana legislator, and it was signed into law by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock because he said Montana Dept of Fish, Wildlife and Parks supported the bill.

Wyoming has wolves listed as a predator with no closed season or limit nor even a requirement for a license outside of a “trophy” wolf zone in Northwest Wyoming.

The Rocky Mountain West is known for its backward politics and lack of ethics when it comes to hunting, but even more “progressive” states like Minnesota and Wisconsin have cow-towed to the hunter anti predator hostility. Minnesota allows the use of snares, traps, and other barbaric methods to capture and kill wolves. At the end of the first trapping/hunting season in 2012/2013, the state’s hunters had killed more than 400 wolves.

Though wolves are the target species that gets the most attention, nearly all states have rabid attitudes towards predators in general. So in the eastern United States where wolves are still absent, state wildlife agencies aggressively allow the killing of coyotes, bears and other predators. For instance, Vermont, a state that in my view has undeserved reputation for progressive policies, coyotes can be killed throughout the year without any limits.

These policies are promoted for a very small segment of society. About six percent of Americans hunt, yet state wildlife agencies routinely ignore the desires of the non-hunting public. Hunting is permitted on a majority of US Public lands including 50% of wildlife “refuges as well as nearly all national forests, all Bureau of Land Management lands, and even a few national parks. In other words, the hunting minority dominates public lands wildlife policies.

Most state agencies have a mandate to manage wildlife as a public trust for all citizens, yet they clearly serve only a small minority. Part of this is tradition, hunters and anglers have controlled state wildlife management for decades. Part of it is that most funding for these state agencies comes from the sale of licenses and tags. And part is the worldview that dominates these agencies which sees their role as “managers” of wildlife, and in their view, improving upon nature.

None of these states manage predators for their ecological role in ecosystem health. Despite a growing evidence that top predators are critical to maintaining ecosystem function due to their influence upon prey behavior, distribution and numbers, I know of no state that even recognizes this ecological role, much less expends much effort to educate hunters and the public about it. (I hasten to add that many of the biologists working for these state agencies, particularly those with an expertise about predators, do not necessarily support the predator killing policies and are equally appalled and dismayed as I am by their agency practices.)

Worse yet for predators, there is new research that suggests that killing predators actually can increase conflicts between humans and these species. One cougar study in Washington has documented that as predator populations were declining, complaints rose. There are good reasons for this observation. Hunting and trapping is indiscriminate. These activities remove many animals from the population which are adjusted to the human presence and avoid, for instance, preying on livestock. But hunting and trapping not only opens up productive territories to animals who may not be familiar with the local prey distribution thus more likely to attack livestock, but hunting/trapping tends to skew predator populations to younger age classes. Younger animals are less skillful at capturing prey, and again more likely to attack livestock. A population of young animals can also result in larger litter size and survival requiring more food to feed hungry growing youngsters—and may even lead to an increase in predation on wild prey—having the exact opposite effect that hunters desire.

Yet these findings are routinely ignored by state wildlife agencies. For instance, despite the fact that elk numbers in Montana have risen from 89,000 animals in 1992 several years before wolf reintroductions to an estimated 140,000-150,000 animals today, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks does almost nothing to counter the impression and regular misinformation put forth by hunter advocacy groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or the Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife that wolves are “destroying” Montana’s elk herds.

I have attended public hearings on wolves and other predator issues, and I have yet to see a single hunter group support less carnivore killing. So where are the conservation hunters? Why are they so silent in the face of outrage? Where is the courage to stand up and say current state wildlife agencies policies are a throw-back to the last century and do not represent anything approaching a modern understanding of the important role of predators in our ecosystems?

As I watch state after state adopting archaic policies, I am convinced that state agencies are incapable of managing predators as a legitimate and valued member of the ecological community. Their persecutory policies reflect an unethical and out of date attitude that is not in keeping with modern scientific understanding of the important role that predators play in our world.

It is apparent from evidence across the country that state wildlife agencies are incapable of managing predators for ecosystem health or even with apparent ethical considerations. Bowing to the pressure from many hunter organizations and individual hunters, state wildlife agencies have become killing machines and predator killing advocates.

