The Federal Government is Killing 227 Coyotes a Day
Posted January 27, 2014 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places
Sacramento Bee reporter Tom Knudson wrote the book on Wildlife Services, the controversial federal extermination agency, in his 2012 investigative series. He hasn't waivered in his attention to the topic since. This week, Knudson tweeted a pretty gruesome statistic: Wildlife Services has killed 1.1 million coyotes since 2000. That averages out to 227 coyotes a day.
227 coyotes a day. This statistic is worth repeating. It highlights one of the more common, needlessly wasteful and biologically silly ways that Wildlife Services spends taxpayer money. (And that's saying a lot).
Wildlife Services mostly kills coyotes to benefit the livestock industry, and it kills tons of them. Indeed, killing coyotes is the bread and butter of Wildlife Services' predator control program; in the last year for which reporting is available, coyotes made up more than 90 percent of the big carnivores the agency killed.
This scorched-earth policy can backfire, big time, producing more, not fewer, coyotes. As former Wildlife Service trapper Gary Strader puts it in our documentary, Wild Things, "If you kill a coyote, two will show up at its funeral." And worse yet, it can destabilize the animals' social structure and create more, not fewer, conflicts, as my colleague Andrew Wetzler has explained.
Not to mention that the methods used to kill coyotes can be dangerous to more than just coyotes. Aerial gunning (i.e. shooting coyotes from government helicopters or airplanes) is notoriously hazardous to human life and can cost more than $800 an hour. Sodium cyanide M-44 traps, also used by Widlife Services to kill coyotes, have a long and sad history of killing pets and even harming people who run across them unawares.
All of which makes even less sense, if that's possible, when you consider that there are plenty of non-lethal ways to coexist with coyotes. Our friends at Project Coyote have some terrific resources for those who want to learn more. And one of the first steps is exposing the deadly way that Wildlife Services does business. You can help by urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support a thorough investigation of Wildlife Services.
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