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Did the US Government Have Any Reason for Killing 4.3 Million Animals in 2013?
Selection from Birds and Animals of the United States, 1934, oil on canvas by Winthrop Duthie Turney. (Photo: Cliff / Flickr)

Did the US Government Have Any Reason for Killing 4.3 Million Animals in 2013?

Selection from Birds and Animals of the United States, 1934, oil on canvas by Winthrop Duthie Turney. (Photo: Cliff / Flickr)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) murdered 4.3 million wild animals, of which 2 million were native species, in fiscal year 2013. The animals included three eagles, one bald and two golden, which are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Also killed were 75,326 coyotes; 345 mountain lions; 321 wolves, including one very rare Mexican gray wolf; 603 monkeys; 6,498 vultures; 10,486 mynas, a type of starling; and 37 frogs, among many others.

How can this be?

On the one hand, we have the Endangered Species Act, signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon who, in one of his finer moments, declared:

“Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.”

The Act has been responsible for saving numerous species from becoming extinct.

On the other hand, there’s a program called Wildlife Services, which falls under the USDA agency Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and is tasked with managing invasive species and handling wildlife when it interferes with human activities like agriculture and property threats.

“Wildlife Services” has a positive ring to it, but perhaps its former name, “Animal Damage Control,” is a more accurate description.

Because, instead of preserving species, it massacres them. The number of animals killed varies widely from year to year, hitting a peak of 5 million in 2008 after remaining at a relatively low 1.5 million in the early 2000s. And last year it reached a disgraceful 4.3 million.

Over 15 years, at least 40 million animals have been shot, poisoned, snared and trapped by Wildlife Services, which says only that the exterminations are a service to those who “experience damage from wildlife each year.” There’s little data showing the cause for each killing, the exact methods used and the reasons behind the massive numbers of “unintentional” destruction.

Wildlife Services’ primary purpose is supposed to be the eradication of invasive creatures introduced from other parts of the world.

But Wildlife Services also kills native animals en masse.

Here’s how it works: a rancher who thinks wolves are attacking his herd can call in the government, and it will trap, poison, shoot from helicopters, or otherwise wipe out whatever wolves its personnel find nearby just as though it were a private company working for a customer.

As Carson Barylak, federal policy advisor at the Animal Welfare Institute, put it: “Wildlife Services has long ignored sound science in establishing its priorities, instead taking its cues from ranchers and other ‘cooperators.’ The influence of these private interests has taken precedence over the ecological principles that should be guiding the agency’s decisions, and wildlife is suffering as a result.”

Let’s think about this: this massive wildlife carnage has been perpetrated to placate ranchers and farmers. Ranchers and farmers slaughter millions of cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, lambs and other so-called “food animals.”

So Wildlife Services is killing millions of innocent animals as a favor to special interests that also kill innocent animals.

In addition to the animals noted above, 2013′s toll of 2 million native American animals included 866 bobcats, 528 river otters, 3,700 foxes, 12,186 prairie dogs, 973 red-tailed hawks and 419 black bears.

You can read the state-by-state report in a 665-page document that details 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.” It makes for very depressing and infuriating reading.

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,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the environmental nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity.

Atwood described Wildlife Services’ work as “a staggering killing campaign, bankrolled by taxpayers” and happening “beyond the view of most Americans”.

Last December, the center filed a petition demanding that the agency explain the exact reasons why it makes each kill of a native animal, for whose benefit and the methods used. The petition called Wildlife Services “a rogue agency” that was “out of control.”

If you agree that U.S. Wildlife Services is out of control, and needs to be held accountable, please sign our petition demanding that the organization act responsibly, work transparently, and treat animals humanely.

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