Most people at least tolerant the killing of animals that eaten for food, though almost everyone believes that unnecessary suffering should be avoided. But few people actually eat the predators they kill, and often the animals are merely killed and left on the killing fields. Yet though many state agencies and some hunter organizations promote the idea that wanton waste of wildlife and unnecessary killing and suffering of animals is ethically wrong, they conveniently ignore such ideas when it comes to predators, allowing them to be wounded and left to die in the field, as well as permitted to suffer in traps. Is this ethical treatment of wildlife? I think not.

Unfortunately unless conservation minded hunters speak up, these state agencies as well as federal agencies like Wildlife Services will continue their killing agenda uninhibited. I’m waiting for the next generation of Teddy Roosevelts, Aldo Leopolds and Olaus Muries to come out of the wood work. Unless they do, I’m afraid that ignorance and intolerant attitudes will prevail and our lands and the predators that are an important part of the evolutionary processes that created our wildlife heritage will continue to be eroded.

copyrighted wolf in river

“Sportsmen” donate $15,000 to Wildlife “Services”

By Perry Backus

[While you and I hate Wildlife "Services with a passion...] The Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife recently contributed $15,000 to the federal agency focused on reducing damage to livestock caused by coyotes and wolves.

The sportsmen’s organization made its contribution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in hopes the funding will have some residual benefit to ungulate herds, said Keith Kubista, president of the sportsmen’s group.

“We are pleased to be able to participate in this way which results in reducing the burden of government on the taxpayer and at the same time is consistent with our policies and mission,” Kubista said. “Primary among them is to focus our efforts and funds to preserve our rights to hunt, trap and fish and to protect livestock and pets from predation.”

Kubista said the group recognizes the need to help landowners and livestock producers who suffer impacts from predators.

“These management actions by USDAWS which are focused on the removal of coyotes and wolves causing predation on livestock will also minimize the potential for predation on wildlife,” said the group’s press release.

Montana Wildlife Services State Director John Steuber views the contribution as a cooperative funding agreement similar to what it shares with livestock organizations, counties and others.

“This one may be a little different from others,” he said. “This sportsmen group apparently wants to show its support for the livestock industry.”

Other sportsmen’s groups – like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation – have signed cooperative funding agreements in the past.

With federal funding in decline, Steuber said the cooperative funding agreements have played an important role in augmenting the Service’s annual budget.

Steuber said Wildlife Services has evolved quite a lot in the 27 years that he’s spent with it.

“We encourage people to use more non-lethal methods for protecting their livestock from predators,” he said.

As an example, Steuber said the agency is doing a guard dog study in Montana using breeds that aren’t common to the state. The agency is also encouraging people raising chickens in their backyards to use electric fence as a deterrent to bears, he said.

“There are a lot of things that people can do to keep wildlife out of trouble,” he said. “We certainly encourage people to use those.”


Wildlife “Services” in action on the Idaho/Montana border:


The Animals Support Gun Control

On the way up to the mountains to ski some of the seven plus feet of snow which fell during the past week, I passed a car with a bumper sticker that read: “The Animals Support Gun Control.” That brings up an issue you almost never hear about, ironically enough, after someone brings a hunting rifle to school and tries to peck off every kid or teacher they can get a bead on.elk-000-home17300

Oh, you hear about gun control, that’s a given, but almost never in the context of how they’re used against non-human animals—for sport or savagery—in contest kills, often geared especially for young people, as if to tempt the next mass-murderer out of hiding and onto the playground for some real fun and games.

You can’t expect grade-schoolers to understand the subtle difference between a sacred human life and those of other animals they’ve been trained to kill—before they could even develop a conscience—by their proud parents, who use their kids’ eagerness to please and to play follow the leader against them, in hopes of recruiting a life-time hunting partner.

