115 Groups urge Ag Secretary Nominee to End Wildlife Service's mass killing of wildlife

Groups want lethal control programs ended-

Here is the news release:

WILLIAMS, Ore.– Today, 115 conservation, animal protection, ranching, and faith-based organizations submitted a letter to Tom Vilsack, the Agriculture Secretary nominee, urging him to end the federal government’s systematic killing of wildlife, including wolves, coyotes, bears, cougars, and prairie dogs. Members of the coalition – comprised of Big Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Creation Care Study Program, Christians for Environmental Stewardship, Humane Society of the United States, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Sierra Club, and Ranchers for Rural Responsibility, among many others – said that each year the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services kills millions of wild animals, primarily on behalf of agribusiness. Coalition members said halting the agency’s “lethal control” programs should be one of the nominee’s first steps once he is confirmed as Secretary of Agriculture. (See complete list of signatories below.)
USDA Wildlife Services, a secretive federal agency that has largely avoided public scrutiny, employs a variety of cruel and often haphazard and indiscriminate methods to kill wildlife. Animals are shot from airplanes and helicopters, poisoned, gassed in their dens, bludgeoned after capture in steel leghold traps, strangled in wire snares, and pursued with hounds and then shot. Other animals, even family dogs and cats, are unintentionally injured or killed by agency actions. In 2007 alone, Wildlife Services killed 2.4 million animals, including 121,565 carnivores. The agency reported it spent more than $100 million in 2007 to kill wildlife, most of which was funded by taxpayers. Among those animals killed in 2007: 90,262 coyotes, 2,277 gray foxes, 2,412 red foxes, 2,090 bobcats, 1,133 cats, 552 dogs, 577 badgers, and 340 gray wolves.

“Wildlife Services has much blood on its hands. The agency is committing crimes against animals that make Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels look like doggy day care,” said Brian Vincent, communications director for the wildlife protection group Big Wildlife. “Most Americans have no idea their tax dollars are used to brutalize countless bears, cougars, wolves, and coyotes.”

USDA Wildlife Services kills carnivores and smaller animals such as prairie dogs to appease the livestock industry and kills a myriad of other animals such as blackbirds on behalf of other agribusiness enterprises. This winter, Wildlife Services killed all 27 wolves of a pack near Kalispell, Mont. In 2008, the agency wiped out seven wolf packs, pups and all, in the Big Sky state. In Oregon, Wildlife Services is coordinating with state officials to kill nearly 2,000 cougars. In New Mexico and Arizona over the past 10 years, Wildlife Services has killed and removed far more than the 50 or so remaining endangered Mexican gray wolves in the wild. The agency has perpetuated hostility towards many carnivore species, especially coyotes, by characterizing them as vermin or nuisance animals. Each year, the agency kills tens of thousands of coyotes.

” ‘Wildlife Services’ ” is a perfectly Orwellian name for an agency that serves wildlife with cyanide baits, lead bullets, and steel leghold traps,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity in Silver City, N.M. Robinson is the author of a detailed history of the agency titled “Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West” (University Press of Colorado, 2005).

Robinson’s book recounts that Wildlife Services was founded in 1885 under a different name, and began its wildlife extermination program in 1915. In 1928, responding to criticism from wildlife biologists, the agency pledged not to exterminate any species and stopped using the word “exterminate,” substituting it with “control.” However, in 1945 the agency killed the last gray wolf in the western United States, in southern Colorado. In the 1960s, after Wildlife Services officials told Congress the agency would not exterminate wildlife, it wiped out red wolves from the southeastern United States, California condors in their namesake state, and blackfooted ferrets on the Great Plains, as well as the Mexican gray wolf in the Republic of Mexico, having gained permission from Mexican authorities. The last survivors of each of these species were captured, bred in captivity and subsequently reintroduced to save the species from extinction.

Members of the conservation and animal-protection group coalition that sent the letter to Vilsack said that Wildlife Services’ killing program ignores the importance of carnivores. As “keystone species,” carnivores play a pivotal role in sustaining ecological integrity and preserving species’ diversity. For example, large carnivores regulate deer and elk numbers, as well as smaller mammal populations. Wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park has benefited bears, foxes, beavers and songbirds, among other animals. Conversely, ongoing Wildlife Services persecution of wolves continues to harm these and other wildlife species in the vast swaths of the West where wolves have not been permitted to recolonize.

Many non-lethal solutions are less expensive and more effective at reducing conflicts than killing, coalition members said. Ranchers who use guard dogs, llamas, burros, or who mix cattle and sheep report fewer or no predation problems. Nighttime penning, penning during lambing and calving season, and removing livestock carcasses from pastures also reduce conflicts. In addition, strobes and sirens are effective for preventing predation. Members of the groups said that monies spent on killing wildlife would be better used to educate and aid ranchers, farmers, and others to upgrade their fencing or assist them with utilizing non-lethal techniques. Eliminating subsidized domestic-animal grazing on public lands would sharply reduce encounters with carnivores, they said.


