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Photo: Tom Koerner / USFWS

The highly secretive arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed more than 2.7 million animals during 2016, according to new data from the agency.

The multimillion-dollar federal program targets wolves, cougars, birds and other wild animals for destruction — primarily to benefit the agriculture industry. Of the 2.7 million animals killed last year, nearly 1.6 million were native wildlife species.

According to the latest kill report, the program last year destroyed:

  • 415 gray wolves
  • 76,963 adult coyotes
  • An unknown number of coyote pups in 430 destroyed dens
  • 407 black bears
  • 334 mountain lions
  • 997 bobcats
  • 535 river otters, including 415 killed “unintentionally”
  • 3,791 foxes
  • An unknown number of fox pups in 128 dens
  • 21,184 beavers.

The program also killed 14,654 prairie dogs outright, as well as an unknown number killed in more than 68,000 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated. These figures almost certainly underestimate the actual number of animals killed, as program insiders have revealed that Wildlife Services kills many more animals than it reports.

“Despite mounting public outcry to reform these barbaric, outdated tactics, Wildlife Services continues its taxpayer-funded slaughter of America’s wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle millions of animals every year. These cruel practices not only fail to effectively manage targeted wildlife but also pose ongoing threats to other animals, including endangered species and pets.”

According to the new data, the wildlife-killing program unintentionally killed 2,790 animals last year, including badgers, bears, bobcats, foxes, muskrats, otters, porcupines, raccoons, skunks, turtles and more. Such data reveals the indiscriminate nature of painful leg-hold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and other methods used by federal agents.

Earlier this month a young, endangered male wolf known as OR-48, died an agonizing death in northeast Oregon after taking the scented bait from a cyanide trap put out by the federal wildlife killers. The program’s brutality has fueled growing public outcry and calls for reform by scientists, elected officials and nongovernmental organizations.

“The Department of Agriculture needs to get out of the wildlife-slaughter business,” said Adkins. “Wolves, bears and other carnivores help keep the natural balance of their ecosystems. Our government kills off the predators, such as coyotes, and then kills off their prey — like prairie dogs — in an absurd, pointless cycle of violence.”

The wildlife-killing program contributed to the decline of gray wolvesMexican wolvesblack-footed ferretsblack-tailed prairie dogs and other imperiled species during the first half of the 1900s and continues to impede their recovery today.

One Response

  1. Klaus Eisenmann says:

    The nature, especially animals – do they belong to United States of America? To kill all these species is a business. Is it not a damage for the US?
    To protect my country – does it also means to protect the species who live in the US?
    For wonderful, worthfull States, who let their creatures and plants live in peace and harmony…this is the State – taken from the First Nation, I will fight for…

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