The US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program trapped, shot, and poisoned more than 430,000 native animals last year, including hundreds of wolves, bears, and mountain lions, thousands of foxes, more than 25,000 beavers, and more than 62,000 coyotes. Shocking as these numbers are, the total is actually significantly lower than the more than 1 million killed in each of the previous several years.
Wildlife Services is tasked with responding to human–wildlife conflicts. This includes important work such as keeping birds away from airport runways and reducing the transmission of rabies. But all too often, Wildlife Services needlessly resorts to ineffective lethal measures rather than proven nonlethal techniques to address wildlife challenges. Such go-to Wildlife Services devices as steel-jaw leghold traps and neck snares are not only cruel, but also inherently indiscriminate. Last year alone, traps and snares unintentionally killed hundreds of river otters, raccoons, turtles, and foxes, among numerous other species. Many of these deaths could have been avoided if the program had relied instead on electric fencing to protect livestock, flow devices to prevent flooding by beaver dams, and other such measures.