Davis, California fires USDA Wildlife Services

People upset by the actions of the federal wildlife control agency, Wildlife Services in the Dept. of Agriculture, usually don’t get any media attention.  However, for over a year now the Sacramento Bee has had many stories about the Service, and they have done a lot of investigative reporting.

Davis, Caifornia just responded to complaints of its citizens ” expressing outrage over the recent killing of five coyotes – four of them pups.”  The city council moved quickly to terminate its relationship with the Service.  Davis is a small city (67,000), and this kind of action would probably not have been reported to the public were it not for the Sacramento Bee.

People will no doubt argue over the merits of the action taken by the Davis city council, but the interesting thing may be that the Bee’s continued initiative reporting on the Service might be moving matters to the critical point where actions will be taken to bring what many call a “rogue agency” to heel.

Davis terminates its contract with Wildlife Services. By Tom Knudson. Sacramento Bee.



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  1. ramses09 Avatar

    Thank god someone had the balls to take the 1st step.
    Kudos to you CA.

  2. Ida Avatar

    Yip-yip-yippee! 🙂

  3. Mike Avatar


    Once again, California leads the way.

    1. jon Avatar

      I hope this happens in other places. These coyotes did not deserve to be killed. It doesn’t amaze me the lack of compassion that usda/wildlife services appears to have for wild animals. They kill wild animals like it’s nothing. Do these people feel guilty for all of the innocent wildlife they slained? I know it’s their job, but you would think all of this killing of wildlife would get to them, but it probably hasn’t.

      1. Lori Avatar

        Lack of compassion is a prerequisite

    2. JB Avatar

      Recall that Marin County (also CA) let Wildlife Services go more than a decade ago.

  4. Angela Avatar

    It may be a small step, but having hated this agency since I was in high school in the 1970s, I has a little happy feeling reading that they have been rejected by at least one small segment of the country. Let’s make this snowball! After all, budgets are tight…

  5. listotrampa Avatar

    As if the city isn’t the one to hire them in the first place. They obviously wanted someone to handle their coyote problems at some time in the past, the feds don’t just walk in on their own someone has to ask for their help.

  6. Pat Avatar

    The mantra of the USDA/wildlife services is kill, kill and kill some more. Kudos, Davis, CA for dumping them.

  7. Salle Avatar

    It’s about time someone had some cajones on this travesty.

  8. listotrampa Avatar

    When another coyote attacks a child in California, someone will call wildlife services for help. When another mountain lion attacks a jogger in California, someone will call wildlife services for help. When another 747 runs into a flock of geese, someone will call wildlife services. When there is another outbreak of disease in the wildlife population, someone will call wildlife services. It would serve you all right if they refused to help you, but you know what? They will solve your problems, with little pay, no recognition, whether its the same people that were outraged here or not, they won’t ask, they will just do their job.

  9. Indamani Avatar

    The public is repulsed by their heavy-handed tactics when dealing with wildlife. Why, may I ask, are you so enamored by this killing machine called ‘wildlife services?

    1. WM Avatar


      Do you understand the full depth and breadth of the functions performed by Wildlife Services in rural and urban areas throughout the US?

      If you did, you would likely not ask such a naive question, or at least do so with some qualifications.

      Sure, there are some functions they do not do so well, or without the finesse some urbanites (and a few rural) folks don’t like.

      In some cases those who know the least about the functions (or the consequences of the functions not being performed) are the most vocal.

      And, yeah I can and do appreciate the controversey surrounding lethal control of wolves (and coyotes for which no scientists have come up with a fool proof solution control their numbers and distribution), which get alot of attention on this forum.

    2. JB Avatar

      I wish we could get passed the good/bad dichotomy that is so often used to depict Wildlife Services. There is no question that WS provides many valuable services to our society. Others have mentioned the removal of birds around airports, I would add the control of diseases (such as rabies) via NON-LETHAL vaccines (here in Ohio), as well as the research (much of it on non-lethal control) out of Fort Collins and Logan. Predator control is a small part of what WS does. Do they deserve criticism for their failure to use non-lethal methods? Absolutely. However, we should be looking for ways to reform this agency rather than get rid of it.

