Wednesday, November 02, 2016

COTW: Wildlife Services Told to Get Real

credit: High Country News
The federal agency that is in the business of killing wildlife at the whim of agricultural interests, Wildlife Services (a misnomer if there ever was one) was ordered by a federal court to update its twenty-two year old nationwide environmental impact statement on which it relies to kill wolves among a long list of other species labeled "vermin" or "predator" [see chart above]. The agency rarely uses non-lethal means to control wildlife populations because half of its budget is controlled by contracts with state and local agencies and businesses. Research on non-lethal alternatives is therefore stalled. The agency has been "studying" non-lethal controls since 1972! It killed a sickening and shocking 2.7 million animals in 2014, including 796 bobcats, 322 wolves, 580 black bears, 305 cougars and 61,702 coyotes. As a former agency biologist said, “Until Wildlife Services is told differently by the people who pay the bills, it’s hard to imagine real change. Managing animals is easy. Managing people is really hard.”

The court order came as part of a settlement with Wild Guardians, a non-profit conservation group and Wildlife Services in Nevada. The agency agreed to stop its operations in that state until the assessment is updated to properly address the impacts of predator removal in Nevada. Cultural predispositions are difficult to change. Predators in the west have been summarily shot since Meriwether Lewis killed a grizzly bear in Montana in 1805. Given that fact that in the 21st century many North American mammals are dying off due to habitat loss, its past time for man to change his behavior towards his fellow creatures. Non lethal control means work. Fifty-eight percent of sheep ranchers in Montana now use deterrence methods including guard dogs and lamb sheds. The backward state of Idaho paid $4600 per wolf in 2014 to gun down wolves. Developing a habit of tolerance is what is needed, not more genocide.