3.2 Million Animals Killed by Wildlife Services in 2015
The newest tallies from America’s secretive wildlife-killing program are in, and they’re grim. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services says it killed more than 3.2 million animals during fiscal year 2015. That’s about a half-million more animals than the program killed the previous year.
Despite increasing calls for reform, Wildlife Services’ reckless slaughter continues, last year wiping out 385 gray wolves, 68,905 coyotes, 480 black bears, 284 mountain lions, 731 bobcats, 492 river otters, 3,437 foxes and 21,559 beavers.
The Center for Biological Diversity has been leading the charge to reform this rogue program, which often does its killing at the behest of the agricultural industry and other powerful interests.
“There’s simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle millions of animals every year — a cruel practice that not only fails to effectively manage targeted wildlife but poses an ongoing threat to other animals, including pets,” said the Center’s Michael Robinson.
The Endangered Species Act: Making Birds Great Again
A groundbreaking Center analysis has uncovered excellent news: 85 percent of continental U.S. birds protected under the Endangered Species Act have increased or stabilized their population size since being protected. The average population increase was 624 percent.
The study, the first of its kind, examined year-by-year population sizes of all 120 bird species ever protected by the Endangered Species Act. Recovering species include California condors in California and Arizona (up 391 percent since 1968), whooping cranes in the central United States (up 923 percent since 1967), wood storks in the Southeast (up 61 percent since 1984), Kirtland’s warblers in the Great Lakes (up 1,077 percent since 1971), California least terns (up 1,835 percent since 1970) and Puerto Rican parrots (up 354 percent since 1967).
“The Endangered Species Act has been spectacularly successful for America’s most imperiled birds,” said Loyal Mehrhoff, the Center’s endangered species recovery director. “From plovers on the East Coast to warblers in the Great Lakes, terns in the Midwest, falcons in Texas, bald eagles in the Rocky Mountains and towhees in California, the Act has rapidly and dramatically increased bird population sizes and put these birds on the road to full recovery.”
Help Sought for Pacific Bluefin Tuna as Population Plummets
Pacific bluefin tuna — majestic, warm-blooded ocean predators being dangerously overfished for the high-end sushi market — have sunk to frighteningly low population levels, so on Monday the Center and allies petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect the fish under the Endangered Species Act. Pacific bluefin have declined more than 97 percent since commercial fishing began.
Intensifying the concern surrounding the tuna’s drastic population drop, almost all Pacific bluefin tuna harvested today are caught before they can reproduce. In 2014 their population produced the second-lowest number of young fish seen since 1952. Without young fish to mature into spawning stock and replace the aging adults, the future is dark for Pacific bluefin.
“If these fish don’t get help soon, we may see the last Pacific bluefin tuna sold off and the species lost for good,” said the Center’s Catherine Kilduff. “Fisheries management has failed to keep them off the path to extinction.”
Read more in our press release.
Rare California Salamander Wins Recovery Plan
Thanks to a suit by the Center, rare, beautiful California tiger salamanders in Sonoma County won a final recovery plan Monday to aid their survival — and eventual recovery and removal from the endangered species list. The plan includes a call to purchase and permanently protect about 15,000 acres of the salamander’s breeding ponds and adjacent uplands.
Although Sonoma County’s tiger salamanders have been protected as “endangered” for more than a decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hadn’t developed a recovery plan to guide management of the species — so in 2012 the Center sued, and the lawsuit’s settlement resulted in this week’s victory. The plan focuses on fighting major threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation by protecting breeding ponds and adjacent uplands; it also calls for reducing risks from non-native predators, roads, contaminants and disease.
“This plan gives us hope for one of our most imperiled salamanders,” said the Center’s Jenny Loda.
Read more in The Press Democrat.
$10,000 Reward Offered Over Wolf Pups Killed in Idaho
The Center is pledging a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for illegally killing wolf pups after removing them from their den in north Idaho’s Kootenai County, about 15 miles outside the city of Coeur d’Alene.
