Reform USDA's Wildlife Services

Gray Wolves in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Ralph Lee Hopkins/Getty Images

Every year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services program kills thousands of wolves, bears, coyotes, and other carnivores. What possible justification could the government have for killing wildlife on the taxpayers' dime? It's a subsidy to the livestock industry. Even more disturbing, they use poisons like sodium cyanide and Compound 1080, as well as antiquated devices such as steel-jawed foothold traps and neck snares. These methods kill not just the target animals but also those that pose no threat to livestock.

NRDC supports reforming the USDA's Wildlife Services. We push state and federal laws and regulations that limit the agency's sledgehammer approach to managing predators. We work to replace its fuzzy math and distorted accounting with economic analyses that put ranchers' financial losses in context and weigh the benefits that these animals provide to ecosystems and people. With our allies, we sued California's Mendocino County for renewing a contract with Wildlife Services that killed 459 animals in a single year without examining how the area's wildlife and ecosystems would be affected.

Plenty of alternatives exist. We work with ranchers, commissioners, legislators, state and federal officials, and citizens who use proven, nonlethal strategies to prevent conflicts between predators and livestock. These include guard dogs, scare devices like strobe lights, portable fencing, and the presence of more people (i.e., cowboys and cowgirls!). And by telling the story through projects like our award-winning film Wild Things, we help the public recognize that predators are an integral part of the landscape.

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