      1. Kit Parker Avatar
        Kit Parker

        Lethal predator control a small part for WS? Killing over 4 MILLION wild animals every year for decades (for a minority interest), the archaic and barbaric methods used, and controversially spending $11-19 million of our tax dollars is not “small”!

        People should not buy “WS is 30% non-lethal work”, because this is spun garbage. The ORV programs etc that you mention are non-lethal, yes – that is not countable as “alternative non-lethal” work!!! Their predator hatred dominates this Agency, always has and is a huge part of what they do.

        1. JB Avatar


          Yes, small. First, I said “predator” (referring to animals that prey on livestock). In 2011, wildlife services killed 391 wolves, 402 cougars, ~5,000 foxes, 1,263 bobcats, and ~84,000 coyotes. The vast majority of the animals killed (3.75 million) were birds. And who sits atop of the list? (1) 1.5 million EUROPEAN starlings–a non-native invasive species that is a threat to bird diversity and (2) ~900,000 brown-headed cowbirds, a brood parasitic species that also threats native bird diversity. Most of the rest of the animals killed are also birds, many of them are non-native invasives.

          Wildlife Services funding falls into four main program areas (i.e., Agricultural Protection, Health and Safety, Natural Resources Protection, Property Protection). In total, they list ~126 million in expenditures, less than half of which (~47 million) goes to agricultural protection, and only half of that (24 million is federal funding). Dig around a bit, and you’ll find that they also spent 7.4 million on endangered species protection. (And we haven’t even mentioned the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins).

          So yes, any way you slice it, predator control is a relatively small portion of what the agency does (especially considering WS is a mere branch of USDA-APHIS).

          “Their predator hatred dominates this Agency…”

          I’ve know or have known probably 3 dozen people who work for USDA-WS, only one of whom fits this description, and at least 5 are very much supportive of carnivores and non-lethal management. So can we cut out the hyperbole?

          For more details see: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/prog_data/2011_prog_data/index.shtml

          1. Salle Avatar

            So maybe it’s a livestock problem and not a predator problem? Cows and domestic sheep aren’t indigenous either so why are we protecting them and killing off the indigenous wildlife instead? Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s the money, stupid.

  10. Ida Avatar

    If the states are taking on the killing of wildlife on their own (and doing a fine job, I might add) and states’ rights, why do they need the Feds to step in too? With all the talk of cutting unnecessary taxes, isn’t that not proper use of the taxpayers money? 😉

  11. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Wildlife Services operations are not only highly lethal when it comes to some of our most treasured wildlife, they are often characterized by gross inefficiency measured by benefits to costs (assuming the targeted wildlife is of no value, e.g., a rancher’s view). How many stories have we run of the Service spending many thousands of dollars trying to kill a wolf or a pack of them that killed a few head of livestock?

    Dealing with problem animals seems to be inherently a local or state function, not a national one. Do we have federal dog catchers? Problem individual wildlife is also a place where private enterprise may do better. Is there any collective (public) good present in protecting privately owned sheep or cattle that would justify abandonment of the private market?

    I suppose there might be a collective good when it comes to control of some diseases or of feral animals that require the cooperation of many people people in a lot of areas, but WS’s most controversial actions — killing specific large animals to benefit specific individuals, often people with political connections, seems hard for me to justify. However, I certainly do understand the existence of political favors that devote public resources to benefit private persons because of who they know or their favored political status.

