The Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services got unwelcome attention in The Sacramento Bee’s series by Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter Tom Knudson, which ran earlier this month in the Idaho Statesman.
This federal agency gets tens of thousands of dollars a year from Idaho mostly to kill predators on top of its federal dollars. It is loved by ranchers and hated by animal lovers.
But environmental groups that have opposed it have rarely made any dent in this shadowy agency because of its political support in the West. Knudson’s series may change that.
So to cash in on the new interest, one of the groups, Wild Earth Guardians, put out a report today on the “Deadliest Dozen” counties in the West. Surprise! Idaho’s is not among the leaders in animal killing.
In the 11-year period from 1998 to 2008, Wildlife Services reported it killed 40,089 animals in five counties in Wyoming, and 35,151 animals in three counties in Nevada. Elko County, Nev., is number one in the West with nearly 18,000 reported kills in an 11-year span. The remaining deadliest dozen counties in the West were found in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah.
The Knudson showed how non-lethal methods could work as well as killing without making as many people mad. But the agency probably faces a bigger problem, the need to cut the federal budget.
Whether they are killing or coddling predators the current mood in Washington is to cut even good programs to balance the budget. And how long will state lawmakers consider it more important to kill coyotes than to create high tech jobs or care for the elderly?