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CENTER for BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY Because life is good
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Targeting Wildlife Services

OUR CAMPAIGN TO SAVE SPECIES FROM A ROGUE FEDERAL AGENCY ACTING FOR PRIVATE INTERESTS

A little-known agency known as “Wildlife Services,” a unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is secretive for a reason: Its actions are incredibly, unacceptably and illegally brutal and inhumane to animals, from familiar wildlife to endangered species — and even people’s pets.

This agency has been killing as many as 3 million native animals every year — including coyotes, bears, beavers, wolves, otters, foxes, prairie dogs, mountain lions, birds and other animals — without any oversight, accountability or requirement to disclose its activities to the public. The agency contributed to the decline of gray wolves, Mexican wolves, black-footed ferrets, black-tailed prairie dogs, and other imperiled species during the first half of the 1900s, and continues to impede their recovery today.

Many of these animals are carnivores at the top of the food chain and have a tremendous benefit to overall ecosystem health. They include endangered species and, largely, animals that agribusiness interests consider undesirable — as well as many animals that aren’t intended targets of the agency. The century-old Wildlife Services — which has reportedly killed 32 million native animals since 1996 — destroys these creatures on behalf of such interests without explaining to the public what it’s doing or where, the methods it’s using, on whose behalf it’s acting, or why. It frequently doesn’t even attempt to use nonlethal methods before shooting coyotes and wolves from airplanes, or laying out traps and exploding poison caps indiscriminately — including in public areas — without any rules. Stories about Wildlife Services consistently emerge describing an agency that routinely commits extreme cruelty against animals, leaving them to die in traps from exposure or starvation, attacking trapped coyotes, and brutalizing domestic dogs. Many people who know about the agency have criticized this dark, secretive entity as a subsidy for livestock interests.  

We can’t stress enough that this agency’s practices have gone on for decades with little public oversight or rules requiring that it use the best available science or techniques to reduce the deaths of nontarget animals — or even the suffering of target animals.

The Center is working to end the secrecy and reform this rogue agency — or even suffering — for the good of wildlife, ecosystems and even domestic animals.

To protect defenseless wildlife from Wildlife Services and begin to restore the natural balance of ecosystems, in 2013 the Center filed a comprehensive petition for rulemaking with the Department of Agriculture, which is supposed to oversee the secretive agency’s actions. This legal petition demands the development of a regulatory code — something that every other agency maintains — to reform the agency and bring it in line with all of the nation’s laws, policies and values.

Mexican gray wolf photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Hjelle