Action for Animals • Action for Animals Network • Alabama Wildlife Advocates • Alaska Wildlife Alliance • All-Creatures.org • Allegheny Defense Project • Alliance for Animals • Alliance for the Wild Rockies • American Lands Alliance • Animal Advocates of the Inland Northwest • Animal Defense League of Arizona • Animal Protection of New Mexico • Animal Protection Voters • Animal Welfare Institute • BARK • Bear League • Bear River Watershed Council • Big Wildlife • Biodiversity Conservation Alliance • Black Hills Mountain Lion Foundation • Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project • Born Free USA • Boulder-White Clouds Council • Buffalo Field Campaign • Californians for Western Wilderness • Cascadia Wildlands Project • Center for Biological Diversity • Center for Native Ecosystems • Christians for Environmental Stewardship • Chico For Animal Rights • Conservation Congress • Conservation Northwest • Conservation Science Institute • Cougar Fund • Creation Care Study Program • Eco-Eating • Ecological Conservation Organization • Environmental Protection Information Center • Footloose Montana • Forest Issues Group • Friends of McKay • Gila Conservation Coalition • Grand Canyon Trust  • Great Old Broads for Wilderness • Great Plains Restoration Council • HEAL • Heartwood • Hells Canyon Preservation Council • High Uintas Preservation Council • Higher Ground-Animal Advocacy • Humane Voters of Arizona • In Defense of Animals • Jewish Vegetarians of North America • Kentucky Heartwood • Kind Choices • Kinship Circle • Klamath Basin Audubon Society • Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center • Lands Council • Last Chance for Animals Arizona • League of Humane Voters • Maine Animal Coalition • MassPAWS • Mountain Cats Trust • New Dawn Montana Farm Sanctuary • New Hampshire Animal Rights League • Newton County Wildlife Association • Northwest Animal Rights Network • Options for Southern Oregon • Orange County People for Animals • Oregon Cougar Action Team • Oregon Humane Society • Oregon Wildlife Federation • Pacific Biodiversity Institute • PEACE~People for the End of Animal Cruelty and Exploitation • Power of One Animal Rights Group • Prairie Dog Pals • Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility • Public Lands Without Livestock • Ranchers for Rural Responsibility • Restoring Eden • Rocky Mountain Animal Defense • Sheep Mountain Alliance • Sierra Club • Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter • Siskiyou Project • Soda Mountain Wilderness Council • Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance • Southwest Environmental Center • St. Louis Animal Rights Team • Student Animal Legal Defense Fund • The Humane Society of the United States • The Rewilding Institute • TrapFree Oregon • Umpqua Watersheds • Utah Environmental Congress • Vegetarian Advocates • W.O.L.F. Sanctuary • Western Nebraska Resources Council • Western Watersheds Project • Western Wildlife Conservancy • Whidbey Environmental Action Network • Wild Virginia • Wild West Institute • Wilderness Watch • Wildlands CPR • Wildlife Alliance of Maine • Wildlife Watch • Wildlife Watchers • WolfWood Refuge and Adoption Center • World Temperate Rainforest Network






  1. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    While this would be extremely beneficial for the environment and for the image of the U.S.
    Even if there was aid and funding given to farmers to better equip themselves for life in the great outdoors, there would be a few that’d still shoot the animal regardless (exclusive endangered species/devil hunt).

  2. outsider Avatar

    “Today, 115 conservation, animal protection, ranching, and faith-based organizations submitted”

    Would someone please show me where the “Ranching” part of this group is at?

  3. JB Avatar


    • Public Lands Without Livestock 😉
    • Ranchers for Rural Responsibility

  4. outsider Avatar


    Ranchers for Rual Responsibilty is a guy in OR who owns around 50 ac with a few goats, Not sure on where Public Lands Without Livestock falls in.

    My point was why are they even in the title it makes it sound like their doing something

  5. outsider Avatar


    Public Lands without livestock is deffienatly not a rancher

    Some guy named Mike Hudak from NY

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I know Mike.

    Folks should read his book,

    Western Turf Wars
    The Politics of Public Lands Ranching
    Mike Hudak
    ISBN: 978-0-9790816-1-3
    Book (Hardcover)
    Biome Books, Oct. 2007

    You can buy it at this URL


  7. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    I will never give to defenders of wildlife again. Their hands off approach since Obama got elected makes me think they want the killing to continue to keep the money flowing…

  8. JB Avatar


    Sorry, I was making a joke. Certainly “Public Lands without livestock” is not a rancher–that’s why I inserted the ;).

  9. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    steve c. I doubt the $$ will be flowing to “defenders”as freely in the future as it has in the past. Lots of people here in Montana are disgusted with their wolf and bison policies..