The pledge, along with an undisclosed reward offered by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, comes as Idaho officials are seeking leads in their criminal investigation of the poaching, which likely occurred the week of May 16, officials said.
“Pulling young wolf pups from their den and killing them is repulsive,” said Center attorney Andrea Santarsiere. “Coming on the heels of a protected grizzly bear being killed last month, it’s a stark reminder that Idaho’s still-recovering populations of big carnivores are under constant threat from poachers.”
Fish and Game officers are asking anyone with information about the incident to call the Citizens Against Poaching Hotline, (800) 632-5999. Callers may remain anonymous.
Learn more from Oregon Public Broadcasting.
U.S. Pet Trade Annually Imports 6 Million Fish Exposed to Cyanide
A new analysis by the Center and For the Fishes finds that 6 million tropical marine fish imported into the United States each year for the pet trade have been exposed to cyanide poisoning. The findings coincide with the release of Disney/Pixar’s movie Finding Dory, which is likely to fuel a rapid increase in the sale of tropical reef fish in the United States, including royal blue tangs like Dory.
To catch fish with cyanide, crushed cyanide tablets are placed in squirt bottles filled with seawater. The dissolved cyanide is then sprayed directly onto the reefs near the targeted fish to stun the fish and make it easier to scoop them up. Sadly as much as 50 percent of all nearby fish are killed on contact, as well as nearby corals.
The Center and allies have called on the Obama administration to ban aquarium fish caught using cyanide.
Living on Earth: The Future of Glyphosate — Listen Now
The future of glyphosate, more commonly known as the herbicide Roundup, is at a critical crossroad. Last year the World Health Organization’s cancer-research arm found that the chemical is probably a human carcinogen; soon afterward California’s Environmental Protection Agency announced it would list glyphosate as being known to cause cancer.
There’s also a growing grassroots movement to rein in Roundup use across the United States. Not only does it threaten human health — it puts wildlife at risk too. Studies have pointed to glyphosate as one of the leading causes of decline in monarch butterflies because it destroys milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s sole food source.
The radio program Living on Earth tackled this issue last week, interviewing the Center’s Dr. Nate Donley. Listen to the story now.
Charity Navigator Awards Four-star Rating to Center
The Center just got a new four-star rating (the highest score possible, in case you didn’t know) from renowned nonprofit evaluator Charity Navigator. That means we’re deemed one of the most financially efficient organizations out there — probably because we funnel as much of our funding as possible, more than 83 percent, straight into saving species and lands, instead of using it up for administration, advertising and marketing gimmicks.
Yep, the precious money we receive (including from our supporters — thank you!) goes to protect polar bears, wolves and birds, not to mail out plush-toy versions of them.
We’re proud of our rating and hope you are too.
Wild & Weird: Puffballs Reproduce With Raindrops — Watch Video
Common store-bought mushrooms — the portobello, for instance — have open, umbrella-like caps with spore-bearing gills on the underside. Puffballs, however, produce all their spores within an enclosed, spheroidal fruiting body. For puffball spores to be released, the fruiting body must be ruptured. This is often accomplished by the impact of raindrops, which push out puffy brown clouds — millions of tiny spores — that disperse from the parent fungus into the wind and off into the wider world.
Check out our video with real-time and time-lapse imagery of puffballs fruiting and rupturing in the rain.
A Seattle neighborhood is divided over a coyote pack that was recently killed.
According to USDA APHIS, someone asked for them to remove the coyotes. Other neighbors are horrified.
“It was howling. It was crying. It was moaning. It was horrible,” Nancy Bagnulo said.
Early Tuesday morning, several people woke up to gunshots near the Talaris conference center in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood.
Bozena Jakubik left her house to see what happened, noticing a white truck driving off. Daylight revealed more of what she’d heard overnight.
“I saw this huge stain of blood coming from the exit of her den,” she said.
According to USDA, three coyotes were killed.
“Wildlife services received a request to assist in the management of several coyotes near the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Seattle. The coyotes had become increasingly aggressive toward people and pets in the area,” Jeanine Neskey said.
