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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services reported killing 404,538 native animals in 2021, according to new data released by the program today. The federal wildlife-killing program targets wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals, primarily to benefit the agriculture industry in states like Texas, Colorado and Idaho.
According to the report, the multimillion-dollar program last year killed 324 gray wolves, 64,131 coyotes, 433 black bears, 200 mountain lions, 605 bobcats, 3,014 foxes, 24,687 beavers, and 714 river otters. These figures almost certainly understate the actual number of animals killed, as program insiders have revealed that Wildlife Services kills many more animals than it reports.
“It’s stomach-turning to see this barbaric federal program wiping out hundreds of thousands of native animals,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Killing carnivores like wolves and coyotes to supposedly benefit the livestock industry just leads to more conflicts and more killing. This is a truly vicious cycle, and we’ll continue to demand change from Wildlife Services.”
The reported number of native animals killed in 2021 was similar to the 433,192 killed in 2020. These numbers reflect a steep decline compared to 2019, when approximately 1.3 million native animals were killed. The red-winged blackbird is an example of a species with fewer individuals intentionally killed by Wildlife Services, with 15,096 killed in 2021 compared to 364,734 in 2019.
According to the new data, the wildlife-killing program unintentionally killed more than 2,746 animals in 2021, including bears, bobcats, mountain lions, foxes, muskrats, otters, deer, turtles and dogs. Its killing of nontarget birds included wood ducks, tree swallows, herons and turkeys. Such data reveals the indiscriminate nature of leghold traps, snares, poisons and other methods used by federal agents.
Wildlife Services poisoned 7,573 animals using M-44 cyanide bombs in 2020. Of these deaths, 314 were unintentional. This month marks the fifth anniversary of an Idaho teen nearly being fatally poisoned by an M-44. The incident received worldwide media coverage and spurred federal and state efforts to ban these devices.
“It’s inexcusable that Wildlife Services continues to target rare and ecologically important animals like wolves and grizzly bears, forcing them to suffer and die in cruel traps and snares,” Adkins said. “Taxpayer-funded wildlife slaughter needs to stop and be replaced with a program that provides nonlethal tools that effectively prevent most conflicts with wildlife.”
In the last few years, litigation and community opposition curtailed Wildlife Services operations in numerous states, including California, Idaho, Minnesota and Washington, as well as localities such as Humboldt County and Minneapolis.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.