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Originally Posted: 20 December 2008
Urge Nominated Agriculture Secretary to End Cruel, Unnecessary Killing of Wolves, Cougars, Bears, Coyotes and Other Wildlife
Below is a letter Big Wildlife has prepared to the nominated Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging him to reform the federal government’s wildlife “management” policies that for too long have focused on exterminating, rather than protecting, wildlife. Specifically, we are urging the Secretary Vilsack to end Wildlife Service’s aggressive and expansive lethal control of carnivore wildlife. In addition, we are requesting the Agriculture Secretary meet with a small group of representatives from conservation and animal protection groups to discuss the issue in more detail.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
To show broad support for protecting carnivore species, Big Wildlife would like your organization to sign onto the letter (scroll down to read the letter). To sign on, simply send the following information to Brian Vincent at email@example.com:
Once Brian receives the information above he will add you and your organization to the letter.
Big Wildlife will release the final letter, complete with the list of signatories, to media to help raise awareness about the plight of wildlife.
DEADLINE TO SIGN ON
Wednesday, December 24, 2008.
Every year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services kills millions of animals, including thousands of native carnivores. The agency employs a host of cruel – and largely ineffective, expensive, and unnecessary – methods to kill coyotes, bears, cougars, wolves, and other wildlife. Animals are shot, poisoned, gassed, trapped, snared, clubbed, pursued by hounds, helicopters, and planes, and lured to bait stations where they are gunned down. Other animals, even dogs and cats, are unintentionally injured or killed by agency actions. In 2007, alone, the agency killed 2.4 million animals, including 121,565 carnivores. Wildlife Services kills wild animals for such minor offenses as wandering onto private property, eating pet food, and digging in gardens. Thousands more are killed to mollify agribusiness, even though non-lethal measures, such as installation of proper fencing, strobes, and motion detector devices, are often effective in preventing conflicts. Carnivore populations are also “culled” to boost “game” species for hunters. In addition, these animals are frequently targeted out of hysteria perpetuated by some government agencies, hunters, and development interests. Yet, it is usually irresponsible human behavior that leads to conflicts with wildlife. For more information visit www.bigwildlife.org <http://www.bigwildlife.org/>
SIGN-ON LETTER TO INCOMING SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE (to be sent once the new Agriculture Secretary is appointed)
Dear Secretary of Agriculture:
We, the undersigned conservation and animal protection organizations, congratulate you on your appointment as Secretary of Agriculture. We look forward to working with you to protect the nation’s environment, wildlife, and natural ecosystems. With that in mind, we encourage you to reform the Agriculture Department's wildlife “management” policies that for too long have focused on exterminating, rather than protecting, wildlife. Specifically, we urge the Department to end Wildlife Service’s aggressive and expansive lethal control of wildlife. Representatives from our coalition also request a meeting with you to discuss these issues in more detail.
Every year, the Agriculture Department's Wildlife Services kills millions of animals, including thousands of native carnivores. The agency employs a host of cruel – and largely ineffective, expensive, and unnecessary – methods to kill coyotes, bears, cougars, wolves, and other wildlife. Animals are shot, poisoned, gassed, trapped, snared, clubbed, pursued by hounds, helicopters, and planes, and lured to bait stations where they are gunned down. Other animals, even dogs and cats, are unintentionally injured or killed by agency actions. In 2007, alone, the agency killed 2.4 million animals, including 121,565 carnivores. Wildlife Services reported it spent over $100 million last year to kill wildlife, much of which was funded by taxpayers. Among those animals killed in 2007: 90,262 coyotes, 2,277 gray foxes, 2,412 red foxes, 2,090 bobcats, 1,133 cats, 552 dogs, 577 badgers, and 340 gray wolves.
Wildlife Services kills wild animals for such minor offenses as wandering onto private property, eating pet food, and digging in gardens. Thousands more are killed to mollify agribusiness, even though non-lethal measures, such as the use of guard dogs and installation of proper fencing, are often effective in preventing conflicts. Carnivore populations are also “culled” to boost “game” species for hunters. In addition, these animals are frequently targeted out of hysteria perpetuated by some government agencies, hunters, and development interests. Yet, it is usually irresponsible human behavior that leads to conflicts with wildlife.