    1. JB Avatar

      But privatization comes with its own problems (e.g., lack of congressional oversight, lack of standardized reporting–or any reporting at all, no FOIA requests). Here’s what the nation’s leader (Critter Control) says about how they deal with coyote problems:

      “Coyotes can cause coyote damage to a variety of resources, including livestock, poultry and crops such as watermelons. Coyotes can cause serious coyote problems as they sometimes prey on pets and are a threat to public health and safety when they frequent airport runways and residential areas, and carry rabies. Common coyote diseases include distemper, hepatitis, parvo virus and mange (caused by parasitic mites). Rabies and tularemia also occur and may be transmitted to other animals and humans. Coyotes harbor numerous parasites including mites, ticks, fleas, worms and flukes.

      If you think you have a coyote problem or coyote damage contact your local Critter Control. Our Critter Control coyote removal specialist are qualified in proper coyote removal techniques such as coyote trapping. We can help identify coyotes, assist with coyote removal and coyote control to prevent future coyote damage” (emphasis mine). (Link: http://www.crittercontrol.com/)

      Nothing about non-lethal practices in there. (What’s the idiom about the devil you know…?)

      I’m all for ending special subsidies for predator removal–if we’re going to subsidize anything it should be the non-lethal stuff–and you can get rid of aerial gunning while you’re at it. I just don’t want to see the proverbial baby thrown out with the bath water.

      1. WM Avatar

        Political favors will remain, regardless of who pays for them – fed, state or local. I don’t see a whole lot gained by eliminating WS and its co-op program in favor of some poorly scaled (and do consider there is an economy of scale for research and specialized skills and equipment) and low or non-existent oversight program carried out on a more local level.

        Alternatively, I guess these states/local governments could bring in a bunch of workers of the India rat catcher caste under H-1B visas, with the necessary specialized skills to do the work others can’t/won’t. Then, don’t enforce the visa terms, let them stay. Oh wait, we have already tried that in another area.

        What would American agriculture be without APHIS/WS? Maybe like India, where 25-30 percent of its crops are eaten by rodents and insects, even with the help of the rat catchers.

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          WM wrote,

          “What would American agriculture be without APHIS/WS? Maybe like India, where 25-30 percent of its crops are eaten by rodents and insects, even with the help of the rat catchers.”

          What? !! APHIS/WS kills very few crop eating rodents. They do not control insects except rarely. What they do instead is kill mammals that eat rodents and insects — coyotes, fox and other small carnivores and omnivores such as magpies.

          WS does kill prairie dogs, however; but once again that is to benefit a few owners of livestock in a few areas.

          1. WM Avatar


            With due respect, I believe my statement is correct. Much of what APHIS/WS does is in the area of technical assistance and yes, research for wildlife of all types, rodent control included. Just because we talk mostly here about whether they should be thumping problem wolves from helicopters in support of ESA programs or killing coyotes on golf courses under their co-op programs, does not alter their nation-wide functions.

            An example from the Fort Collins Wildlife Research Center:


            And, an issue involving starlings, affecting livestock operations AND soft fruit production, specifically cherries:


            We might also consider that starlings can ruin ripening cherry crops in MI or Eastern WA (WA is the largest producer in the US), without technical service intervention by WS, and on the ground control by fruit ranchers. I think the producers, health authorities, and wildlife agencies think starlings, among other species (rats anywhere around grain operations, voles in fruit orchards working on tree roots), are justifiably vermin when there are too many. It is my understanding APHIS/WS provides technical services That doesn’t mean just killing them. The consumer might even think so if the price of cherries goes up another $1/pound if control measures are not taken.

            Maybe the Mission description for APHIS would be a good read for those who believe otherwise:


            1. Nancy Avatar

              “I think the producers, health authorities, and wildlife agencies think starlings, among other species (rats anywhere around grain operations, voles in fruit orchards working on tree roots), are justifiably vermin when there are too many”

              BUT, the big question is (in my mind anyway) WM –
              Why ARE there to many of these vermin around? Because maybe, just maybe, the likes of APHIS and WS are taking out far too many key predators (foxes, coyotes etc.) that would natually keep these “vermin” in check?

