Agency’s Budget Shrouded from Public


Wildlife Services slaughters wildlife to benefit private interests


WildEarth Guardians has assembled and is making public statistics regarding “Wildlife Service’s” wildlife slaughter last year.

WildEarth Guardians Press Release 10/7/10

WASHINGTON, DC – According to records released today by WildEarth Guardians, “Wildlife Services,” the ironically-named branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, killed more than four million wild animals and pets in 2009 while spending $121,039,763. Last month, WildEarth Guardians filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking to track how this money is spent, but the agency continually sidesteps public scrutiny.

About The Author

Brian Ertz

48 Responses to Wildlife Services Exterminates Over 4.1 Million Animals in 2009

  1. Ken Cole says:

    From the press release:

    “In 2009, Wildlife Services reported it killed 4.1 million animals and “destroyed” 18,000 more. That total includes a staggering 27,314 beavers; 988,577 blackbirds; and 114,522 mammalian carnivores (e.g., 1,775 bobcats, 82,097 coyotes, 480 wolves, 571 river otters, and 443 black bears.)”

    • jon says:

      God, this is so disgusting and heartbreaking. All of that wildlife killed for what? To benefit a rancher? Wildlife services need to be stopped and if more americans knew about this, the better off we would be.

      • Cody Coyote says:

        Well, the slim silver lining is somebody got SOME information about Wildlife (Dis)Services…

  2. timz says:

    Ken, Why is it in your opinion this info is not covered by the major, mainstream press. I think if more Americans heard about this there would be more outrage and demand for answers.

    • Save bears says:


      The main stream media don’t care on bit about stories of this nature, especially when we are less than a month from a mid-term, very active election..

      I wish they did, but they are going to run with the story that brings them the most amount of ad money, and right now, that is the election..

      Don’t shoot me, but it is the truth..

      • Daniel Berg says:

        I think in the right news cycle (non-election looming, for instance), a few outlets might pick it up. 27,500 beavers is a lot, and so is 1775 bobcats. Those figures have that shock value that a lot of news agencies covet so much.

      • cc says:

        No matter what the news cycle has been, the mainstream media has never paid attention to this issue. This has been going on for decades. This blog has been great in drawing attention to the issue and advocacy groups like Defenders and the Humane Society of the U.S. have long been trying to stop WS. I had thought once wolves were on the hit list too more people would finally care and all the less popular critters would benefit.

      • Daniel Berg says:

        There has got to be a way to spark a little interest in news organizations to pick up a story like that up, even if it was just at the local level.

    • Alan says:

      I think the only way these figures are going to get in front of the average American is through paid television spots. Unfortunately they are so incredibly expensive and most conservation money seems to end up in court fighting stupidity.
      The fact is that the vast majority of Americans, even those who care deeply about wildlife, have no idea what is going on.
      Perhaps if a high profile celebrity could be brought on board to raise money and awareness, to talk about these issues on the Today Show etc.? Anybody out there who qualifies? You know who you are!

    • Ken Cole says:

      Hell, when I’ve talked to people in the media about Wildlife Services they confuse them with US Fish and Wildlife Service or don’t even know who the hell I’m talking about. Some of them are getting better but only a few.

      The mainstream media could care less about western issues. It’s all about what is happening in the populations centers.

  3. ConnieJ says:

    How does one instigate a congressional investigation inot abuses of this magnitude? Would such an investigation even help?

    • Save bears says:


      Based on American Law at this time, there is no abuses going on, WS services are doing exactly what they have been charged with doing..

      • Brian Ertz says:

        Save bears,

        your statement is not true – there are many questions concerning the legalities of many of Wildlife Service’s programs — including litigation currently underway in Idaho District Court challenging Idaho Wildlife Service’s inadequate NEPA of its wolf killing program/relationship with the state of Idaho. Wildlife Service’s enforcement of those programs without NEPA is unlawful and an abuse of the law and the public interest, and the agency has all but admitted so in engaging in NEPA processes in response to our litigation. There are currently many other abuses taking place within the agency that are not public which would certainly justify congressional investigation.

        The remedy might just be court ordered compliance with statute — but congressional investigation, and potential sanctions, might also be warranted at the prerogative of Congress.

        However, I think you are correct with the gist of your statement, there are significant policy problems and direction that is ultimately at the root of the malfeasance and evil that is being administered via Wildlife Services.

      • Save bears says:


        It will come down to how both the courts as well as the congress interprets the laws as they are currently wrote, of course we know, you and I may interpret them completely different then those in Washington DC want..that is why we all find ourselves in these discussions..

  4. Nancy says:

    Brian, are many of these animals killed by trappers who are under contract with WS? (who probably keep the furs for sale) Or are these figures in addition to what independent trappers are also killing around the countryside.

    • Brian Ertz says:


      as I understand it, the $120 million is the budget for 2009 but Wildlife Services refuses to disclose where that money goes within the agency, prompting WildEarth Guardians to file suit for that information – so I’m unsure about how much and where contractors are used.

