Yesterday I told you about Wildlife Services, a division of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA seems to go to pretty great lengths to make Wildlife Services sound like a benign and helpful organization designed to reduce conflicts between people and wildlife. However, as I shared yesterday, an investigative report by the Sacramento Bee, numerous lawsuits filed by environmental and animal welfare groups, as well as calls from legislators, including Oregon’s own Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) express grave concerns about the agency and its work. Many assert that Wildlife Services is an out-of-control agency that slaughters animals using brutal, inhumane methods, often actively trying to hide their activities and mistakes from the public.
As a tax payer, I don’t like that my hard-earned money is being used to kill millions of animals each year, including endangered species—that are supposed to be federally protected—like golden eagles and wolverines. What I dislike even more is knowing that Jackson County, Oregon contracts with Wildlife Services to eliminate wildlife in our county. This page on Jackson County’s website, tells us that “Jackson County contracts with APHIS Wildlife Services to provide both technical and direct-control assistance to Jackson County residents.” Please note that “direct control” means killing – through such methods as shooting, leg-hold traps, body-grip traps, traps baited with poisoned carcasses, and exploding cyanide cartridges. Any of these methods can cause excruciating pain and slow deaths to any animal caught in them. And many of the animals caught by Wildlife Services are not the ones they were targeting. Family pets, endangered species, and non-target species are regularly killed accidentally by Wildlife Services. Many people have been injured by exploding cyanide cartridges. The 2013 and 2014 Wildlife Services reports for Jackson County are both linked to the page. (Interestingly, they both appeared on the site March 5, 2015. I wonder why it took more than a year for the 2013 report to be posted?) The reports show that the Wildlife Service’s killed 52 animals in Jackson County in 2014 including bears, cougars, muskrats, raccoons, coyotes and other species. Sixty-two animals were killed in 2013.
I do understand that ranchers don’t want their livestock killed and people don’t want their pets killed by wildlife. I also understand that nonlethal means are very effective for protecting your animals, such as installing electric fences, putting animals in barns at night, having guard dogs, etc. I understand that the ecosystems needs predators and predators will eat what’s easiest to catch. Make your animals harder to catch and they are less likely to get eaten. Killing predators is not a good idea, scientifically or ethically.
Jackson County is about to adopt its 2015-2016 budget, and once again it will provide money for the Wildlife Services contract. If you don’t want your tax dollars going to toward killing wildlife, then use this form to respectfully share your concerns with the county budget committee. The public is also welcome to attend the budget hearings and to comment. The hearings will be held on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, beginning at 8:30 a.m., and on Thursday, April 16, 2015, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Both meetings are in the Jackson County Courthouse Auditorium, 10 South Oakdale, Medford, Oregon. The Wildlife Services contract is funded under Health and Human Services, so that’s the portion you will want to address if you go.