The coyotes were killed on the Talaris conference center property. The center did not return phone calls asking for comment.
Neighbors said the coyote had pups, and by simply leaving her alone, they never had an issue.
“I’m bothered by the fact we weren’t given the notice or chance to weigh in on this decision,” Janice Sutter said.
According to USDA, someone requested their services. They worked for 3-nights, and used a call box, which is a device that mimics animal distress sounds and attracts coyotes.
“The thing that bothers me mostly is that they’re baiting them. I just don’t think that’s right,” Linn Blakeney said.
“I like the coyotes and it just makes me sick,” David Barnes added.
Wildlife officials believe there are no more coyotes left in this spot, but neighbors worry there may be a pup remaining.
“I’ve seen him running frantically out on the property and calling and crying and looking for his family,” Jakubik said.
Nancy Bagnulo and others say, they like living here because it’s a little bit of wild in the heart of a city, and that means learning to live together.
“If not, there’s not going to be any wildlife left. It’s just going to be people. And who wants that, really?” Bagnulo said.
Copyright 2016 KING
Yesterday Project Coyote and allies filed suit in Oregon challenging the authority of the USDA Wildlife Services program to kill any of the approximately 81 remaining gray wolves in Oregon. The legal challenge comes just weeks after a federal court ruled that Wildlife Services’ controversial wolf killing program in Washington is illegal.
Earlier this week Project Coyote NH/VT Representative Chris Schadler testified before the NH Fish and Game Commission challenging a proposal to open a season on bobcats in New Hampshire which would allow hunting, trapping, baiting and hounding of a species that has been protected statewide since 1989.
Also on Monday evening, on the opposite coast, Project Coyote representatives and supporters testified at a Wolf Conservation Planning meeting in Sacramento, California pressing for a science-based approach to wolf recovery in California and a plan that recognizes the ecological importance of these apex predators.
Across the country we continue to press for better protections for our important apex predators while we work with communities to promote coexistence through our Coyote Friendly Communities and Ranching With Wildlife Programs. Read more about these efforts below. And please join us in celebrating our first honoree for Project Coyote’s Wildlife Stewardship Award – former President of the California Fish and Game Commission – Michael Sutton.
For the Wild,
Camilla H. Fox
Founder & Executive Director
Lawsuit Challenges Wildlife Services’ Authority to Kill Wolves in Oregon
As states take over management of wolves, USDA Wildlife Services is the go-to federal agency for lethal wolf control. Project Coyote and allies challenged the authority Wildlife Services to kill any of the approximately 81 remaining gray wolves in Oregon. Represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, our complaint contends that Wildlife Services failed to explain why killing wolves on behalf of livestock interests should replace common-sense, proactive and nonlethal alternatives such as those reflected in the Oregon Gray Wolf Management Plan. The National Environmental Policy Act requires both this analysis and public disclosure. In Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Services completed vague plans to target wolves for livestock depredations but failed to justify why nonlethal alternatives would be inadequate.
Protecting Wolves in California
Now that wolves are protected under the CA Endangered Species Act and the first breeding pair has been established in the state since their extirpation in the 1920s, the state is developing a state Wolf Conservation Plan that will guide management decisions as gray wolves recolonize their native home. However, the current plan could lead to the removal of vital protections for wolves before the state’s wolf population is stable. As a member of the CA Wolf Coalition, Project Coyote has joined with our allies in pressing for a strong plan that emphasizes proactive recovery, best available science and innovative approaches to conflict mitigation. CA residents: if you’ve not already commented, please take a moment to submit an online comment to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife urging them to follow through with strong safeguards that will protect wolves across California for generations to come (comments accepted until Feb. 15th).
