Mendocino Board of Supervisors Votes 3 to 2 to End Contract with USDA Wildlife Services
A Wildlife Article from

FROM ProjectCoyote
August 2021

We know through science that indiscriminate killing of coyotes, bobcats, bears, mountain lions and other wild animals is not effective at conflict mitigation and more and more communities are questioning the ethics of this arcane approach.

howling pack

Wildlife advocates declared victory when the Mendocino Board of Supervisors voted 3 to 2 on Tuesday to terminate their contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program. Mendocino County, like most western counties, contracted with the federal program to kill native wild animals largely at the behest of ranchers and farmers. This victory comes after nearly a decade of attempts to hold Wildlife Services accountable to the public that funds their lethal activities in the county.

In 2014, Project Coyote and allies appealed to county supervisors to end the contract with Wildlife Services after information revealed that a federal trapper had killed more than 400 dogs in the county during his course of business as a taxpayer-subsidized federal trapper. When the county refused to end the contract, Project Coyote and allies sued the County, arguing that the contract violated the California Environmental Quality Act. A settlement resulted in Draft Environmental Impact Report that found potential significant harm to the regional mountain lion population. The county suspended their contract with Wildlife Services but later resumed needless killing of native carnivores. Wildlife advocates continued to pressure county policymakers to permanently terminate the contract, maintaining that funding the killing of native wildlife with taxpayer dollars is ethically indefensible and ecologically reckless.

“We commend the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors who voted in support of ending this deadly contract,” said Camilla Fox, Project Coyote Founder and Executive Director. “For far too long this agency has run rough-shod over native wildlife and unsuspecting communities-- trapping, snaring, and poisoning wildlife at taxpayer expense at the behest of private ranchers. We know through science that indiscriminate killing of coyotes, bobcats, bears, mountain lions and other wild animals is not effective at conflict mitigation- and more and more communities are questioning the ethics of this arcane approach.”

Dozens of wildlife advocates testified and wrote in support of ending the contract with Wildlife Services and adopting a non-lethal program. “Wildlife Services claims that its goal is to allow people and wildlife to coexist, but nothing could be further from the truth,” stated Dr. Michelle Lute, Project Coyote National Carnivore Conservation Manager, in her testimony before the board. “Mendocino County is finally free of this archaic, ineffective program and can focus on what we know works: non-lethal coexistence that protects humans, their companion animals, and wildlife. We look forward to working with the county and Supervisors Haschak and McGourty to implement an effective program.”

In 2020, Wildlife Services killed 24,264 native wild animals including 56 black bears, 39 mountain lions and 3,252 coyotes in California. Across the country, Wildlife Services’ outdated program continues using taxpayer dollars for expensive and inhumane lethal methods (such as trapping and poisoning) to kill native wildlife. This federal agency rarely uses effective nonlethal tools and it strongly resists informing the public about its lethal practices.

“An era of intense drought and higher temperatures is affecting local wildlife populations in ways we do not know or seem prepared to measure. Wisdom and concern for the future would have us protect and preserve the County’s wildlife far better than local government is doing currently,” said Don Lipmanson, Project Coyote Advisory Board member and former Mendocino County Planning Commissioner. “We commend the Mendocino County community for making this enlightened decision.” Lipmanson helped form the Mendocino Non-lethal Wildlife Alliance, an ad hoc group of seasoned regional wildlife advocates who aim to promote non-lethal approaches to addressing wildlife conflicts within the county, and which played an essential role in winning termination of the lethal Wildlife Services contract.

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