Legally Brief: The Government’s Secret War on Wildlife

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on September 26, 2013

A secretive government agency out of control, killing for the sake of killing… not a far-fetched fiction, but rather the reality within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. The stunning documentary Wild Things from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) chronicles our national taxpayer-funded war on native carnivores like coyotes. The film includes interviews with experienced ranchers who choose nonlethal methods of predator control as well as a former Wildlife Services agent who has spoken out against the agency. ALDF, NRDC, Project Coyote, and others joined together for a screening this week in Sonoma County. Guests enjoyed a free screening and complimentary vegan fare.

For decades, wildlife advocates have known that Wildlife Services gets away with its lethal agenda, including reckless and illegal actions, because it is shrouded in secrecy and lacks proper oversight. Worse, its war on wildlife is also wildly ineffective, making the carnage meaningless even if one supports the program. For example, the U.S. spends approximately 100 million dollars of taxpayer money every year to kill 100,000 predators—mostly coyotes—yet the coyote population has tripled in recent years.

We possess the tools and technology to resolve conflicts in a more effective and non-lethal manner. It is time for Wildlife Services to modernize or be dropped from wildlife management programs across the country. Our ecosystems are at stake and we must ask ourselves whether we share the earth, or merely want to exploit it until it is damaged beyond repair.

The Problem

Here in Sonoma County, California alone, Wildlife Services kills hundreds of large predators like mountain lions, bobcats, bears, foxes, and coyotes every year. Indiscriminate methods used by Wildlife Services have killed over 50,000 non-targeted animals—like dogs—in the U.S. in just over a decade (and those are reported numbers, the real toll may be much higher). The agency regularly deploys cage, steel-jaw, and “Conibear” traps and wire snares, which maim and trap animals who may take several days to die. These cruel devices have injured hikers and killed pets, not only in wild or rural areas, but in populated suburban landscapes too. Although California has banned many of these methods, including cyanide and leg-hold traps and the use of dogs to hunt predators, Wildlife Services is often exempted.



Unlike Sonoma, neighboring Marin County does not employ Wildlife Services for predatory animal control. Instead, Marin uses a non-lethal program that has allowed some ranchers to see predation-losses decrease by over 60% in the past 13 years, at about one-third of the cost. Last month, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sent a letter to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and Sonoma County Agriculture Commissioner, urging them to terminate their predator control contract with Wildlife Services. We also asked that appropriate environmental review and resource allocation be undertaken, in accordance with California state law, prior to further killing by Wildlife Services. But more importantly, we want to expand on Marin’s model for non-lethal alternatives and show that they can be used effectively across the country.

3 thoughts on “Legally Brief: The Government’s Secret War on Wildlife

  1. Lydia says:

    excellent plans for reform; let’s hope more counties follow suit. Thanks for enlightening us and demonstrating better, more effective and humane solutions.

  2. Susan Pateracki says:

    Animals have done us no harm and they have no power of resistance. There is something so very dreadful in tormenting those who have never harmed us, who cannot defend themselves, who are utterly in our power.

    The continued drop of compassion and kindness will not go unpunished.

    True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on animals. It is our duty as Humans to extend our circle of compassion to all animals as well.

    Today’s moral breakdown is unbearably evil and is affecting children also. Child abuse, torture, and murder is higher than ever and usually done by the parents of the child.

    Love of animals is a universal impulse, a common ground on which all of us may meet. By loving and understanding animals, perhaps we humans shall come to understand each other.
    It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.

    The awful wrongs and sufferings forced upon the innocent, faithful animal race form the blackest chapter in the whole world’s history.

    Love of animals is a universal impulse, a common ground on which all of us may meet. By loving and understanding animals, perhaps we humans shall come to understand each other. As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, and no harmony between people Until one has loved an animal, a part of
    The Result of to many years of animal abuse and even worse today is that morals have continued to drop to the lack of people having compassion and kindness.

    The loss of morals are also putting children in danger. Child abuse, torture, and murder is higher than ever. The two most Vulnerable Victims are children and animals. All animal abuse and torture must stop now. Pet are abused, tortured, and killed.

    Never before in history has it been so bad. This behavior will not go unpunished. When you have no compassion for other people or animals, God has no compassion for you.

    Animals cannot speak, but they can suffer, and their Creator, God, knows their sufferings, and will hold those who cause them to suffer unnecessarily responsible. It is a sin against their Creator, God. , Jesus said I say unto you, they who partake of benefits which are gotten by wronging one of God’s creatures, cannot be righteous.;

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