Protecting Bobcats in New Hampshire
The bobcat is the most widespread wildcat in North America. But by the 1980s, their numbers throughout much of their historic range had dwindled due to bounties, hunting and trapping. In 1989, the bobcat became a fully protected species in New Hampshire. In October of 2015, pressure from the hunting and trapping lobby resulted in a NH Fish and Game Commission vote in favor of initiating rule-making to establish a bobcat hunting, trapping, baiting and hounding season, to include the issuance of 50 permits (for NH residents only) via a lottery system. In her testimony before the Commission, Project Coyote’s Chis Schadler stated “As a conservation biologist I can state that there is no biological reason to hunt the bobcat, or any other predator; predators regulate themselves,” as reported by NH Public Radio.
Through our Coyote Friendly Communities and our Ranching with Wildlife programs Project Coyote works with communities across America to promote coexistence and reduce negative encounters between people and wildlife both in urban and rural landscapes. Our representatives provide presentations and workshops on topics from Living with Coyotes to Understanding Native Carnivores, Ranching with Wildlife and Hazing Coyotes. In San Francisco, Project Coyote’s Gina Farr recently provided a workshop about coyote hazing for city residents. Camilla Fox will provide a free presentation – Wild Things: Co-Existing With North America’s Native Carnivores – at the Presidio’s Officers Club on Feb. 4th (more info. here). Project Coyote NM Rep. and East Coast Representatives Chris Shadler, John Maguranis, Stacey Evans and Marilyn McGee are providing presentations across the Eastern Seaboard, promoting Project Coyote’s mission and message of compassionate coexistence..
Project Coyote’s Wildlife Stewardship of the Year Award
Michael Sutton, former President of the California Fish and Game Commission, was honored with Project Coyote’s 2015 Wildlife Stewardship of the Year Award for his exemplary leadership in promoting compassionate conservation, stewardship and peaceful coexistence between people and wildlife in California and beyond. Sutton is a social entrepreneur and internationally respected conservation leader who has worked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Audubon Society, World Wildlife Fund, and the David & Lucile Packard Foundation. Governor Schwarzenegger twice appointed Sutton to the California Fish & Game Commission, where he served from 2007-2015. He was instrumental in creating the nation’s largest network of marine protected areas. He was elected President for two years and presided over the Commission’s action to list the Gray Wolf as endangered in California, ban wildlife-killing contests statewide, and implement legislation prohibiting the use of toxic lead ammunition for all hunting.
Inside the US agency charged with killing a ‘mindboggling’ number of animals
After anti-government protesters took over Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this month to support two ranchers convicted of arson, it emerged that the convicts, Steven and Dwight Hammonds, had received thousands of dollars in financial support from the federal government. Read More
How cruelty killed the bobcat
You’ve probably never seen a bobcat. It’s an elusive creature that’s about two to three times the size of a house cat – a feline with distinctive spotted fur that’s coveted around the world. Read more
OLYMPIA, Wash. December 21, 2015 – In response to a challenge brought by a coalition of conservation organizations, a federal court rejected plans to escalate cruel wolf killing in Washington state by the secretive federal program dubbed “Wildlife Services.” Federal District Judge Robert Bryan held that Wildlife Services should have prepared a more in-depth environmental analysis of the impacts of its proposed wolf killing activities, finding the program’s cursory environmental assessment faulty because the proposed actions would have significant cumulative impacts that are highly controversial and highly uncertain.
Wildlife Services is a controversial program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service responsible for killing millions of wild animals every year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters, foxes, coyotes and birds, with almost no oversight or accountability.
Judge Bryan vacated the program’s analysis, stating “Wildlife Services shall not take any further wolf management actions in Washington under the proposed action alternative, but shall observe the status quo in place prior to the environmental assessment and [finding of no significant impact].”
“Wildlife Services has long asserted that it need not comply with our nations’ federal environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, but this decision rejects those arguments and requires Wildlife Services to comply with all federal laws, not just those it finds convenient to comply with,” said Western Environmental Law Center Attorney John Mellgren.
A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws. The program employs incredibly cruel tools to kill wildlife including aerial gunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons.
“It is long past time that we base wildlife management decisions on the best available science, not on antiquated anti-wolf rhetoric and myth,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “Wildlife Services needs to come out of the shadows, update its analyses and adopt practices in keeping with modern science and values about the ethical treatment of animals.”