Wildlife Services utilizes killing methods that are non-selective, haphazard, and brutal, including:
Trapping may be the most inhumane method used by Wildlife Services. Traps can go unchecked for days, allowing the animal to suffer. When not killed outright by the trap, animals can endure physiological trauma, dehydration, exposure to severe weather, and predation by other animals. Most traps are notoriously indiscriminate, capturing almost any animal who triggers them. Non-target species found in traps include endangered species, raptors, dogs, and cats. The most commonly used trap is the steel-jawed leghold trap, a restraining device with spring-loaded jaws that clamp on an animal’s foot or leg when triggered. Leghold traps can cause fractures, self-mutilation, limb amputation, and death. A desperate animal will even try to chew off a limb to escape. Snares are primitive wire nooses that tighten around an animal’s leg or neck. When snared, an animal may struggle for days.
Wildlife Services uses helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to shoot animals from the air. In 2007, the agency killed over 37,000 animals using aircraft. An agency Environmental Assessment revealed many wounded animals may be left to die. Because Wildlife Services uses snowfall to track coyotes in early spring, agents may kill pregnant or lactating females. Deaths of the latter leave pups to starve. Aerial gunning is also used for “preventative predator control,” permitting agents to shoot as many carnivores as they can prior to domestic animals entering an area. The price tag for shooting carnivores from the sky can be high: killing one coyote can cost $1,000.
Wildlife Services prefers two toxins to kill predators: Sodium Monofluoroacetate (aka Compound 1080), a rat poison developed by the Nazis during World War II, and sodium cyanide. To distribute 1080, the agency uses Livestock Protection Collars – rubber bladders attached to the neck of a goat or sheep that, when pierced, releases the poison. 1080 is so lethal a single teaspoon can kill 100 people. Wildlife Services also sets M-44 devices, spring-loaded, baited mechanisms that release sodium cyanide into the mouth of any animal who disturbs the device. 1080 and sodium cyanide present serious national security risks. The FBI has listed both as “super poisons” that are “most likely to be used by terrorists or for malicious intent.”
Denning is the practice of tracking carnivores to their dens then killing pups inside. Poisonous gas canisters are placed in dens to asphyxiate pups. Or government agents dig pups out and shoot, club, or decapitate them. Pups have even been burned alive in their den.
Ignoring the importance of Carnivores
Wildlife Services’ lethal control programs ignore the importance of carnivores. As “keystone species," carnivores play a pivotal role in sustaining ecological integrity and preserving species diversity. For example, large carnivores regulate deer and elk, as well as smaller mammal, populations. The disappearance of top carnivores triggers the loss of other species and the intricate connections among the remaining residents begin to unravel. Many carnivore species need big, wild areas to survive. Wide-ranging animals like grizzly bears are considered “umbrella” species. By protecting habitat for such predators, we save places for many more animal and plant species.
Many non-lethal solutions are less expensive and more effective than killing. Ranchers who use guard dogs, llamas, burros, or even mixing cows with sheep report lower or no predation problems. Nighttime penning, penning during lambing and calving season, and removing animal carcasses from pastures also reduce conflicts. In addition, strobes and sirens are effective for preventing predation. Monies spent on lethal control would be better used to educate and aid ranchers, farmers, and others to upgrade their fencing or assist them with utilizing non-lethal techniques. Eliminating domestic animal grazing on public lands would sharply reduce encounters with carnivores.
Again, we urge you to end Wildlife Services’ lethal control program of carnivores. We believe the public and its trust resources would be far better served by shifting the agency’s resources away from expansive killing of animals to providing public education about wildlife and employing non-lethal, humane measures to prevent conflicts. Such reforms would provide critical safeguards for communities and our nation’s wildlife and natural heritage. Thank you.
 Though such measures would normally be considered violations of cruelty to animal statutes, Wildlife Services agents are legally permitted to use an arsenal of inhumane methods to kill wildlife.
 USDA Wildlife Damage
 A Coalition to End Aerial Gunning of Wildlife
 Environmental Assessment for Predator Damage Management in Eastern Colorado. 1999. 4-21. Colorado Wildlife Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
For more information, visit Big Wildlife.
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