Using steel traps, wire snares and poison,
Wildlife Services Department employees of the USDA have accidentally killed more than 50,000 animals since 2000 that were not problems, including federally protected golden and bald eagles; more than 1,100 dogs, including family pets; and several species including migratory shorebirds, beaver, porcupines, river otters and other native wildlife considered rare or imperiled by wildlife biologists.
at least 18 employees and several members of the public have been exposed to cyanide when they triggered spring-loaded cartridges laced with poison meant to kill coyotes.
10 people have died and many others have been injured in crashes during agency aerial gunning operations since 1979.
Because lethal control stirs strong emotions
Wildlife Services prefers to operate in the shadows, turning down all requests from media to observe its hunters and trappers in action.
In March (2012) , two congressmen – Reps. John Campbell, R-Irvine, and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.–responding to photos posted online by a Wildlife Services employee (“TROPHY ANIMALS,” ANIMAL POST, Dec. 17, 201), introduced a bill that would ban one of Wildlife Services’ most controversial killing tools: spring-loaded sodium cyanide cartridges that have killed tens of thousands of animals in recent years, along with Compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate), a less-commonly used poison.
more than 150 species have been killed by mistake by Wildlife Services traps, snares and cyanide poison since 2000, including armadillos, badgers, great-horned owls, hog-nosed skunks, javelina, pronghorn antelope, porcupines, great blue herons, ruddy ducks, snapping turtles, turkey vultures, long-tailed weasels, marmots, mourning doves, red-tailed hawks, sandhill cranes and ringtails.
Many of these species are off-limits to hunters and trappers. Some species, including swift foxes, kit foxes and river otter, are the focus of conservation and restoration efforts.
Wildlife Services claims
that traps, snares and cyanide are key tools that nearly always get the right species. Environmentalists don’t trust the data, citing admissions by agency employees of pressure not to report non-targets “because it makes (the agency) look bad.”
Raccoons are most often killed by mistake, followed by river otters, porcupines, snapping turtles, javelina, striped skunks and muskrats. But there are other accidental victims that are often more keenly missed: dogs.
One was Maggie,
a tail-wagging, toy-fetching border collie-Irish setter mix beloved by Denise and Doug McCurtain and their four children. Last August, Maggie’s spine was crushed when she stepped into a vise-like “body-grip” trap set by Wildlife Services near the family’s suburban Oregon home to catch a nonnative rodent called a nutria. The family has filed a claim for damages. “Never once did anyone come to us and apologize,” a family member said. “It was like they pretended it didn’t happen.”
Eight dogs a month have been killed
on average by mistake by Wildlife Services since 2000, records show. Again, many people don’t believe the “records” are accurate.
This month, in Arizona, Wildlife Services employee Russell Files is accused of setting traps with the specific intent of capturing a neighbor’s dog he found troublesome. Local law enforcement officers were called to Files’ home in El Mirage, on the outskirts of Phoenix, in December by a frantic 911 call from a neighbor.
El Mirage Police Department detective Kim Walden found the dog, a 7-year-old female named Zoey, lying on its side in Files’ yard, with a front and back leg caught in two leg-hold traps, covered in blood from trying to chew her way out. As officials struggled to free the dog, Files showed up himself.
“He assisted us with getting the dog out of the traps,” Walden said. “He said he was tired of the neighbor’s dog coming into his yard. I asked him specifically if he was on duty when he set those traps, and he said: ‘Yes I was.’ ” Files was arrested Jan. 8 and charged with felony animal cruelty. The dog, which lost more than a dozen teeth in the ordeal, is recovering.
Source: Tom Knudson, Sacramento Bee.