The environmental assessment prepared by Wildlife Services failed to provide data to support several of its core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claimed that killing wolves reduced wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research from Washington State University directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. The environmental assessment also fails to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.
“This decision is so incredibly encouraging,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “We have been working for over a decade to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its blind, reckless lethal control programs. This decision paves the way for meaningful analysis of the program’s impacts and hopefully a meaningful look at whether or not this wolf killing is worth it.”
Washington has experienced Wildlife Services’ wolf killing program firsthand. In August 2014, Wildlife Services snipers shot and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female during a helicopter gunning operation. The death of the Huckleberry pack’s breeding female threatens the future of the entire pack.
Wildlife Services also “advised” the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the contentious 2012 killing of Washington’s Wedge wolf pack. In that instance, WDFW killed seven wolves after predation of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher’s failure to take sufficient action to protect his cattle.
“The Court made a wise and prudent decision that safeguards the legal right of citizens to know what their government is doing in their name,” said Timothy Coleman, executive director of Kettle Range Conservation Group. “The so-called Wildlife Services cannot just grant itself authority to execute an endangered species absent the public interest or best available science.”
Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The species began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s and the wolf population in the state has grown to 13 confirmed packs. Despite this growth, wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats. According to WDFW, Washington currently has at least 68 wolves in 16 packs.
The organizations, Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense and the Lands Council were represented by the Western Environmental Law Center.
by Dec 23, 2015 • 5:53 pmon
Plaintiffs applaud judge’s conclusions
By Ann McCreary
A federal judge has barred the federal Wildlife Services program from participating in lethal removal of gray wolves in Washington, and rejected an Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared by the agency.
In response to a challenge brought by a coalition of conservation organizations, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan said last week that Wildlife Services should have prepared a more in-depth environmental analysis of the effects of its proposed wolf management activities.
The lawsuit filed by five conservation organization earlier this year claimed that Wildlife Services, a federal program involved in wildlife management and conflict resolution, violated federal law by not preparing an adequately detailed environmental analysis of the effects of killing wolves that attack livestock in Washington.
An agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services has worked under contract with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) on lethal and non-lethal approaches to wolf-livestock conflict.
In 2014, Wildlife Services killed one wolf in the Huckleberry pack after state wildlife officials linked the pack to sheep kills. In 2012, Wildlife Services provided technical information to WDFW when the department killed seven wolves from the Wedge Pack following attacks on cattle.
In his ruling, Bryan said that “although Wildlife Services may have taken a hard look at the effects of lethal removal on non-target species, Wildlife Services did not take a hard look at the ecological effects of lethal removal or its effect on gray wolf populations” in its environmental analysis.
Bryan said the agreements on wolf management activities between WDFW and Wildlife Services left “the potential for substantial mismanagement of the Washington gray wolf population in the hands of Wildlife Services without the benefit of an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement).”
He said Wildlife Services failed to meet federal environmental policy requirements by not preparing an EIS and not taking a hard look at significant issues.
“Wildlife Services repeatedly but erroneously falls back on the position that it need not do so because it only intends to act at WDFW’s direction,” Bryan wrote.
The EA describes Wildlife Services’ intent to be bound to the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which “is subject to changes or additions by WDFW, giving the public scant recourse,” Bryan wrote.
“Wildlife Services acted arbitrarily and capriciously and contrary to law by not preparing an EIS,” Bryan said. “Although aspects of Wildlife Services’ consideration under the Environmental Assessment and FONSI (finding of no significant impact) were sufficiently thorough, Wildlife Services misjudged the scope of its responsibility by deferring to WDFW, rather than diligently considering issues that may arise under the potentially broad scope of involvement in the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.”
The judge ordered Wildlife Services to “not take any further wolf management actions in Washington” beyond the status quo that was in place prior to the Environmental Assessment and its finding of no significant impact.
The judge’s ruling was applauded by conservation groups that brought the case.