  10. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I have always been amazed that so many so freely gave to DFW, they have been a sham(shame) organization since they were founded….

  11. chuck parker Avatar
    chuck parker

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Defenders of Wildlife/Hank Fisher lead the effort to reintroduce wolves?

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Yes. Fischer describes his, and Defender’s long effort in the book, “Wolf Wars: The Remarkable Inside Story of the Restoration of Wolves to Yellowstone”

  13. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    It seems like all of the emails I get from them lately are for the “big money” issues like polar bears and aerial gunning in alaska. While I think these issues are important where are they on aerial gunning and poisoning of coyotes/ other wildlife and on the bison issue? They could use their power to get the bison issue national press. They also chose to be silent and sit on the sidelines when USDA and Interior secretary were being chosen.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Montana (via the supposed federal agency “Wildlife Services”) has killed a far higher proportion of its wolf population than aerial gunners in Alaska of Alaskan wolves.

  15. Virginia Avatar

    Just this past week in the Cody Enterprise – an ad from Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (hah!) is having a meeting to discuss the $25 bounty for killing coyotes in the Cody area. Is the life of an animal only worth a paltry $25?? I want to write a letter to the editor, but I am a coward and fearful of retribution from these idiots.

  16. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Chuck Parker….yes, he was one of those who led the effort to introduce the wolves. There’s still controversy over that decision as opposed to letting them re-populate naturally from Canada with maximum protections. Letting that happen would have eliminated all the rules set up to pacify the livestock industry.

  17. Buffaloed Avatar

    I notice that Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Nature Conservancy are silent on this issue as well.

    Defenders is silent on this issue because they work directly with Wildlife Services to give ranchers money. You wouldn’t want to screw that up would you? 😉

    Jerry B, you are right. Senator Jim McClure of Idaho came out in support of the reintroduction so that they could be considered an experimental non-essential population and therefore could be killed for killing livestock. They’ve killed a lot of wolves since.

  18. Buffaloed Avatar

    No Idaho Conservation League either. I wonder how the wolf viewing areas are coming along?

  19. Salle Avatar

    When I went to a couple meetings at MTFW&P, over the last year, concerning the wolf mangement plan and how it would be implemented and what parameters regarding the first hunt would be, Hank Fischer was there as a member of the citizens’ coalition. I was at the negotiation meetings that lasted all day and felt that Mr. Fischer was one of the more realistic voices in the crowd.

    I was part of the “outsider group” who were allowed to give comments at a certain time but not allowed to participate other than observing the process.
    A GYC rep was there, as was someone from NRDC and myself, representing Wolf Recovery Foundation. It was interesting because I brought up issues like pack dynamics before and after members were killed in a proposed hunt and that there was not enough evidence of outside gene blending going on at present. The NRDC rep was even more detailed in his argument on the same topics. The GYC rep. blathered on about consensus and partnership and basically said nothing coherent, as was the case every time I was at some public hearing or other concerning wildlife in the past two years. Oh, and some obstructionist commentary at one event…

    Guess you just have to pay attention to what these groups are saying, if it isn’t clear that they are saying anything, then they are probably not a group you’d want to support. At least GYC is consistent there.

  20. Brian Ertz Avatar

    it seems to me that the cohesion and coalition building from the smaller, local/regional grassroots groups like has been happening especially recently is really heart-warming. Why shouldn’t our efforts and dollars go to those groups in direct proximity to the landscapes and wildlife that we care about ? They are the groups that are on the ground, directly knowledgeable about what’s going on – and directly responsive to it and membership – hell, they rely on membership and people that know what’s going on.

    To see this many, as diverse as the landscapes and wildlife they represent, come together to express through a singular voice the injustice of WS, and to express enough courage to support the best (Grijalva) rather than remain silent in hopes of maintaining access to the worst (Salazar) previously, etc. is really heartening. We’re energizing. I think it’s a good direction that we should build upon because as many have mentioned, the nationals just aren’t responsive to the landscape, wildlife or membership to the degree that they need to be anymore – and it makes sense that they’re not – follow the money to industry sympathizing foundations (PEW, Hewlett, etc.) and follow the power/”access” straight to Washington. They don’t feel like it’s worth their while to be critical of Livestock (or others), to tell the truth, etc. because the decision-makers are not on the ground – they’re likely interviewing some focus-group somewhere. Given the direction these large groups are headed (given their decisions and what I’ve read with their publications), it seems that it’s a cerebral/political exercise somewhere in Washington that guides them.

    But ultimately, for all the shortcomings of the corporate conservationist nationals, the energy that we’re seeing at the grass-roots level is what’s going to change things – it’s what the real story is right now. There’s something going on that made herding 115 cats into one voice critical of WS possible. We need to support and build on that.

