2 thoughts on “Letter to the editor: On the re-authorization of the USDA Wildlife Services program and non-lethal options

  1. The letter from the Non-Lethal Wildlife Alliance immediately starts in with claiming unnamed “experts” that an integrated wildlife damage management plan using lethal methods is ineffective. Integrated is just that, it includes both lethal and non lethal methods. Did the authors know exclusion and other non-lethal tools are the first courses of action? Then the authors claim there are effective non-lethal programs in Marin and Sonoma counties. Apparently they have not had the opportunity to read a recent peer-reviewed study by Dr. Robert Timm and Dr. Stephanie Larson “The Marin County Livestock Protection Program: 15 Years in Review.” The paper showed the program in Marin County cost more, did not reduce loss and resulted in more coyotes dying as a result of ranchers indiscriminately killing coyotes rather than allowing specialists to selectively remove problematic coyotes. The paper goes on to recommend Marin hire a county specialist and reinstate the program where ranchers were reimbursed for their loss. Even in a county as affluent as Marin, the loss rates proved so problematic, rancher reimbursement had to be discontinued within a few years.

    The coalition goes on to make an argument that an integrated program is ineffective because kill rates go up rather than down. This demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of the relationship between wildlife and natural processes. Both the wildlife populations and the resources they depend on (water, food, shelter) are determined by nature. These forces often fluctuate just like the annual kill rates.

    The “coalition” claimed the only public support comes from a sector of the ranching community. This is simply not true. I understand the value in a federally supported cost-share program that protects urban and agricultural areas from animals that cause damage, monitors and controls wildlife disease, protects human health and safety at airports by preventing or reducing bird strikes, and protects threatened and endangered species. As a tax-paying citizen, I understand the value that comes with a program like this. These are highly trained professionals that care for their community. They work all hours of the day and night including weekends and holidays. These are benefits for more than a few ranchers, they are benefits for the community and the wildlife living in and around the community.

    The public should ask tough questions of programs like the USDA’s Wildlife Services, after all, their funding comes from taxpayers. The public should also ask tough questions of groups like the Non-lethal Wildlife Alliance why they choose to attack their opposition instead of providing evidence or support for their claims? I’m interested in listening to evidence and persuasion. Demands, not so much.

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