“The court made a wise and prudent decision that safeguards the legal right of citizens to know what their government is doing in their name,” said Timothy Coleman, executive director of the Kettle Range Conservation Group. “Wildlife Services cannot just grant itself authority to execute an endangered species absent the public interest or best available science.”
“We have been working for over a decade to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its blind, reckless lethal control programs,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “This decision paves the way for meaningful analysis of the program’s impacts and hopefully a meaningful look at whether or not this wolf killing is worth it.”
“Wildlife Services has long asserted that it need not comply with our nation’s federal environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, but this decision rejects those arguments and requires Wildlife Services to comply with all federal laws, not just those it finds convenient to comply with,” said John Mellgren, an attorney with Western Environmental Law Center, which represented the environmental organizations in court.
Donny Martorello of WDFW said that although Wildlife Services is now barred by the ruling from participating in lethal removal of gray wolves in Washington, the agency may continue to work on non-lethal management as requested by WDFW.
“Those activities have included trapping and collaring wolves, investigating reports of wolf-livestock depredations, and implementing non-lethal measures,” Martorello said in an email to members of the state’s Wolf Advisory Group.
WDFW filed a brief in support of Wildlife Services and Martorello said the two agencies are now considering their legal options for responding to the ruling.
In his order, Bryan said, “The decision on how to proceed — whether to prepare and EIS, renegotiate a narrower cope of involvement with WDFW, or abandon assistance efforts entirely — rests with Wildlife Services.”
Because the case is ongoing, WDFW would not discuss further details, Martorello said.
Organizations that brought the case are Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense, and the Lands Council.
Gray wolves are protected as an endangered species throughout Washington under state law, and in the western two-thirds of the state — which includes the Methow Valley — under federal law.
There were at least 68 wolves in 16 packs in Washington according to a 2014 wolf census by WDFW. Two wolf packs have been confirmed in the Methow Valley.
Editorial — Eugene, Oregon paper
But the court decision does little to deal with ongoing complaints of needless slaughter and cruelty to animals by Wildlife Services employees or to pierce the veil of secrecy surrounding many of the agency’s activities.
Critics describe it as a secretive, out-of-control agency that kills millions of animals a year, often at the behest of ranchers, without proof that the killing is necessary or useful.
In the last fiscal year, for example, Wildlife Services killed 323 gray timber wolves, almost 62,000 coyotes, 580 black bears, almost 2,600 mallards, 635 great blue herons and five golden eagles. The eagles were an accident, Wildlife Services said, as were two of the herons and 10 of the bears.
When the agency planned to increase wolf kills in Washington, a coalition of conservation agencies — including Cascadia Wildlands and Predator Defense, both based in Eugene — filed suit in March.
They alleged the agency was violating federal law by, among other things, not preparing a required Environmental Impact Statement.
This week, District Judge Robert Ryan agreed, ruling that “Wildlife Services acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in failing to do an EIS.
Ryan also criticized Wildlife Services for downplaying public concern and controversy surrounding the plan and failing to address ecological impacts. And he noted there is disagreement in the scientific community about whether killing more wolves has any impact on livestock deaths.
Environmentalists greeted the ruling with joy — “Wildlife Services has long asserted that it need not comply with our nation’s federal environmental laws … but this decision rejects those arguments,” said attorney John Mellgren, of the Eugene-based Western Environmental Law Center, which represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
But going forward it’s not clear how much impact it will have on how the federal agency operates.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a longtime critic, said he was disappointed by the results of an audit of Wildlife Services he requested in 2012. That audit, which was done by the inspector general of the USDA, the agency’s parent, was neither thorough nor independent, he said. “Ranching stakeholders wield a great deal of influence in Washington D.C … now it appears they are impacting the USDA IG’s office.” DeFazio said he is encouraged by this week’s court decision, which “highlights the many flaws in the Wildlife Services’ environmental analysis and actions.”
The court decision, however, is only a start. What is needed is an independent, national audit of Wildlife Services, opening up the agency to public scrutiny that can determine whether it should survive and, if so, in what form.