      I do know that Mark Collinge, head of WS in Idaho, has consulted the Idaho Department of Fish & Game suggesting that if Wildlife Services were shut down for inadequate NEPA coverage ~ or any reason ~ with respect to wolf management that the IDFG could slaughter wolves itself using private contractors, presumably because the state doing so itself with contractors would result in the removal of that extra level of federal/public oversight engendered by NEPA, APA, etc … As I understand it, Collinge even provided a referral to an individual contractor toward that end.

      • JimT says:

        You can’t escape the strictures of the ESA simply by forming a contractee relationship…In the old common law terms, it is still a “master-servant relationship”…

      • Mike says:

        I’d call that bluff. Even if IF&G hires contractors, it is self-funded (according to them). Right now, the State is getting its wildlife killed for free.

  5. pointswest says:

    I heard once that two thirds of all small mammals and birds die every year. This must be hundreds of millions of birds and animals.

    Do the math yourself.

    A pair of birds typically has four chicks. This makes six total. For the population to remain constant, from year to year, four of the six must die. That is two thirds.

    Some mammals only have two or three offspring but others, like mice, can have up to eight or 10. Over time, the population remains constant. So I think that it is true that two-thirds of all small mammals and birds must die each year on average.

    There are 300 millon people in the US. There must billions of birds, mice, squirrels, gophers, skunks, etc. Let say there are nine billion small mammals and birds in the US. Two thirds, or six billion die naturally every year.

    The 4.1 million killed by wildlife services is only 0.046% of what die naturally every year.

    Do not let this irrefutable fact prevent you from being outraged at someone, however. Someone still needs to pay.

    • Moose says:

      Which “irrefutable fact” are you referring to? That lots of small mammals die every year? Other than that, most of what you wrote seems to be just supposition on your part.

      I hope the blackbird total is European Starlings…they are a scourge on native pop.s

      What’s the difference between those they “killed” and those they “destroyed”? Are we talking eggs?

    • Nancy says:

      So what are you saying PW? 4 million more in wildlife losses is somehow an acceptable total?

    • JimT says:

      So, by your logic, we should sit back to do nothing about addressing the misdeeds of humans in an agency because many more animals die as part of natural causes? Really?

      I would love to know where you “heard’ your stats.

      One of the great beauties of natural systems is that birth cycles and rates have been developed to allow for high numbers of deaths and still have the species survive.

      The great tragedy is that these natural systems have no way to account for the direct and indirect actions of man. Sometimes, those actions can be a tipping point for an extinction or massive die off of a species. Numbers are only the beginning of the story.

    • I think killing starlings is one clearly positive thing this agency does. It needs to be redirected to eliminate other non-native animals.

      Stripped skunks, raccoons, feral dogs and cats, and a few other mammalian carnivores are no problem for me, but soon they cross the line with swift foxes, bears, wolves, cougars, and damn, raptors! There are an awful lot of songbirds on their list too. Now some of these are to protect T/E species. For example, crows might be eating the eggs of a T/E species, but if you look carefully at their tables, you will see this is an agency that overwhelming serves agriculture, especially livestock.

      The question is, is there any way to retain some of the beneficial aspects of this agency and stop the unwarranted killing of our important native wildlife?

      I think experience over the years, suggests there is not.

      • Ken Cole says:

        In Nevada WS is killing wildlife to benefit sage grouse but the problem isn’t the wildlife it’s the livestock and, in many cases, the BLM who have caused habitat destruction making the sage grouse more vulnerable to predation. It’s a sick and vicious cycle all to benefit livestock. Kind of like “destroy it so you can fix it” but we all pay for this negligence while the welfare ranchers get the subsidies to do it.

      • JimT says:

        Socialist Ranchers if you use Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint and Tea Kettle criteria…

    • Alan says:

      “….. but others, like mice, can have up to eight or 10…..” The smaller the animal the more larger animals rely on them for food. That’s why smaller animals like rabbits, gophers and squirrels have more offspring. Logic dictates that removing these food sources unnaturally could affect the entire food chain, possibly leading to more predation. Just sayin’.

    • Cody Coyote says:

      The problem I have with this sort of statistical skewing is Wildlife Services killed 4.1 million animals that did not die of other, presumably natural causes. The Survivors. The Thrivers, even.

      Pointswest is confusing the gross lost to infant mortality and natural attrition with Wildlife Services keying in on the net individuals that survived their youth, thriving and nurturing the next generation, etc.

      Not fair. Not good statistical analysis. Propagandious, if I may make up a word here….

      • pointswest says:

        I was not attempting “good statistical analysis.” I just wanted to point out that 4.1 million was an almost meaningless number when compared to the billions of small mammals and birds. My estimate of nine billion small birds and mammals is probably low by a factor of three or four too.

        For any “meaningful” statistics on the killing of small mammals and birds, you need to break it down by species. …which the original statistic did not. It was pure sensationalism.

  6. jon says:

    I think it would be wise for environmental organizations to put all of their attention and effort into bringing wildlife services down. This is a threat to the wolf population and other animal populations as well. We are so hung up on stopping hunters from gunning down wolves for sport, but now is the time to start going after wildlife services.Lawsuits need to be filed against them and the american public need to know the atrocities that are going on against wildlife.

    • william huard says:

      Don’t think for one minute they are not afraid of being defunded. Pete DeFazio introduced legislation in 1998 to pull their funding and it passed by 30 votes. The Western Republicans were in such shock they called everyone and somehow got a revote. The book “Incident at Eagle Lake” discusses how the old “Animal Damage Control” the precursor to WS would go into livestock areas and lobby ranchers to sign up for their poisoning campaigns. This is self-perpetuation where they keep telling themselves that the work they do is worthwhile as they continue to collect a paycheck and destroy ecosystems.

      • jon says:

        William, if it happened once, it can happen again. Introducing leglislation to pull their funding that is.

  7. JimT says:

    A webpage describing Wlidlife Services functions. Whitewash.

    Brian, you probably know this , or Ken. Does Wildlife Services have implementing regulations, or merely MOU’s ? Are they part of APHIS, or now considered to be a totally separate sub agency?

    The reason I ask is there are these various documents and interagency agreements only, they are immune from regulatory review under the APA. My wife remembers from awhile back they had no implementing regs, but not sure if that is true now.

  8. cc says:

    The “blackbird” total is far more than just starlings. It includes red-winged blackbirds, grackles, cowbirds and yellow-headed blackbirds. These birds commit the “sin” of feeding on crops, including sunflower farmers whose crop is destined for bird feeders throughout the country. Few if any of these bird lovers are aware of the connection.

    • cc,


      I saw the high numbers of red-winged and yellowheaded blackbirds. Those who feed birds ought to be told. I wonder if there is a story here?

      The brood parasite, the cowbird, of course is at high numbers because there are so many cows — another way that cattle harm our wildlife.

      • Virginia says:

        As I have stated before, we feed the birds and yes, in turn, we feed the grackles, black birds and magpies. If people would take the time and a little extra money to do as we have done, these bigger birds would not get all of the bird food. We purchased a coated wire to make a cage around our bird feeders. My husband looked at the expensive bird store in Billings, MT and made his own cages. The little birds are able to get into these squares and feed and it keeps the bigger birds out. It was relatively inexpensive and he enjoyed doing it. The food that falls on the ground goes to the other birds, doves, and the above mentioned birds. They all need to eat, whether you like them or not.

      • JimT says:

        You could try posting it to the JA webpage, Ralph. But that group seems to be really disappearing..perhaps they are just local focus people now..

  9. Cody Coyote says:

    We need a new nonprofit environmental -conservation group whose sole mission is to birddog Wildlife Services and expose them , and thereby render them accountable and transparent .

    • pointswest says:

      There does seem to be some mystery in our government agencies regarding the general welfare of wildlife. I know from working with many government agencies that each typically has a mission statement and that managers often repeat this mission statement as a sort of mantra to help them make decision as to weather or not to spend money on an issue. I’ve heard them do it many times…repeat their mission statement to fend me off from trying to get them to act on something.

      The mission statement for the EPA is:

      “The mission of EPA is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment — air, water and land — upon which life depends.”

      This statement seems to exonerate the EPA from having anything to do with wildlife issues. They confine their mission to air, water, and land, even though you can hardly manage water and land without first managing the life-forms that shape it.

      Strangely, the US Fish & Wildlife mission statement was difficult to find…almost like they were hiding it. It reads:

      “Working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”

      The “working with others” part is a little mysterious. Who are these “others”? …the Martians? It is intentionally ambiguous or maybe even deceptive. There is someone in the shadows telling them what to do. They just work here. Of course it is for the benefit of the American people…just define what “benefit” means and explain which of the American people is approving their actions.

      It is obvious the government is a little neurotic about what to do with wildlife…I mean, a little more neurotic than usual.

    • JimT says:

      I think it is a prime goal of CBD, CC.

  10. Dave says:

    Is there any way to find out which (if any) of these are on public lands? Shouldn’t it be possible through FOIA to get a/the report on each incident? I can’t imagine a government agency that doesn’t keep incident reports… It boggles the mind.

    • JEFF E says:

      It’s getting an FOIA out of them that is the problem. they just ignore you. They know that it will take forever and a day to force it through the courts plus the expense incurred by the filer.

  11. JimT says:

    And this is after Obama and his Justice Dept. head promised the default on FOIA cases would be to let the information out.

    Maybe there is a virus in the White House left over from the Bush Cheney years that makes you want to clench and hold onto things. Bad idea…


October 2010


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey