Small Business Saturday Reminds Us of Another Reason to Reform Wildlife Services

With Small Business Saturday just around the corner, the Sacramento Bee recently raised another reason to reform Wildlife Services’: its devastating effects on small businesses.

Indeed, as described in an article the Bee published on Sunday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Program is siphoning away clients from private wildlife damage management companies – some of which are small businesses – due to the fact that its services are subsidized by taxpayer money and, thus, cheaper.

Here’s how it works. Sometimes, an individual (me, you, anyone) or a company (e.g., golf course, airline, cemetery, etc.) needs assistance controlling wildlife – whether it’s geese on a golf course, crows in your back yard, prairie dogs in a cemetery, pigeons on your roof or any other number of things.

That individual or company has two choices:

  1. It can call a private company to deal with it OR
  2. It can call Wildlife Services, which will do it for a cheaper price since it’s subsidized by federal tax dollars and isn’t responsible for any profit margin.

Obviously, most clients are going to go with the less expensive option – Wildlife Services.

So where does this leave the small, local, privately-owned wildlife control businesses? The ones whose owners are our neighbors and our friends?  Sadly, they can’t compete. According to the Bee, Wildlife Services does business with more than 2,400 Fortune 500 companies, including American Airlines, BP, and Coca-Cola, who, collectively, paid $72 million in fees in 2011 alone. If it weren’t for Wildlife Services, this money would be going to small businesses. As one private executive in the Bee article states, “They’re taking the cream of the crop, the biggest and best customers. We don’t have a chance.”

Taxpayers simply shouldn’t have to subsidize the killing of wildlife.  If we’re going to use tax dollars for anything, it should be nonlethal methods to deal with wildlife that are more humane and have less detrimental impacts on our ecosystems.

There are many ways in which Wildlife Services must be reformed. But repealing federal subsidies for lethal predator control is definitely at the top of the list.

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