The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program is coming under sharp criticism from environmental groups. The groups say the department’s latest report on its program, which aims to reduce the loss of livestock to carnivores, suggests that the agency is continuing its preference for lethal management.
More than 404,000 wild animals were killed in their natural habitat last year. Lindsay Larris with the group WildEarth Guardians says when managers don’t target specific animals that encounter livestock – using traps, neck snares, sodium cyanide bombs and shooting animals from low-flying aircraft, the collateral damage can be significant.
“Three golden eagles were killed unintentionally, hundreds of gray and red foxes. And we found that there were two livestock-protection dogs , these are dogs whose purpose it is to protect livestock, are being killed by this federal program.”
As an alternative, the Wildlife Services have received nearly 1.4 million dollars specifically for non-lethal “predator” management over the past two years. Larris says non-lethal options have been effective in keeping wolves and other predators away from livestock. However, he says when apex predators are removed from wild landscapes, entire ecosystems can be thrown out of balance.