U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services kills millions of animals each year by aerial gunning, shooting, poisoning, trapping, and snaring. In Doña Ana County, the targets are mainly skunks, rock squirrels, coyotes, pigeons and an occasional beaver and mountain lion, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $90,000 annually.
Last year, many of you called on the Dona Ana County Commission to end its contract with Wildlife Services and adopt The People’s Contract, an alternative agreement that prioritized non-lethal methods and prohibited cruel and indiscriminate lethal methods including aerial gunning, trapping and sodium cyanide bombs. It also called for full accountability and transparency from Wildlife Services, an agency notorious for its secrecy.
The County Commission rejected the People’s Contract, but imposed a new requirement on Wildlife Services to try non-lethal methods at least twice before resorting to killing an animal. Unfortunately, that compromise was undermined when the Commission also approved an exemption insisted upon by Wildlife Services, a hole big enough to drive a truck through.
Now, one year later, it is clear nothing has changed. Wildlife Services continues to respond to complaints about wildlife the same way it always has, by killing animals rather than trying to find ways to coexist.
Doña Ana County’s contract with Wildlife Services is up for renewal. Tell them it’s time for a change.
Please take a moment to contact the county commissioners and urge them to tear up the current contract and start over. Here are some suggestions for what to say:
• Wildlife Services is never going to change unless the county tells it to. Last year’s revisions to the contract were ineffective.
• Traps and poisons are cruel: They cause physical and emotional suffering. Trapped animals can suffer from broken legs, deep lacerations, dislocated shoulders, torn muscles and ligaments, cuts to the mouth, broken teeth, infection, dehydration, starvation, hypothermia, hypoxia, and often amputation. Sodium cyanide is considered a terrorist weapon by the Department of Homeland security. Wildlife should never be subjected to these tools of cruelty.
• Traps and poisons are indiscriminate: Between 2010 - 2017, Wildlife Services M44s killed at least 338 non-target animals in New Mexico. There is a litany of incidents around the state of non-target animals being maimed or killed by leghold traps.
• These methods are no longer considered effective: The best available science shows that indiscriminate, lethal "management" of carnivores is not effective in the long-term for dealing with wildlife-livestock conflict. Wildlife Services has been slaughtering coyotes for decades with no improvement - livestock losses continue, coyote populations are rising, and the body count ticks upwards. More and more, counties, farmers, and ranchers in the western U.S. are turning to non-lethal methods to prevent livestock loss from depredation.
• Instead of paying Wildlife Services to kill animals in an endless application of temporary band-aid solutions, the County could be using that money to help residents fix underlying problems that allow conflicts with wildlife to keep recurring.
• Money should also be spent on broad public education efforts, such as brochures, public service announcements, workshops, to help residents to prevent problems in the first place—something Wildlife Services never does.
• The county should be promoting coexistence with wildlife, not endless killing.
Please contact your county commissioner before next Tuesday (6/23), when the commission will consider this matter. Find your commissioner here.
Thank you for speaking up for wildlife!