WASHINGTON— The arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed nearly 1.5 million native animals during 2018, according to new data released by the agency this week.
The multimillion-dollar federal wildlife-killing program targets wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals for destruction — primarily to benefit the agriculture industry. Of the 2.6 million animals killed last year, nearly 1.5 million were native wildlife species.
“I’m outraged that the Department of Agriculture continues to needlessly slaughter our important native wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle more than a million animals every year. Even pets and endangered species are being killed, and it has to stop.”
According to the latest report, the federal program last year intentionally killed 357 gray wolves; 68,186 adult coyotes, plus an unknown number of coyote pups in 361 destroyed dens; 515,915 red-winged blackbirds; 338 black bears; 375 mountain lions; 1,002 bobcats; 173 river otters plus 537 killed “unintentionally”; 3,349 foxes, plus an unknown number of fox pups in 133 dens; and 22,521 beavers.
The program also killed 17,739 prairie dogs outright, as well as an unknown number killed in more than 47,547 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated. These figures almost certainly underestimate the actual number of animals killed, as program insiders have revealed that Wildlife Services kills many more animals than it reports.
According to the new data, the wildlife-killing program unintentionally killed more than 2,700 animals last year, including bears, bobcats, foxes, muskrats, otters, porcupines, raccoons and turtles. Its killing of non-target birds included chickadees, cardinals, ducks, eagles, hawks, herons, owls and turkeys.
Dozens of domestic animals, including pets and livestock, were also killed or caught. Such data reveals the indiscriminate nature of painful leg-hold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and other methods used by federal agents.
“The barbaric, outdated tactics Wildlife Services uses to destroy America’s animals are appalling and need to end,” Adkins said. “Wolves, bears and other carnivores help balance the web of life where they live. They should be protected, not persecuted.”
The wildlife-killing program contributed to the decline of gray wolves, Mexican wolves, black-footed ferrets, black-tailed prairie dogs and other imperiled species during the first half of the 1900s and continues to impede their recovery today.