U.S. Wildlife Services branch killed four million animals in a single year
DENVER -- A little-known branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture killed more than four million wild animals and pets in 2009, according to an animal advocacy group's findings. The Wildlife Services branch slaughtered 27,314 beavers, 988,577 blackbirds, and 114,522 mammalian carnivores (including 1,775 bobcats, 82,097 coyotes, 571 river otters, and 443 black bears), according to information the agency was forced to provide. Among the list of slain beasts were 480 wolves, an animal that is listed as endangered under federal law in Montana and Idaho. "Apparently, Wildlife Services is comprised of bands of secret agents," Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth stated in a news release. "One group, the assassins, operates on our national forests and kills millions of the public's wildlife using helicopters, guns, poisons, traps, and hounds. The second, the artful dodgers, play shell games in the dark with the public's money."
The agency is required by court order to post their kill figures annually and has complied during the last two years, according to WildEarth, but has refused to release line-item expenditures associated with certain controversial initiatives, such as gunning down wolves. The agency has claimed that such data isn't tracked and is therefore unavailable, according to WildEarth.
Many conservation biologists have been critical of Wildlife Services' approach to managing carnivores. WildEarth Guardians said findings add to claims that agents techniques are indiscriminate. Of the 571 river otters the branch killed in 2009, Wildlife Services documents show that 84 percent were killed accidentally. "This is simply not tolerable: river otters are sorely lacking from many river systems," said Keefover-Ring.
Image: North American river otters/WikiCommons