  21. Salle Avatar

    “because the decision-makers are not on the ground – they’re likely interviewing some focus-group somewhere”

    But Brian,

    It’s not the way it works, or is designed ~ interviewing focus groups. The actual function of interviewing focus groups is to talk to the “people on the ground” in the affected areas to see what they are concerned about and why the policies are a problem for them as stakeholders. In the nationally owned public lands and wildlife (federally administered) that is the process. The problem with the large NGOs is that they don’t do this. All they seem to be doing, and calling it focus groups monitoring, is to send out surveys to their membership and they call that the focus group process when all the are really doing is singing with their choir in their church, so to speak, and not really applying the actual process as it SHOULD be conducted. they don’t really identify the actual stakeholders, only the groups THEY focus on… not an honest way of conducting due process.

  22. Brian Ertz Avatar


    i’m less concerned about the focus groups and more concerned about the actual conditions on the ground. The national’s “choir” is a resource – but it seems to me like instead of leading & building awareness with honest outreach — distributing reality to the millions they claim to have as members with the substantive truth with the goal of building a meaningful constituency behind an agenda that benefits the actual conditions of habitat and wildlife on the ground, they distribute dishonest drivel that perpetuates the untruths and exemplifies the lack of leadership & regard for the actual conditions.

    But again, the aggregation of many local, regional, issues-based, grass-roots groups looks like it may become more important than the inevitable shortcomings of the corporate conservationists. 115 groups ! It’s heartening – and could become a fascinating political force, if it holds together, that brings about the change that the nationals seem to be less interested in. An alternative that lets me keep my energy & effort local – where it belongs IMO, while also contributing to a national voice…

  23. kt Avatar

    Buffaloed – Those Idaho Plan Wolf Viewing areas: Back east where I grew up a Viewing was where the embalmed body was displayed preceding the Funeral ceremony.

    Brian – It’s clear that the PEW dollars have already bought themselves a very inside track. One of the Videos at change.gov from early December (for some reason the link is not copying right for me) PEW, TNC and World Wildlife meeting with the Obama Transition Team. PEW isn’t non-profit, enviro org is it? It is a funder – yet they are there at a special meeting on environmental policy.

  24. Salle Avatar

    I saw that video, I believe it can still be viewed on YouTube. It was the first “energy and environment” vid. I wasn’t impressed with it. Reminded me of some of the “big” meetings I’ve been to, same old rubbish. And I don’t get why the PEW foundation was there either.

    I agree that the grass rots thing is a good idea and that it needs to be implemented too. I do feel that we have to somehow counter the damage of misinformation that has been distributed widely.

    The problem that I see, and why the “corporates” have been successful, is that the general public has become complacent and the “just send money and we’ll handle it for you” message has been the rallying cry to the public for a while now and that is where we are at present. Somehow, if the grassroots thing is going to work, the public has to become aware that they are stakeholders and that THEY have to DO something themselves and not rely on someone else to “handle it” for them anymore, even if they “send money”.

    The good thing is, I think that the public is starting to understand that just throwing money at a problem isn’t necessarily going to fix it. Eight years of the Bu$h regime has helped that immensely.

  25. kt Avatar


    I think you are right about the complacency. But strategic funding and de-funding by big foundations has done a lot to kill envtl. outspokenness.

    Where in the world were the Big Groups when PEER, for example, was working tirelessly in DC to expose agency wrongdoing?

    I was just looking at the PEER Web site – where Jeff Ruch and others have Press Releases that chronicle the Dirty Doings of Interior throughout the Bush regime – including the continued downward slide and corruption under Pretty Boy Dirk Kempthorne.


    My one complaint: This is slim on grazing related issues. Maybe that is because most Range Cons and their ilk must be singularly numb to the environmental devastation that cows cause, and just kind of non-caring all around. How else could you devote your life to lying for, and enabling, BLM welfare cattle ranchers?

  26. Salle Avatar

    I think the “corporates” have been assisting that effort by helping to silence those who speak out, like PEER.

    I was talking to a former mayor of West Yellowstone recently, we were discussing the former superintendent of YNP and how he resigned within 48 hours after Cheney and Norton went careening through the park using him as a photo op. Both of us admired Finley and could see. from day one, why he would do such a thing. Not surprisingly, he must have seen how the new regime planned to function and wasn’t going to participate. I think that is what happened to many, the ones who have stayed have face unbelievable pressure. But the silencing has done its damage.

    I hope that the public are getting the message too, I hope that the election was one milestone in helping them to see that they have to do it themselves. The dumbing-down of America via “no child left behind” and other programs have been essential to the plan of silencing those who could do harm to the mass raping of the public trust with the help of corporate media etc..

    It will have to be grassroots efforts to insist that the governing bodies get back to doing their job. There also needs to be a reversal of allowing the personhood of corporations, it is essential to returning the public trust to the public.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan