AP EXCLUSIVE: Wildlife whistleblower case in NV

Wildlife Services employee fired for reporting the illegal killing of two mountain lions from an airplane by co-workers.

How much of this kind of thing actually happens? I’ve definitely heard of cases where wolves were shot at and injured by WS.

AP EXCLUSIVE: Wildlife whistleblower case in NV
Scott Sonner, Associated Press






  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    There is sort of unwritten law in all of these agencies that you don’t tell on each other. I was working several years ago on a summer job for the Nez Perce Tribe doing underwater video monitoring of salmon on the Secesh River.
    While I was out working at the site, I heard a rifle shot. When I walked out to the road to see what was going on, I discovered the local IDFG conservation officer had just shot a black bear off of the topless community dumpster at the Burgdorf junction. As I watched, he drug the small bear down to the edge of the Secesh river and dumped it on the bank and left it. I knew that he was supposed to properly dispose of the dead animal, not dump it next to a stream. On my next day off, as a long time licensed hunter in Idaho, I called the regional IDFG supervisor in Nampa and told him what had happened. The supervisor said he would check on the violation and get back to me. I made the mistake of telling him I was working for the Tribe. He got back to me all right. He called my supervisor at the Tribal headquaters and I got a letter telling me that I was not to ever complain about anything I observed the IDFG do while I was employed by the Tribe, because it would interfere with the working relationship between the two agencies. In other words, you are not supposed to a be a whistleblower no matter what laws you see broken while you are employed by any wildlife agency . It is called shoot, shovel and shutup.

  2. Virginia Avatar

    A man with a conscience – seems like an oxymoron for Wildlife Services. And he was supposed to worry about the two killers losing their jobs and jeopardizing the aerial killing program! I believe that Bush tried to gut the whistleblower’s program before he left office. I hope that justice comes for the wildlife whistleblower and the wildlife of Nevada.

  3. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    I’m sure he won’t be unemployed for long. He can always return to Montana and find a job killing wolves, coyotes, bears, prairie dogs or whatever. Sounds like he needs that “empowerment” that comes with a firearm and the job of killing wildlife.
    Sorry…….no tears shed here.

  4. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Jerry b, there are people in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming who are probably drooling over a chance to get to hire him. I sure hope that this does result in some housecleaning at Wildlife Services, and not just because of the killing but because of the fact that someone was fired for calling an agency on corruption. Larry, your story reminds me of why I would almost want to think twice before reporting the sighting of a predator like a wolf or grizzly bear outside of its established range. I have heard of cases in eastern Montana where the local game wardens tell people they can shoot large coyotes on their land, even if the coyotes happen to be black.

    Still, I would like to believe this is something that does not happen all the time.

  5. kt Avatar

    Given the location, and other aspects of this, I believe this was part of a MASSIVE predator eradication program that NDOW funded in Elko County due to endless pestering and whining by Sportsmen for Dead Things types who exist these days in every western State with a cretinous Commission. The idea is if you kill every predator with canines, somehow there will magically be more deer for Bubba to kill.

    Notice the above in the article:

    “In the complaint Strader says two aerial gunners—who were working under a federal contract to help the Nevada Department of Wildlife control predators that attack livestock—shot the lions from a government-owned plane in Elko County in October 2006”.

    WHY would NDOW fund livestock programs?

    I have some personal knowledge of this – as I recall circa 2005 or 2006 visiting lands in the Big Springs allotment east of Wells, and driving down the dirt road on a sunny May or June day, and finding a raven caught in a trap by its bill. Somewhere I have a photo of that raven. ANYWAY, following that odd encounter (WHY would anyone be trapping at that time of year, and also I thought what a stupid place to put a trap – a lazy man’s location – which sonds just like WS as well ).

    I then made inquiries to Elko BLM and NDOW. NDOW mumbled around, and finally admitted some massive predator killing pogrom was underway, dubbed a “study”. If those boys would have studied the devastation being wrought by welfare ranchers – including land and water speculators who actually owned the BLM cattle grazing permits in this area – thenmaybe, just maybe, they stand a chance of getting the gross overstocking by cattle controlled. But no, no, no. THAT wasn’t allowed then in Nevada then, and certainly is not allowed now – what with a Gibbons appointed Commission to the right of Attila the Hun. Just like Idaho. Regarding my inquiry to Elko BLM: They basically admitted no NEPA had been done on this – despite it being a multi-year ground and it sounds like aerial-based disturbance. It was also hinted that Wildlilfe Services was using state funding provided here to buy DE-LUXE ATVs or snowmobiles – apparently it was a real “rush” for Wildlife Services – who are increasingly marketing their Killing Services.

    Someone needs to do a FOIA to find out WHAT NEPA, if any, Wildlife Services did on the “Study”. I am betting laws were broken there, too.

    I also stress there were NO signs or anything to alert the public to be aware of a scorched earth trapping program underway over who knows how many millions of acres of public lands – including right next the Interstate.

    I hope there is MORE to this story, too, that will come out.

  6. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Interesting kt. I was hoping that in the year 2009 that mentality would be gone. I would have thought that anyone who was working for a fish and wildlife agency would have more sense than that. There needs to be a politician with the huevos to take on the ranchers, this is horrible. I like your analogy on Sportsmen for Dead Things. That is the mentality of a lot of sportsmen groups.

  7. kt Avatar

    Soemone needs ot inestigate just how many predator-killing “studies” like this have occurred/are ongoing. There was one for years and years in the SE Idaho, even though all the Game Dept, Bios knew that any change in deer #s or deer fawn recruitment from scorched earth predator killing would be minimal at best (plus there were likely to be many more skunks and their ilk from removing larger predators). Anyway, hundreds of thousands of dollars and who knows hw much death and upsetting of natural balacne occurred. FG here was VERY sheepish about it all – like NDOW – but these things are crammed down their throats by Commissioners and greedheads who want public lands to be essentially a pasture to produce a big set of antlers. WATCH for WS to make MANY moves to kill predators to “save” sage-grouse. In fact, I wonder how much of that is going on right now – including under cover of other activity.

    Wildlife Services has always always sought to expand its Killing through “experiments”.

  8. jdubya Avatar

    Bozeman is planning a 4th of July tea party for main street where everyone gets to dress up in mountain man garb and carry signs complaining about the out of control spending that the fed gov’t seems to be in the middle of. I was thinking about going and carrying a sign decrying some wasteful gov’t spending other than the usual racist slogans that most will have. Getting the Fed’s to stop subsidizing the rip off of grazing on public lands with their predator control programs might be one idea, but I need only a few words with few letters.

    Maybe “Shoot Republicans, not cougars”….

  9. Davej Avatar


    Jokes about shooting people aren’t that funny. Look what happened to Dr. George Tiller. Radical violence shouldn’t have a place in this country.


  10. jdubya Avatar

    How about a sign about this boondoggle then?


  11. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I don’t see what a tea party has to do with a whistle blower?

  12. Ryan Avatar


    Here is an interesting read about Nevadas predator control programs.

  13. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Kt, if Idaho knew that predator control programs had such a minimal effect on fawn recruitment than why are they itching to start blasting wolves?

  14. Gerry Miner Avatar
    Gerry Miner

    “I would have thought that anyone who was working for a fish and wildlife agency would have more sense than that. ” Don’t be fooled by the name….Wildlife Services in NOT a wildlife agency. They used to be called Animal Damage Control and are part of the Department of Agriculture.

  15. Ryan Avatar


    Do you have any proof to back that statement up? In the short run predator reduction nearly always boosts Fawn and Calf recruitment.

  16. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I think it would be interesting to see a study done on a population of ungulates after a predator reduction. Since the goal is to have more animals to hunt, with more licenses issued, does the population really increase after hunting season or does it go back to where it was before?

  17. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    It seems to me that it would be appropriate to see a study done on how removing top predators from the ecosystem affects the complete ecosystem, watershed etc.
    How does the removal of these predators affect mesopredators, raptors, beaver, fish, amphibians, voles, mice, songbirds etc.
    Most of these are every bit as important , and in many cases more important, than elk or deer.
    Take beaver as an example…. wetlands, beaver ponds and the associated riparian areas provide habitat for all types of wildlife as well as water storage and improved water quality, as well as providing fire breaks.
    Remove the top predators and you have ungulates overgrazing the willows and other trees and plants necessary for a beaver population.
    This is just one example of “unbalancing” a natural system.
    So, predator reduction may boost ungulate populations, but not be good for the ecosystem as a whole.
    The “gotta get my elk this year” mentality distorts the “big” picture.

  18. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Jerry b, all of what you said is exactly true. It is too much of the “gotta get my elk this year” attitude that keeps these predator control programs going. While I will agree that hunting does bring revenue into an area, people make it sound like elk are some sacred creature that only humans may kill, nothing else is worthy.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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