USDA Wildlife Services?
Last week a reader wrote, “Scott, I recently read a report that said the federal government killed 624,845 red-winged blackbirds, 357 gray wolves, and 69,041 adult coyotes last year.” That can’t be true, can it?”
Sadly, it is.
According to its website (aphis.usda.gov), the USDA’s APHIS Wildlife Services mission is, “to provide Federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist? Program biologists apply the integrated wildlife damage management approach to provide technical assistance and direct management operations in response to requests for assistance. WS research scientists are dedicated to the development of wildlife damage management methods … The Program’s efforts help people resolve wildlife damage to a wide variety of resources and to reduce threats to human health and safety.
APHIS is a multi-faceted agency with a broad mission area that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. Its mission is, “To protect the health and value of American agriculture and natural resources. These efforts support the overall mission of USDA, which is to protect and promote food, agriculture, natural resources and related issues.
Most state and federal wildlife agencies exist to help wildlife populations prosper, but who deals with problem wildlife? For example, if beaver dams flood a low lying road, if Canada geese feces make a high school ball field unplayable, or if mountain lions kill ranchers’ lambs and calves, who you gonna call?
When such problems persist and seriously impact human activities, eventually the public finds its way to Wildlife Services. It’s a little-known office within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that deals with such problems. Sometimes its employees simply remove (kill) the offending animals. This can be done with guns, traps or poisons. Other times large groups of offending animals can be dispersed from favorite resting or roosting areas.
I can’t begin to list the complete findings for 2017, but here are some sample results. Last year Wildlife Services killed 2,307,122 problem animals. It dispersed another 34,465,659.
By species, here’s a partial list for 2017:
Opossums – 2,832 killed
Black-tailed prairie dog – 15,233
Raccoons – 10,313
Badgers – 353
River otters – 587
Black bear – 537
Beavers – 23,644
Bobcats – 983
Feral cats – 472
Feral swine – 65,264
Coyotes – 69,041
Timber wolves – 357
Mountain lions – 316
White-tailed deer – 7,524
Canada geese – 21,488
Black vultures – 7,503
Turkey vultures – 1,474
Great blue herons – 564
Killdeer – 3,357
Red-tailed hawks – 1,701′
Feral chickens – 2,712
Rock pigeons – 74,990 / 160,489 dispersed
Mourning Doves – 22,924
American Robins – 451 / 18,149
European Starlings – 733,773 / 22,151,292 dispersed
Brown-headed Cowbirds – 285,657
Common grackles – 51,869
Red-winged blackbirds – 624,845 / 1,364,685 dispersed
American crows – 7,346
Common Ravens – 7,950
For complete results of Wildlife Services activities dating back to 1996, visit aphis.usda.gov, click on “Wildlife Damage,” then click “Reports and WS Pubs,” then click “Program Data Reports.”
Killing wildlife as a job cannot be enjoyable, and I suspect it can take a psychological toll. It’s nasty work, but someone’s got to do it.
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Dr. Shalaway can be heard on Birds & Nature from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday afternoons on 620 KHB Radio, Pittsburgh or live online anywhere at www.khbradio.com. Visit Scott’s website www.drshalaway.com or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.