Will Sonoma County say "no" to Wildlife Services?
Posted September 30, 2013 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places
Ten years ago, Marin County, California ended its wildlife-killing contract with USDA-Wildlife Services and built its own program emphasizing non-lethal coexistence with wild carnivores. Now neighboring Sonoma County is taking a second look at its own contract with Wildlife Services. Will Sonoma be the next to say no to needless, taxpayer-funded wildlife killing?
It all started this summer, when the Animal Legal Defense Fund urged the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to drop its Wildlife Services predator control contract. The county, ALDF noted, had never reviewed the environmental impacts of its decades-long use of Wildlife Serivces for predator control. (Indeed, the ecological effects of killing off native carnivores are well documented. You can read a summary of the science here.)
Now the county has suspended its federal Wildlife Services trapper while it reviews the legality of its contract with Wildlife Services. What's next? Maybe a move toward a saner, more environmentally friendly, non-lethal approach in Sonoma County. As the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust put it in a letter to the Board of Supervisors, “It seems that the success of the Marin program is reason enough to look toward careful evaluation and development of a similar comprehensive plan for Sonoma County, adopting as many aspects of it as are workable and adapting it to Sonoma County.”
Last week, I joined ALDF and other area wildlife advocates for a screening of NRDC's documentary, Wild Things, in Sonoma County. From forward-looking, predator friendly ranchers, to locals who were learning about Wildlife Services predator control for the first time, the audience was full of people with good ideas for a better solution.
Local level discussions such as these are critical to reforming Wildlife Services. The disconnect between Wildlife Services' methods and Americans' values is most clearly seen when the killing happens in our back yards. I'll be rooting for the Sonoma County predator control reformers.
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