Many canines, both domestic and free-roaming, were also killed last year. WS accidentally killed 39 domestic dogs and intentionally killed 181 free-roaming and feral dogs along with 15 other domestic animals, which were unspecified. As reported by EnviroNews, WS killed 3.2 million wild animals in 2015, 1,681,283 of which were native to U.S.
The under-reporting of agency killings is also “widely accepted,” according to WildEarth Guardians. In its report on WS titled, “War on Wildlife,” the environmental non-profit org describes WS as “a program that executes our essential native animals in our own backyards for the purported benefit of a vocal minority of anti-carnivore and agribusiness interests.”
Carter Niemeyer, a former WS district manager who worked with the agency for over two decades, told The Sacramento Bee that accurate reporting, while required by agency policy, is often not carried out. “The public has every right to scrutinize what’s going on,” he added.
“Outside the ranching community, few have heard of Wildlife Services,” explained National Geographic in 2016. Both expert reporters and members of the government, including Congressman Peter Defazio, have been denied information on the agency’s killing practices while being shut out from witnessing the events.
Even the infamously gruesome photo atop this article featuring 11 severed mountain lion heads was obtained only after an “outraged employee” of the Arizona Game and Fish Department became fed up with WS and exposed the episode for all to see.
WS uses “cruel,” “outdated” and “unscientific” means of killing animals, including snaring, poisoning, trapping and aerial gunning. WildEarth Guardians explains these methods only exacerbate conflicts between native species and farms. Multiple biologists and conservation organizations have also asserted WS’s methods can also lead to an increase in breeding when packs are destabilized.
“Scientifically proven nonlethal methods abound, including effective, affordable, humane options such as flagging, solar-powered fences, range riders and guard animals,” Michelle Lute, Wildlife Coexistence Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians, told EnviroNews. “Wildlife Services gives lip service to nonlethal tools but until the program adopts a nonlethal mandate it is abundantly clear that it will continue killing obscene numbers of animals.”
Lute also explained in 2016, three native animals were killed every minute, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. She described this as “an all-out war on wildlife.” Bethany Cotton, Wildlife Program Director for WildEarth Guardians, characterizes this killing of native wildlife as “scientifically baseless, ethically bankrupt and fiscally foolish.”
The Humane Society, which calls the program “Wildlife Disservices,” shares that between 2004 and 2013, 34 million animals were killed to the tune of of over $1 billion.
In October 2016, WildEarth Guardians won a landmark settlement to increase the regulation of Wildlife Services’ killings. The program was ordered by federal judges to submit new environmental assessments (EAs) for review in order to continue its wildlife eradications in specific areas. How this settlement will affect the agency’s 2017 death toll is yet to be seen.