Can Wildlife Services and Conservationists be Friends?

Here at NRDC we’ve long been critical of Wildlife Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agency that kills tens of thousands of native carnivores like coyotes, wolves, foxes, and badgers every year, mostly at the behest of the livestock industry.  These practices are unnecessary, often indiscriminate, and ecologically damaging.

But not everything the agency does is bad.  Wildlife Services works to eradicate or control invasive species, from feral hogs to brown tree snakes, and to protect public safety by keeping birds clear of airports.

Even when it comes to the agency’s dysfunctional “livestock protection program,” there are bright spots.  Last week, the USDA Blog highlighted the work of Wildlife Services agents in Montana to help ranchers adopt practices that prevent conflicts between native wildlife and livestock, without the need to resort to killing.

Wildlife Services has assisted us to build electrified pens to put our sheep into at night to protect them from wolves and grizzly bears.  They have placed livestock guard dogs on our colony to study how dogs can help protect our sheep and cattle.

These are precisely the kind of conflict-prevention techniques that NRDC has long promoted -- helping ranchers put them into practice is a worthy mission for a federal agency.  In fact, like Wildlife Services, NRDC is also Image removed.

helping Montana ranchers build electrified fences and employ the use of “range riders” to keep wolves and bears clear of conflicts with cattle.

Of course, many problems remain.  Despite claims to the contrary, the fact is, when it comes to “protecting” livestock, 98% of Wildlife Services activities involves killing native wildlife. But it’s heartening to see the agency assisting ranchers with nonlethal practices and trumpeting these efforts.  

Maybe conservationists and Wildlife Services can be friends, after all.