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Wildlife Services: Allergic to Accountability?

Melissa Waage

Posted July 12, 2012

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Tom Knudson at the Sacramento Bee isn't the only journalist who's been rebuffed in his attempts to get basic information from USDA-Wildlife Services about its predator control activities.

Rob Davis with the investigative non-profit Voice of San Diego writes today that he requested information about Wildlife Services' activities in San Diego County, including when, where, how, why, and how many animals the agency had killed. The agency did provide him with (alarming) numbers of animals killed in the county, including "seven mountain lions, 26 bobcats, 24 gray foxes and hundreds of coyotes." As for the rest?

Davis writes,

"..[the agency] didn't release information that we specifically requested, even though Wildlife Services has the answers," including "a database it maintains to track all of its animal killings in San Diego."

"Two Agriculture Department employees laughed when I asked during a phone call that the database be released. They claimed the public agency's database might be confusing to review and wasn't public information."

Heaven forfend the public be allowed to examine straightforward information about what a federally-funded agency is doing in their backyards. Yesterday I noted Wildlife Services' resistance, at the highest levels, to making clear data about its predator control activities available to the public.

The more this agency wrings its hands over how "confusing" this information might be to the public, about how "to give tons of raw data to people would not be smart," the more suspicious and secretive it sounds.

Voice of San Diego is right to dig deeper into Wildlife Services' local predator control work. But such investigations should not be necessary. Wildlife Services should open its books so that all stakeholders, including the broader public, can have an honest discussion about its approaches to wildlife management and the use of taxpayer funds.

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