Gray wolf (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan of Tacoma, Washington, issued a summary judgment last Thursday against the low-profile agency, known as Wildlife Services.
Bryan said the agency should have prepared a more in-depth environmental analysis of its agreement with the state of Washington to help kill problem wolves.
Bryan ruled in favor of conservation groups that sued the agency, concluding that an environmental assessment prepared by the agency was flawed.
Wolves were hunted to extinction in Washington at the turn of the last century. But they started migrating from neighboring areas in the early 2000s and there are an estimated 16 wolf packs containing 68 wolves in the state, all in eastern Washington.
Wildlife Services failed to create a full environmental impact statement about the proposal to reduce wolf conflicts in the state, Bryan ruled.
Wildlife Services is a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is responsible for controlling the number of wolves, grizzly bears, coyotes and other wild animals. Officials at the agency didn’t have a response on the ruling.
Environmental groups cheered the ruling.
“It is long past time that we base wildlife management decisions on the best available science, not on antiquated, anti-wolf rhetoric and myth,” said Bethany Cotton of WildEarth Guardians.
Environmental groups contend the environmental assessment failed to address the full ecological impacts of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolves in neighboring states and on other animals, such as grizzly bears and Canada lynx.
Wildlife Services has been involved in the killing of wolves in Washington in the past.
In August 2014, Wildlife Services snipers shot from a helicopter and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female. The death of that pack’s breeding female threatened the future of the entire pack, environmental groups contended.
Wildlife Services also advised the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the 2012 destruction of the Wedge wolf pack in Eastern Washington. In that case, the state agency killed seven wolves after they preyed on livestock.
At the federal level, the state is split into two separate wolf populations. In the eastern third of the state, wolves are considered part of the large Northern Rocky Mountain population, which was removed from the endangered list in 2011. But in the western two-thirds of the state, wolves are considered part of the Pacific Northwest population, which is much smaller and still listed as endangered.
Oct. 5, 2015
– Screenings Oct. 12-16 in Coeur d’Alene, Moscow, Boise and Pocatello | See schedule
EUGENE, OR – An award-winning wildlife documentary that Jane Goodall wants millions to see is coming to Idaho, the biggest wolf-killing state in the nation. Idaho also has a reputation as a veritable playground for hunters, trappers and federal agents, who slaughter hundreds of thousands of wild animals unnecessarily there each year.
The film, EXPOSED: USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife, features three former federal agents and a prominent Congressman blowing the whistle on a barbaric and wasteful wildlife management program within the USDA called “Wildlife Services.” Every year agents from this program kill millions of animals across the nation. They are highly active in Idaho, and their methods-which are taxpayer funded-ignore science, harm humans, and kill pets and endangered species.
Idaho earned its reputation as the country’s biggest wolf-killing state by slaughtering close to 2,000 gray wolves since 2011, when they lost federal endangered species protection and management was turned over to state wildlife agencies. Idaho has even allowed Wildlife Services agents to gun down wolves from helicopters over the “Lolo Zone,” a prime wolf habitat in the North-Central part of the state. The Lolo Zone features some of the most rugged and beautiful public wildlands in the Lower 48. Idaho’s stated goal is to reduce their wolf population to 150, a scientifically disastrous objective that destroys the positive effect apex predators have on ecosystems and the biodiversity they foster.
Wildlife Services is charged with taking out any threat to livestock-real or alleged. This killing is done largely for the benefit of private individuals who don’t take responsibility for protecting their animals.
The whistle-blowers in the film “EXPOSED” reveal deeply entrenched problems within this federal agency, not the least of which is lack of accountability with federal funds. Another problem is Wildlife Services’ obstinacy in ignoring science, which clearly shows the exponentially accelerating ecological damage caused by killing off predator species.
But the biggest outcry is about the inhumane and indiscriminate methods the agents use-traps, snares, aerial gunning and poisons. Ironically, these devices often pose a greater risk than the very wild animals they purport to control. Many proven nonlethal alternatives that minimize conflicts with wild animals are available, but Wildlife Services does not require landowners to use them before their trappers apply lethal force.
