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Wildlife Services' War on Wildlife Slaughters Imperiled Species and Dogs
Michelle Lute, 406-848-4910, firstname.lastname@example.org
MISSOULA, MT — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s secretive wildlife killing program released its alarming body count of animals killed last year yesterday. In 2016, the ironically-named “Wildlife Services” program operating under the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, spent millions of taxpayer dollars to kill 1,594,595 native animals, which translates to over three animals every minute during 2016. This slaughter occurs largely in support of agricultural special interests at the expense of taxpayers, public safety and biodiversity.
Carnivore casualties include 997 bobcats, 332 cougars, 415 gray wolves, 407 black bears, 1,788 gray foxes and 1,882 red foxes. Coyotes are the most persecuted carnivore with a death toll at 76,963 animals. Many keystone species-that other species in an ecosystem largely depend-are a favored target of Wildlife Services, which admitted killing 21,286 beavers, 14,591 black-tailed prairie dogs and destroying 58,604 prairie dog burrows. The program also admitted to accidentally killing 39 domestic dogs as well as 181 intentional killings of feral or free-roaming dogs and 15 unspecified other domestic animals. The actual carnage is likely much higher as Wildlife Services employees have admitted to underreporting unintentional kills of non-target animals and imperiled species.
“Wildlife Services’ cruel practices occur at the expense of public safety and proper science based wildlife management,” said Michelle Lute, wildlife coexistence campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “Trapping turns our public lands into minefields, making them lethal for wildlife, companion animals, and humans.”
Wildlife Services’ lethal arsenal includes a variety of highly contentious and cruel tools, including trapping, snaring, poisoning and aerial gunning. This slaughter occurs in defiance of the best available science, which shows that indiscriminate killing only exacerbates potential conflict between carnivores and livestock. Modern wildlife management utilizes a wide variety of effective non-lethal tools and has been proven to prevent human-wildlife conflict.
“Wildlife Services’ killing of native wildlife is scientifically baseless, ethically bankrupt, and fiscally foolish,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “Most Americans would be outraged to know that millions of dollars of their hard-earned money is spent on killing native wildlife using cruel traps, snares, and aerial gunning largely on our public lands.”
WildEarth Guardians recently released a report detailing the War on Wildlife waged by Wildlife Services. The report also outlines how the program can reform to be more transparent, accountable to the public and end unethical and ineffective killing of native animals. Putting an end to Wildlife Services’ barbaric, outdated and ineffective practices is a critical step toward ensuring our public lands are safe havens for wildlife, people and their companion animals.