SAN FRANCISCO, CA, April 7, 2020 — In response to a lawsuit filed by wildlife advocacy groups, a federal animal-killing program must restrict its use of bird-killing poisons in Northern California and stop setting strangulation snares and other traps in places like the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
The agreement, approved today by a San Francisco federal court, also directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to analyze the environmental impacts of its killing of coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and other wildlife in California’s “Sacramento District.” This 10-county region covers Colusa, El Dorado, Lake, Marin, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.
“This victory will save hundreds of animals that would have needlessly suffered and died in traps set by Wildlife Services over the next several years,” said Collette Adkins, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney representing the conservation groups involved in the lawsuit. “It’s another important win in our fight to shut down this agency’s destructive and indiscriminate war on bobcats, coyotes and other wildlife.”
Under the court order approved today, Wildlife Services must provide, by the end of 2023, an “environmental impact statement” that analyzes the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in the Sacramento District. It must also offer opportunities for public input.
Pending completion of that study, the court order imposes several measures to protect wildlife in the 10-county area. For example, it restricts use of the avicide DRC-1339 to prevent accidental poisoning of state-threatened tricolored blackbirds. It also bans any use of body-gripping traps, such as strangulation snares, in several areas.
The court order further ends most beaver-killing in waterways where endangered wildlife depends on beaver-created habitats. The order also spells out several measures to protect California’s endangered gray wolves from being accidentally killed in traps set for other carnivores.
“We are pleased that Wildlife Services has agreed to consider the environmental impacts of its wildlife-killing program,” said Cristina Stella, an attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Wild animals in California deserve our protection, and this victory assures that they will be free from some of the cruelest killing practices until Wildlife Services complies with federal law.”
“This agreement will ensure greater transparency and accountability from a federal agency that has run roughshod over America’s wildlife for far too long,” said Camilla Fox, Project Coyote executive director. “Many cost effective, non-lethal solutions exist to address human-wildlife conflicts that are more humane, ecologically sound and ethically defensible. We are hopeful that this settlement will propel a shift in this direction statewide.”
Today’s victory is the result of a lawsuit filed in August 2019 by the Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Legal Defense Fund and Project Coyote.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services is a multimillion-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and aerial gunning to kill coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals. Most of the killing is in response to requests from the agriculture industry.
In 2018 Wildlife Services reported killing nearly 1.5 million native animals nationwide. That year, in California, the program reported killing 26,441 native animals, including 3,826 coyotes, 859 beavers, 170 foxes, 83 mountain lions and 105 black bears. The 5,675 birds killed in 2018 in California included blackbirds, ducks, egrets, hawks, owls and doves.
Today’s victory follows several other recent wins by wildlife advocates in their campaigns against Wildlife Services, including in California (2019 and 2017), Oregon (2018), Colorado (2017), Arizona (2017), Idaho (2019 and 2018) and Wyoming (2019).