Share

USDA Wildlife Service Killed More Than 4 Million Wild Animals in 2013

By Laura Dattaro
Published: June 11, 2014

The U.S. Department of Agriculture killed 4.3 million wild animals in fiscal year 2013, 2 million of which were native species, according to data posted to the agency’s web site. The animals included three eagles, one bald and two golden, which are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

A program called Wildlife Services, which falls under the USDA agency Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), is tasked with managing invasive species and handling wildlife when it interferes with human activities like agriculture and property threats. The number of animals killed varies widely from year to year, according to The Washington Post, hitting a peak of 5 million in 2008 after remaining at a relatively low 1.5 million in the early 2000s.

Last year, Wildlife Services killed 75,326 coyotes, plus destroying 366 coyote dens; 345 mountain lions; 321 wolves, including one extremely rare Mexican gray wolf; 603 monkeys; 6,498 vultures; 10,486 mynas, a type of starling; and 37 frogs, among many others. Birds are among the most highly targeted, according the Post, in part due to the problems they cause at airports.

The state-by-state data, contained in a 665-page document, detail the method of an animal’s capture, along with how many were killed, destroyed, released or relocated, but don’t give any reason for the capture. Some captures are listed as “unintentional,” including the three eagle kills, one of which was captured by “M-44 Cyanide Capsule.”

Other methods include paint balls, vehicles, traps, neck snares, bombs and “pyrotechnics” — “like shooting firecrackers at a bunch of birds to get them to move,” Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the environmental nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told weather.com.

In December, the Center filed a petition with the USDA, asking for new rules that would make the agency more transparent and operate in a way that better reflects ecological science. Wildlife Services spokesperson Lyndsay Cole, for example, told the Post that the program kills wolves to “lessen the negative impacts of expanding wolf populations,” though research shows that the reintroduction of wolves to the wild has had positive ecological repercussions.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) once called Wildlife Services “one of the most opaque and obstinate departments I’ve dealt with,” according to the Post, saying, “We’re not really sure what they’re doing.”

Another spokesperson, Carol Bannerman, told the Post that, “As wildlife damage increases, requests for assistance also increase.”

Wildlife Services used to be part of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Atwood said, but was moved to the USDA in the 1980s after lobbying pressure from the agricultural industry. A 2002 USDA report showed that wildlife caused $944 million in agricultural damage in 2001 through crop and livestock losses, largely from deer and coyotes.

MORE: Today's Top Videos


Featured Blogs

Death Valley ‘Sliding Rocks’ Mystery Resolved

By Christopher C. Burt
August 29, 2014

An article published in the science journal PLOS ONE on August 27th by scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has finally put to rest the mystery of the ‘sliding’ rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley.

The Tropics Go Quiet World-Wide

By Dr. Jeff Masters
August 29, 2014

Hurricane Cristobal ceased to be at 11 am EDT on Friday, as the storm completed its transition to a powerful extratropical storm. With Cristobal's transition to an extratropical storm and the demise of the Eastern Pacific's Tropical Storm Marie earlier today, there are now no named tropical cyclones anywhere in the world--an unusual situation for what is traditionally one of the busiest days of the Northern Hemisphere's tropical cyclone season.

Live Blog: Tracking Hurricane Arthur as it Approaches North Carolina Coast

By Shaun Tanner
July 3, 2014

This is a live blog set up to provide the latest coverage on Hurricane Arthur as it threatens the North Carolina Coast. Check back often to see what the latest is with Arthur. The most recent updates are at the top.

Tropical Terminology

By Stu Ostro
June 30, 2014

Here is some basic, fundamental terminology related to tropical cyclones. Rather than a comprehensive and/or technical glossary, this represents the essence of the meaning & importance of some key, frequently used terms.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.