The disturbing trend among states to lower the legal hunting age, practically to infancy, suggests the word “Columbine” evokes only the image of a pretty flower to them. Meanwhile, hunters in states like Idaho are actively luring young children to try their luck in coyote or wolf killing derbies to further degrade the value of life that movies and video games have already taught them to disregard a thousand times over. The town of Holley, New York, just held another appalling example of state-sanctioned sadism in the form of an animal-kill contest they dubbed the “squirrel slam.” “Sporting” events like the so-called “squirrel slam” are an embarrassment that only adds to the global perception that this is an inherently violent country.

Not to be outdone, the Oklahoma “game” department just announced that the senior class of Sasakwa High is sponsoring a crow-killing contest, set for the end of this month—complete with prize money for whoever murders the most crows. It’s a spectacle sure to inspire the next killer-in-waiting to turn their semi-automatic on their fellow classmates.

These kinds of hunting events beg the obvious question: how can kids be expected to know the difference between officially sanctioned animal cruelty and acts of cruelty they come up with on their own?

So if you feel your Second Amendment rights are withering away at the mere mention of gun control, relax that death-grip on your rifle for a moment and consider what the animals would have to say about the issue, if only we allowed them a voice.


Teen who shot friend on hunting trip will not spend time in prison

by TERESA WOODARD January 27, 2014

Bonnie Tatera sat in her home Monday evening, visibly shaken from the events of the day and of the last few months.

Near a raging fireplace sat a large picture of her son, Nate Maki, who died in August. He was 18 years old.

“Can you give me just a minute?” she asked as she put her face in her hands for a moment.

Tatera lost her son, and the boy who admits to killing him will spend five years on probation.

Michael Bryce Underwood was 17 at the time of the shooting on his grandfather’s property near Bowie, in Montague County. He pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide Monday. Underwood will spend no time in prison.

It is a plea deal Tatera doesn’t like, and she found the strength to talk about it.

“Honestly, I wish [Underwood] would’ve gotten some time, to actually sit and think about what he had done. Whether it was an accident or not,” she said. “I mean, since day one he’s been out. He’s gotten to be with his family. He hangs out with his friends.”

As terms of his probation, Underwood cannot drink alcohol and must finish high school.

“No, I didn’t agree to it,” Tatera said. “I had no say, actually.”

Underwood must also speak at a gun safety course, which is a condition Tatera did request.

Michael Underwood made a tearful call to 911 after shooting

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Maki in August of 2013.

“We were hunting coyotes,” a tearful Underwood told the dispatcher. “I was calling them. I pulled my gun to the left and I accidentally pulled the trigger. The safety was off and it went off in his head. Nate, Nate please. Nate. Oh my God. Sir, I’m begging you. It’s my best friend.”

That 911 call is the only explanation Tatera has ever heard.

“I don’t know the whole story at all,” she said. “And I believe that’s why it hurts so much.”

She said Underwood didn’t look at her during Monday’s court proceeding.

“I feel that he maybe tried to avoid looking in our direction,” she said. “We didn’t have any eye contact. No words were spoken from him to us.”

Nate Maki was a standout football player at Denton Guyer High School. He was a member of the state champion teams and died as his senior year had just started.

His father, Harold Maki, lives in Wisconsin. He sent an e-mail to the Montague County District Attorney, hoping it would be read aloud during Monday’s hearing.

It wasn’t.

He shared that written statement with News 8′s Jim Douglas, saying communities from Texas to Wisconsin were mourning Nate’s loss.

“It hurts so bad!!!! We’ve heard so many stories of what happened the night of August 31, 2013. I believe Bryce has lied too many times [about] what happened that night. I don’t know if we will ever know the truth!”

The elder Maki also said probation was less than a slap on the wrist.

He and Tatera said every facet of their lives are different. They did not think their pain could get any worse, but both say the outcome of the court proceeding proved them wrong.

Because Underwood hasn’t shown remorse, or said he’s sorry, Tatera said she has not found forgiveness.

“And I can’t right now, I can’t find peace,” she said.