To date, countless people and pets have suffered injury and death due to negligent use of traps and poisons. And while Wildlife Services’ own directives require agents to post warnings to alert the public, they often don’t post them. When they do, the signs are only marginally effective, as animals and young children don’t understand them.
Wildlife Services has been publicly condemned by Jane Goodall, PH.D., DBE, who said “I hope EXPOSED will be watched by millions, so Americans will learn of the unforgivable actions of those who have exercised their power to cause untold agony to thousands of innocent fellow creatures on our planet.” The agency has also been excoriated by The Humane Society of the United States, the American Society of Mammalogists, and many other credible organizations and individuals.
“EXPOSED” won Best Short Film at the 2015 Animal Film Festival and Best Wildlife Activism at the 2014 Wildlife Conservation Film Festival.
Screenings will be held in four cities and will be followed by an audience question and answer session with film co-producer/director Brooks Fahy. The events are being sponsored by Predator Defense, Friends of the Clearwater, Advocates for the West, Western Watersheds Project, and the Kootenai Environmental Alliance.
Monday, October 12, 6 p.m.
Coeur d’Alene Library Community Room
702 E. Front Ave.
Tuesday, October 13, 7 p.m.
1912 Center, Great Room
412 E. Third St.
Thursday, October 15, 4 p.m.
4:00 p.m., Boise State University
Student Union Building, Lookout Room
Thursday, October 15, 7:30 p.m.
The Flicks, 646 W. Fulton St, Boise
$5 at door
Friday, October 16, 7 p.m.
Idaho State University
Student Union Building, POND Wood River Room
$5 at door
# # #
About Predator Defense
The Idaho Fish and Game Department has announced that no wolves will be killed in the federally-protected Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness during the winter of 2015-16.
The announcement comes after a lawsuit brought by Defenders and other conservation groups to stop the killing of wolves to boost elk populations in federally-protected wilderness lands like Frank Church Wilderness.
The Frank Church Wilderness is the largest national forest wilderness area in the Lower 48 States and a core habitat for gray wolves in the western United States. I know you share my view that wilderness should be managed as wilderness, not as a game farm for favored hunters and commercial outfitters.
The state has previously planned to kill up to 60 percent of the wolves living in Frank Church, in large part to artificially inflate elk numbers for hunters. Those wolves can breathe easier for another winter after this latest decision.
Still, it’s important to remember that this reprieve is only temporary and that we must remain vigilant in our efforts to defend wolves in Idaho.
But thanks to you and your support, Defenders will continue to work tirelessly to protect wolves throughout the Lower 48.
Thank you for your compassion and your continued partnership!
USDA Wildlife Services has continued killing geese in our local and state parks with a death toll of over 1,200 in 2014. The killing season for 2015 is now well underway. Most of this is being carried out under an interlocal agreement whose members include Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Renton and others. Washington State Parks is the most recent member.
After hiring Wildlife Services in 2013 to kill geese at Lake Sammamish State Park, Washington State Parks stated it had no plans to kill geese in 2014 in any of our state parks. However, in 2014, they once again paid to have geese killed at Lake Sammamish and Deception Pass state parks.
In addition to inhumanely killing geese, Wildlife Services has an apparent recordkeeping problem. In a report to members of the interlocal agreement, Wildlife Services stated that it killed 1,213 geese in King County in 2014. However, it could only provide a detailed report with the date, location and method of killing for 19 geese. Where, when and how were the other 1,194 geese killed? One has to question, why is there such a discrepancy?
When asked about the number of Canada Geese in the areas covered by the agreement, Wildlife Services’ response was, “No records exist that estimates the number of geese in the areas covered by the agreement in 2014.”
Although Wildlife Services is required to keep detailed records, they have no idea of how many geese exist in the area and almost no records concerning the killing.
Interlocal agreement members need to stop the killing and implement a management plan that includes proven humane measures. Also, they need to be held accountable for accepting obvious omissions and inaccuracies in the recordkeeping and reporting provided by Wildlife Services.