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Wildlife Services should be renamed Wildlife Exterminators

Pair of gentle mourning doves are often the targe of Wildlife Services
Pair of gentle mourning doves are often the targe of Wildlife ServicesPublic domain

Wildlife Services, a little known agency for the US Department of Agriculture and formerly known as Animal Damage Control has been indiscriminately killing birds, mammals and reptiles since the mid-1930’s.

Using the benign guise of protecting agriculture and public safety, WS has been operating under the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services since 1985, as the program long surpassed its original rabies and rodent control mission to become one of the most well-funded dark and reviled wildlife assassination agencies in the US.

Amazingly, Wildlife Services killed 17,493 mourning doves last year, one of the most gentle bird species on the planet.

Statistics provided by WildEarth Guardians reveals the slaughter of more than 13 million bird/animal species by WS between 2004 and 2008 at a cost to taxpayers of more than $500 million and last fiscal year it slaughtered more than 2 million, which represents a 29 percent increase from 2012.

The agency claims it “disperses” a majority of nuisance animals in response to public requests for controlling wildlife, but non-lethal methods are not considered for the rest – only the use of shooting, poisoning by cyanide capsules, den bombing or leg/neck traps and snares.

WS panders to the will of deep-pocketed special interest groups in the hunting, agribusiness and grazing industries.

Last year, a former WS employee Gary Strader exposed excessive brutality practiced by employees who allowed their dogs to attack coyotes caught in traps; one worker actually took pictures of the incidents and proudly posted them on social media.

Strader, who was fired after he complained to management, said the abuse was a routine matter and animal suffering was accepted as part of the job.

During Strader’s work in Utah and Nevada he was often told to get rid of “all” the coyotes, including pups and pregnant females in remote areas not even close to livestock. He would check dens for any signs of pups and if they were present he would lob a phosphorous bomb inside and quickly block the opening with dirt.

"The bombs burn so fast and so hot that it sucks all the oxygen out of the hole," he said. "They suffocate."

Furthermore, traps were often left unchecked for days, leaving any animal caught in them to suffer and die from the elements and starvation.

Strader’s story caught the attention of politicians, who called for defunding of the agency, with little response.

Reps. John Campbell (R-California) and Peter Defazio (D-Oregon), wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack last November requesting an investigation of Wildlife Services’ outrageous culture.

Vilsack responded early this year to say an investigation had been implemented by the Administration Investigations and Compliance Branch.

Environmentalists have fought to have WS decommissioned or reorganized for years.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition in December demanding the service be reformed.

“Wildlife Services has long been out of step with the values of Americans, and the new figures make clear it has no interest in changing,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned to reform the program last December. “These appalling new numbers show that Wildlife Services is simply thumbing its nose at the growing number of Americans demanding an end to business as usual at Wildlife Services.”

WS inhumane culture and disregard for wildlife at every level from blue herons and blackbirds to otters, prairie dogs and foxes – that are innocently trying to survive without malice to mankind – shows the shameful side of government-sponsored wildlife cruelty that taxpayers should demand be stopped.