ACTION ALERT: Coyote Killing Contest ~ Jan. 18-19 Crane, OR


“A society that condones unlimited killing of wildlife for fun and prizes is morally bankrupt.”  ~ Dave Parsons, Project Coyote Science Advisory Board

Please join Project Coyote to take immediate action to stop a brutal coyote killing contest scheduled for January 18-19th in Crane, Oregon.  There is no place for a wildlife killing contest in our civilized society.
Contest participants, in teams of two, with no geographical restrictions will slaughter coyotes for thrills and compete for cheap prizes (including cash). Awards will be given for the most coyotes killed, the largest coyote, and other categories including a calcutta. This is not hunting but a gratuitous massacre that is legal in Oregon and across the country. Children under the age of 16 are encouraged to participate with free entry on Saturday.
Specific details:
What: Eighth Annual Coyote Killing Contest Where: Crane, Oregon                          When: Saturday, January 17th through Sunday January 19th, 2014


Pl. share this image from the recent Salmon, ID coyote/wolf “derby” (95,360 views & 1,749 shares to date) & help spread the messageCoyote Wolf Holiday Killing Contest Salmon Idaho_copyright Project Coyote

“The non-specific, indiscriminate killing methods used in this commercial and unrestricted coyote killing contest are not about hunting or sound land management. These contests are about personal profit, animal cruelty…It is time to outlaw this highly destructive activity.” ~ Ray Powell, New Mexico Land Commissioner

Talking Points (please personalize your letter and if you recreate in Oregon please mention this):
1.  Wildlife killing contests are ethically indefensible events allowing participants to kill wildlife to win prizes. They are biologically and ecologically reckless, not only harming individual animals, but also altering predator-prey dynamics, disrupting the social dynamics of predatory species, and increasing threats to public safety, all for fun and prizes. They have no beneficial management purpose but, rather, promote gratuitous violence against wildlife. They demean the immense ecological and economic value of predators in an ecosystem while teaching children to hate and trivialize the lives of predators.
2.  Killing contests have nothing in common with fair chase, ethical hunting. Technology, baiting, and “calling” place wildlife at an even greater and unfair disadvantage. Killing predators, or any wild animal, as part of a ‘contest’ is ethically indefensible and ecologically reckless.    3.  Bloodsport contests are conducted for profit, entertainment, prizes and, simply, for the “fun” of killing. No evidence exists showing that predator killing contests control problem animals or serve any beneficial management function. Coyote populations that are not exploited (that is hunted, trapped, or controlled by other means), form stable “extended family” social structures that naturally limit overall coyote populations through defense of territory and the suppression of breeding by subordinate female members of the family group.
4. The importance of coyotes and other predators in maintaining order, stability, and productivity in ecosystems has been well documented in peer-reviewed scientific literature. Coyotes provide myriad ecosystem services that benefit humans including their control of smaller predators, rodents, and jack rabbits, which compete with domestic livestock for available forage.    5.  Wildlife killing contests perpetuate a culture of violence and send the message to children that life has little value and that an entire species of animals is disposable.   6.  Wildlife killing contests put non-target animals, companion animals, and people at risk. Domestic dogs are sometimes mistaken for coyotes and wolves.

Immediately contact the following to voice your firm but polite protest:

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE
Salem, OR 97302
(503) 947-6000

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber
900 Court Street NE, 160, Salem, OR 97301
(503) 378-3111

Harney County Chamber of Commerce
Chelsea Harrison, Executive Director
484 North Broadway, Burns, OR 97720
(541) 573-2636

Please post polite comments on the Facebook pages of Travel Oregon and the Eastern Oregon Visitors Association:

Travel Oregon/Oregon Tourism Commission
Judiaann Woo, Director, Global Communications
1(800) 547-7842

Eastern Oregon Visitors Association
Phone: 1 (800) 332-1843

Documentary Spotlights Wildlife Services’ Lethal Mass Killings

Activist discovered an “agency running amok and totally out of control” with no authority to answer to.
By   |      January 6, 2014

(Photo/Tom Ryburn via Flickr)

(Photo/Tom Ryburn via Flickr)

 Since its inception in 1931, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services has taken its mission “to improve the coexistence of people and wildlife” to heart, killing an estimated 3 million animals per year, which often includes endangered species such as eagles and household pets.

