For Immediate Release, May 5, 2020

Contact:

Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821, cadkins@biologicaldiversity.org
Tom Wheeler, Environmental Protection Information Center, (707) 822-7711, tom@wildcalifornia.org
Mike Andrade-Heymsfield, Animal Legal Defense Fund, (707) 364-8387, media@aldf.org
Camilla Fox, Project Coyote, (415) 690-0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org
Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute, (202) 446-2128, margie@awionline.org
Lindsay Larris, Wild Earth Guardians, (310) 923-1465, llarris@wildearthguardians.org

Humboldt County Agrees to Prioritize Nonlethal Solutions to Wildlife Conflict

Reforms Emphasize Coexistence with Coyotes, Beaver and Other Wildlife

EUREKA, Calif.—Humboldt County approved a new contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program today that will reduce its killing of wildlife involved in conflicts with residents by prioritizing non-lethal measures. The contract also prohibits the killing of beavers.

Conservation advocates began working with county officials after notifying them that its existing previous contract with Wildlife Services violated state law by allowing the use of lethal methods without considering their impacts to the environment.

“We’re grateful that Humboldt County has taken this step toward more humane and effective management of its wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m hopeful that the days of Wildlife Services’ indiscriminate and cruel killing of California’s wildlife are coming to an end.”

For nearly a decade, Humboldt County has employed Wildlife Services to kill hundreds of native animals. Data from the federal wildlife-killing program show that in the period from 2008 to 2017, Wildlife Services killed at least 178 coyotes, 54 black bears, 43 gray foxes, 23 mountain lions, 483 raccoons, 880 skunks and 112 opossums — many on behalf of the livestock industry.

Wildlife Services now can only kill animals in urban or suburban areas of the county after implementation of “all feasible non-lethal mitigation measures.” The new contract also imposes reporting requirements and restricts cruel or ecologically harmful killing methods such as pesticides, lead ammunition and body-gripping traps.

“Humboldt County’s wildlife can rest a little safer because of today’s agreement," said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Arcata-based Environmental Protection Information Center. “EPIC would like to particularly thank the Agriculture Commissioner and Board of Supervisors for recognizing that most human-wildlife conflicts are preventable and for working with the coalition to reduce unnecessary killing of wildlife.”

Humboldt County is the most recent California county to reform its wildlife management program. Shasta, Siskiyou, Monterey, Sonoma and Mendocino counties have all terminated, suspended, or considered the environmental effects of their contracts after conservationists and others filed or threatened legal action.

“It is vital that every government agency, from local to the federal level, follow the law for the protection of wildlife,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “We will continue to ensure laws that protect animals are followed and enforced.”

“Marin County led the way by ending its contract with Wildlife Services in 2000 and adopting a non-lethal cost-share program in place of lethal control,” said Camilla Fox, executive director of Marin-based Project Coyote. “We are so pleased to see other counties in California and beyond now considering alternatives to killing.”

“We are glad to see Humboldt County acknowledging science and recognizing that indiscriminate wildlife killing is neither effective nor humane management,” said Bethany Cotton, terrestrial wildlife director for the Animal Welfare Institute. “We look forward to a future where non-lethal coexistence tools are the norm across California and nationwide.”

“Co-existence with our wild lands and the animals that inhabitant them is not just possible but imperative to ecosystem balance,” said Debra Chase, CEO of the Mountain Lion Foundation. “We commend the county for taking this action.”

“Even though Wildlife Services has multiple non-lethal methods at its disposal, this federal program has for far too long been given carte blanche by local governments to kill wildlife rather than find other solutions to mitigate human-wildlife conflict,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director of WildEarth Guardians. “We are pleased that Humboldt County is taking this step towards coexistence in holding Wildlife Services to a higher standard of conduct that we hope to see emulated across the American West.”

The coalition that worked with Humboldt County toward today’s new contract includes the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Mountain Lion Foundation, Project Coyote and WildEarth Guardians.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Forty years of fighting for animals: The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

The Mountain Lion Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of America’s lion and their habitat. Since 1986 the Foundation and more than 7000 of its members have acted on the belief that mountain lions are in peril and our nation is on the verge of destroying this apex species upon which whole ecosystems depend.

Since 1977, EPIC has advocated for the protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests and wildlands, using an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.

Project Coyote, a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Northern California, is a coalition of wildlife educators, scientists, ranchers, and community leaders promoting coexistence between people and wildlife, and compassionate conservation through education, science, and advocacy. For more information, visit ProjectCoyote.org.

The Animal Welfare Institute (www.awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere – in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

WildEarth Guardians is a non-profit organization, founded in 1989, committed to the protection and restoration of wildlife, wild places, wild rivers and the health of the American West. For more information, visit www.wildearthguardians.org.