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September 16, 2010

Wildlife Services' War on Wildlife

  • The USDA's Wildlife Services program killed around 89,000 coyotes in 2008. John Harrison

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program spends millions of taxpayer dollars to inhumanely kill as many as 100,000 wild predators annually.

More accurately described by its former name, Animal Damage Control, Wildlife Services spent $57.9 million in fiscal year 2008 to kill 124,414 wild animals (like coyotes, foxes, and badgers) in the name of protecting crops, livestock, private property, and "natural resources" such as birds who are endangered or favored by hunters.

The methods used to kill these animals include shooting from helicopters and airplanes, trapping, poisoning, and denning (poisoning pups in their dens).

Trapping and poisoning injure or kill "non-target" animals such as deer, birds, and pets—even endangered species.  

All this, despite the development of non-lethal methods to protect livestock and crops, and evidence that killing predators doesn't even solve the problem.

Predators aren't the problem

Coyotes and other predators provide easy scapegoats for the many difficulties faced by ranchers, and an easy target for Wildlife Services.

But overall, predators account for a small percentage of livestock losses.

Protect wild animals—encourage humane solutions:

contact USDA Secretary Vilsack today»

The vast majority of livestock loss is caused by disease, severe weather, and difficulty during calving or lambing.

While coyotes and foxes are blamed for bird population declines, in most cases, habitat loss and/or fragmentation is the real culprit. Once this has taken place, these populations are more vulnerable to predation by other wild animals. 

Though lethal predator control may seem a simple solution, reducing predator populations only occasionally increases bird population increases, and then only for a short time. Such increases require continued and widespread lethal predator control, continuing the cycle of cruelty without ever tackling the actual problem.

Humane alternatives

Changing livestock husbandry practices and adopting non-lethal strategies can go a long way toward reducing or eliminating predator-caused livestock losses over the long term. Husbandry practices include:

  • bringing sheep into a barn during lambing (when they are especially vulnerable)
  • corralling livestock at night
  • removing livestock carcasses before they attract coyotes, bears, or other predators.

Non-lethal means of reducing livestock depredations include:

  • livestock-guarding animals
  • electric fencing
  • aversive conditioning of attacking predators.

Finally, improving and preserving habitat, as well as installing fencing that excludes predators, are long-term, inexpensive solutions that will serve both people and wildlife. 

Take action

Help protect wild animals and encourage humane solutions: contact USDA Secretary Vilsack today.


Sources: National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, Annual Tables

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