Though the agency does kill some species that are overpopulated and prey on livestock such as wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, and other wild carnivores, a new documentary from the Oregon-based nonprofit Predator Defense spotlights a darker side of the agency, hoping to spark public-demanded reform.

Brooks Fahy is the executive director of Predator Defense, the group behind Exposed: USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife. He says he heard stories about Wildlife Services officials brutally killing thousands of animals each year with poisons and aerial guttings for years, but never thought the agency actually was capable of such behavior until he launched his own investigation.

Fahy says what he discovered was an “agency running amok and totally out of control” with no authority to answer to. He believes the American public needs to know how their tax dollars are being inhumanely spent.

Lethal killings

Dubbed “criter assassins” by those opposed to the agency’s work, makers of the expose hope the documentary brings animal rights activists, environmentalists, politicians and the public together in order to stop the agency from continuing to use steel traps, wire snares, poisons, and snipers to kill wild animals in mass, unnecessarily.

Although calls for the agency’s reform may have started out as a concern about changes in the ecosystem, Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon says “Wildlife Services is one of the most opaque and obstinate departments” he has ever dealt with, including the Pentagon, which is why he is pushing for the agency’s reform.

“We’re really not sure what they’re doing,” DeFazio said. “I’ve asked the agency to give me breakdowns on what lethal methods they’re using. They can’t or won’t do that. We’ve asked them to tell us what goes into their poisons. They won’t say.”

DeFazio and John Campbell, a Republican from California, have teamed up and have tried to press for Congressional hearings regarding the agency’s work, as well as for the Agriculture Department’s inspector general to investigate Wildlife Services, but so far their efforts have been largely unsuccessful thanks to Wildlife Services corporate agriculture allies.

In response to the video, Carol Bannerman, public affairs specialist for Wildlife Services, told MintPress that some of the information provided is outdated, as the agency has changed in the last 20 to 40 years. And while Bannerman acknowledges that the agency largely uses lethal means to remove predator species, she says that the agency also does a lot of good work that is being overlooked.

Talking to the Sacramento Bee, William Clay, deputy administrator of Wildlife Services, said the agency attempts to use non-lethal control methods first, but “The problem is, generally when we get a call, it’s because farmers and ranchers are having livestock killed immediately. They are being killed daily. Our first response is to try to stop the killing and then implement non-lethal methods.”

However, Carter Niemeyer, a former Wildlife Services district manager who worked for the agency for 26 years, told the Sacramento Bee much of the agency’s work is excessive, scientifically unsound, and a waste of tax dollars.

“If you read the brochures, go on their website, they play down the lethal control, which they are heavily involved in, and show you this benign side,” Niemeyer said. “It’s smoke and mirrors. It’s a killing business. And it ain’t pretty.

“If the public knows this and they don’t care, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. But they are entitled to know.”

Nuclear wildlife management

Though many lawmakers and activists including Andrew Wetzler, director of the land and wildlife program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, recognizes the agency does good work as well, Wetzler says the agency needs to be held responsible for its inhumane actions.

“We asked them about data,” he said, “How much do they use poison, where. How much do they spend renting helicopters to gun down coyotes and wolves,” but “The consistent answer we’ve gotten back … is: ‘We don’t know.’ There’s a severe lack of transparency.”

In the Predator Defense documentary, Rex Shaddox, a former special investigator for the Wyoming Sting Operation and a former Wildlife Services Trapper, explained that the USDA sells illegal pesticides to state Agriculture Department’s, who in turn sell the poisons to farmers and ranchers to kill coyotes.

Shaddox said poisons he worked with were all banned in the 1970s, such as Compound 1080 and DDT, and were not supposed to be in existence any longer, but the government was selling the pesticides “like a big huge drug operation.”

Although Bannerman says Compound 1080 has been largely replaced by sodium cyanide M-44 containers, Fahy says it is absurd to use a device that kills anything that investigates it, including people, and called Wildlife Services’ killing techniques a “nuclear approach to wildlife management.”

