The following is a letter to the editor, published here as opinion. The opinions expressed in this letter are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
This letter was submitted by the Mendocino Non-lethal Wildlife Alliance Steering Committee. Here is a link to the relevant federal program, at the United States Department of Agriculture.
On Tuesday, December 17th, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors gave the go ahead to renew the County’s contract with USDA Wildlife Services to implement its lethal Integrated Wildlife Damage Management (IWDM) Program.
The Board took this action despite hearing expert testimony on how the lethal IWDM Program is ineffective (if it were effective, the kill numbers would go down instead of remaining consistent year after year), it is extremely cruel and kills hundreds of non-target animals, and there are existing models of humane and effective non-lethal programs in Marin and Sonoma Counties to protect peoples’ property.
The only public support for the Wildlife Services program comes from a sector of the ranching industry, which receives a direct financial subsidy from County taxpayers to advance their private business interests.
These ranchers argue that without a public subsidy from County taxpayers to kill wildlife, they will lose their ability to use lethal methods to protect their livestock from predators, but this is simply untrue. The fact is, any rancher who wants to kill a mountain lion or bear that threatens their livestock can get a depredation permit from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife to kill that animal. And coyotes can be shot on sight even without a depredation permit.
Proponents of the Wildlife Services lethal program also insinuate falsely that a non-lethal wildlife management program in the County would preclude using lethal controls on rabid animals, feral dogs and feral pigs, none of which is true. Rabid animals and feral dogs come under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Department, not Wildlife Services, and in the 30 years the County has contracted with Wildlife Services to kill feral pigs, the problem has only gotten worse. Dealing with feral pigs is a national problem that is not going to be solved by Mendocino County’s wildlife policy.
If Mendocino County follows through on signing a contract with Wildlife Services, thousands more wild animals will needlessly suffer and die. Clearly, the right thing to do is for the County to move away from this barbaric system of slaughtering wildlife to a system that respects wild animals’ inherent right to life, while at the same time protecting peoples’ property. The time is now for the County to adopt a non-lethal wildlife program – the public demands it!
Mendocino Non-lethal Wildlife Alliance Steering Committee
The preceding article was an opinion column, or letter to the editor, and the opinions expressed therein are the author’s, not those of The Mendocino Voice. It was not necessarily edited for punctuation, capitalization, spelling etc. While, we reserve the right to copyedit and fact-check opinion pieces, and letters to the editor — and to annotate such pieces with fact-checking — we do not habitually do so.
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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