News of Wildlife Services lethal work may be shocking to the public, and largely absent from the mainstream media, but calls for the agency’s reform date back to the early 1960s, when scientists reported that eradicating certain species of animals was not leading to a balanced ecosystem.

In 1971 President Richard Nixon signed an executive order banning the use of poison for federal predator control, saying the public needed to learn to coexist with wildlife, but President Gerald Ford later amended the order to allow for the use of sodium cyanide.

As Fahy and others in the documentary pointed out, it’s not that the agency needs to incorporate more rules and legislation that dictates what trappers can and can’t do, they have to actually follow those laws.

Failure to follow federal law

Gary Strader is a former wildlife services trapper who currently works as a private trapper. He shared that on one occasion two mountain lions were shot from the air, which is a felony. A retired law enforcement officer, Strader said that government employees are not supposed to be committing any sort of crime, especially on taxpayer dollars, so he went to his supervisor.

Strader says he didn’t want to get anyone in trouble, but he wanted abuse of the law to stop. But after talking to his supervisor, Strader says he was treated poorly and within a few months, his job was eliminated.

“I’m not an animal rights activist,” Strader said, but Wildlife Services should have to abide by state laws, including checking traps every 24-hours so animals don’t languish in pain. “If the American public saw this and understood the brutality of this,” Strader says the practice would be ended almost immediately.

“I learned the hard way they lie from the top to the bottom,” Strader said. Shaddox agreed and added that while there are about 26 restrictions regarding the use of M-44, including a complete ban on using the poison on domestic animals, he said his supervisor often tested the poisons on dogs at city dumps.

“Most of top supervisors have total disregard for their own policy,” he said, adding that the goal is to keep the customer — the farmers and ranchers — happy above anything else.

Though Bannerman says the agency has improved in recent years, Fahy says the documentary was made not because there is just one individual who has an axe to grind. He said these employees have done things and witnessed things that are hard for them to live with.

“It isn’t he said, she said,” Fahy said. “There’s a tremendous amount of information out there. We have evidence … Wildlife Services doesn’t dispute our cases.”

Congressmen question costs, mission of Wildlife Services agency,0,2146578.story#axzz2pXmR2tyM

By Julie Cart
January 4, 2014, 7:41

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspector general will investigate a federal agency whose mission is to exterminate birds, coyotes, mountain lions and other animals that threaten the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers.

The investigation of U.S. Wildlife Services is to determine, among other things, “whether wildlife damage management activities were justified and effective.” Biologists have questioned the agency’s effectiveness, arguing that indiscriminately killing more than 3 million birds and other wild animals every year is often counterproductive.

Reps. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) and John Campbell (R-Irvine) requested the review, calling for a complete audit of the culture within Wildlife Services. The agency has been accused of abuses, including animal cruelty and occasional accidental killing of endangered species, family pets and other animals that weren’t targeted.

DeFazio says the time has come to revisit the agency’s mission and determine whether it makes economic and biological sense for taxpayers to underwrite a service, however necessary, that he argues should be paid for by private businesses.

“Why should taxpayers, particularly in tough times, pay to subsidize private interests?” said DeFazio, ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources. “I have come to the conclusion that this is an agency whose time has passed.”

Wildlife Services was created in 1931 as part of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. It has wide-ranging responsibilities, including rabies testing and bird control at airport runways. But the bulk of its work is exterminating nuisance wildlife by methods that include poisoning, gassing, trapping and aerial gunning.

The agency acts as a pest management service not only for agribusiness and ranches, but also for other federal agencies, counties and homeowners who might have such problems as raccoons in an attic. Other services include protecting endangered species and maintaining game herds for hunters.

The services are free or substantially subsidized, which many private predator- and pest-control companies say unfairly undercuts their business. States and counties complain that they are responsible for an increasing share of the costs.

DeFazio and Campbell are also calling for congressional oversight hearings. DeFazio says he has spent years asking for but not receiving information from Wildlife Services, which he calls “the least accountable federal agency” he has ever seen.

He said he had to learn from the Los Angeles Times about an internal audit the agency conducted last year. The audit found the agency’s accounting practices were “unreconcilable,” lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws. Further, the audit revealed that $12 million in a special account could not be found.

“The last time I tried to get more specific financial information, they just blew me off and said they couldn’t provide that,” DeFazio said in an interview. “Yet, at the same time, they were undertaking this audit. So, the managers were, at best, disingenuous, and at worst, undertaking a coverup.”

A Wildlife Services spokeswoman said the agency had already begun to carry out changes recommended in the audit.

In response to allegations of improper behavior by agents, the spokeswoman said the department does not condone animal cruelty and that employees are trained to strictly follow state and federal wildlife laws.

Information that DeFazio’s office says Wildlife Services has refused to disclose includes the identities of its clients. DeFazio’s office has determined that the agency acts as an exterminator for golf clubs and resorts, hunting clubs, homeowners associations, paving companies and timber giants International Paper and Weyerhaeuser.

The agency’s supporters argue that the cost is appropriately borne by consumers, who value local food production. In California, many ranchers and farmers would go broke if they had to pay private companies to do the work provided free of charge by Wildlife Service agents, said Noelle G. Cremers, a lobbyist for the California Farm Bureau.

Members of Congress have heard allegations for years of improper — and in some cases, illegal — practices within Wildlife Services. Attempts at congressional investigations have been stalled by what DeFazio calls the agency’s “powerful friends” in agriculture and ranching lobbies.

Among the allegations legislators want to review are those by Gary Strader, a Wildlife Services hunter in Nevada until 2009. He alleges he was fired for reporting to superiors that colleagues had killed five mountain lions from airplanes, which is a felony. He said his supervisor told him to “mind his own business.”

Strader said the same supervisor gave similar advice when the hunter discovered that a snare he set had unintentionally killed a golden eagle. Knowing that the bird was protected under federal law, Strader called his supervisor for guidance. “He said, ‘If you think no one saw it, take a shovel and bury it,’” Strader said.

Agents are required to maintain records of their kills, but critics say those records are opaque and probably inaccurate. The official count, for instance, does not include offspring that will die after adult mountain lions or bears are killed, or coyote pups inside a den that has been gassed.

“The numbers are absolutely manipulated — gravely underestimated,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, a wildlife conservation group.

Part of the difficulty of wildlife control work is making sure the lethal methods reach only the intended targets. Cyanide traps set for coyotes can kill other animals. Many domestic dogs — thousands, by the accounting of watchdog groups — have been inadvertently poisoned by capsules meant for coyotes.

Rex Shaddox, a former Wildlife Services agent in Wyoming, said agents “were told to doctor our reports — we were not allowed to show we killed household pets.” Shaddox said he knew a rancher who kept a grisly souvenir of the agency’s collateral damage: a 10-foot chain of interconnected dog collars.

Shaddox says the agency rarely handles federally controlled poisons legally. Agents are required to post signs where pesticides and poisons are placed and maintain detailed logs. But supervisors tell them not to, Shaddox and other former agents said.

Wildlife Services agents have also been accused of animal cruelty, particularly in the use of dogs to control and kill coyotes. Last year, a Wyoming-based trapper posted photographs to his Facebook page showing his dogs savaging a coyote caught in a leg-hold trap. Other pictures showed the agent’s animals mauling bobcats and raccoons.

The agency said it was investigating.

Wildlife biologists also criticize the agency’s work, which they say ignores science. Bradley J. Bergstrom, a conservation biologist at Valdosta State University in Georgia, and other biologists at the American Society of Mammalogists say they have been frustrated by the agency’s unwillingness to share scientific data tracking the effectiveness of its approach.

For instance, Bergstrom said, eradicating coyotes from a landscape creates unintended consequences. He said a Texas study found that killing coyotes that preyed on cattle led to an increase in rodents, which prey on crops. The pest problem shifted from those who raise cattle to farmers who grow crops.

“Preemptive lethal control … makes no sense,” Bergstrom said. “It’s known as the ‘mowing the lawn’ model — you just have to keep mowing them down.” .,0,2146578.story#ixzz2pZziBW5a