            2. WM Avatar


              You might read the first paper from Fort Collins. I think there is a statement addressing that issue: that is that prey abundance determines predator abundance. So more rodents means more coyotes, is the reasoning. Not the other way around. Their conclusion is to control the food source – get rid of the rodents.

              The question is whether we buy the argument. Obviously some of us do not.

            3. WM Avatar

              One more information source for those who doubt the breadth and depth of the mission of APHIS (recall Wildlife Services is but one division).
              This is the organizational chart for APHIS and its 6 operating divisions.

              Click on the various tabs for the operating units for their repective mission statements, including Wildlife Services AND Plant Protection, and drill down in the outline.


            4. JB Avatar

              “I think there is a statement addressing that issue: that is that prey abundance determines predator abundance. So more rodents means more coyotes, is the reasoning. Not the other way around.

              Ha! Tell that to RMEF. In all seriousness, I think the jury is still out on the extent to which “prey” populations are regulated by food/habitat (bottom ups) or predators (top down). However, there’s no question that when we artificially (through agriculture) create a mono-culture of food for certain species, we invite them en mass.

            5. Ralph Maughan Avatar
              Ralph Maughan


              I’ll just say this. APHIS stands for Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Wildlife Services is part of APHIS. The criticisms of Wildlife Services are not criticisms of APHIS per se, nor is pointing to the beneficial research done by APHIS any defense of Wildlife Services.

  12. Travis Day Avatar
    Travis Day

    “However, I certainly do understand the existence of political favors that devote public resources to benefit private persons because of who they know or their favored political status.”

    Bingo! And unless and until we remedy this problem, citizens across the nation will have to remain vigilant against the gross injustices that result.

  13. Ida Avatar

    “where 25-30 percent of its crops are eaten by rodents and insects.”

    I don’t consider cougars, bears, wolves, coyotes, American bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and other birds classified as vermin. Insects and rodents may pose a more immediate threat to crops, but not these other animals. We don’t live in the kind of country anymore where animals and the environment can be treated so recklessly and with such disregard. The people that buy crops and livestock, and products from them, don’t want this kind of treatment and would sooner go without if that’s what it takes. To quote one source, this mindset “is the product of a bygone era.”

  14. Salle Avatar

    One of the problems with WS is that they operate with impunity and demand it as an operative agreement with the authorities who employ them; like state and county officials. Another detriment to having them “help” with “problem species” is that they demand carte blanche with state and local funds, laws/rules for “take” in order to come to their “aid”. I have seen official documentation of this practice as fact though I was shown this documentation with the assurance of not divulging the source or from which jurisdiction(s) the materials from which the documents originated… and they are authentic. It was blatantly evident in this documentation that the division basically bullies the jurisdictional authorities into allowing them laisse-faire conditions including the $$ they collect from those authorities for their killing sprees… and it’s an insane amount designed to allow for those aerial shootouts that become a form of entertainment for them. Many of their forays into “animal control” are enough to make anyone wonder what kind of society we’ve become regardless of political affiliation… practices that only sadists would laud.

    In addition, for those wanting some citations, I suggest you take a look at Carter Niemeyer’s book: Wolfer; A Memoir (ISBN978-0-615-40948-1) to get a valid perspective on what APHIS Wildlife (dis)Services has been and is now actually about.

    With this action, Davis, CA has opened the door to renegotiating the premises upon which this agency can function in their jurisdiction… a long ignored necessity for review of procedures that is paramount to restructuring how we deal with wildlife with humans as a participant in the environment rather than imperial dictators complete with death squads… it’s about damned time.

    1. Salle Avatar

      And not only are their predator control operations suspect… just take a look at their role in the bison fiasco in Montana (mind you WS, NPS, NFS, MTDoL and other agencies co-participate in this nonsense to the tune of >$3mil in taxpayer funds each year)…


  15. Matt Avatar

    One thing I wish the article had mentioned is what the City Council of Davis wanted to do instead of relying on Wildlife Services. This article came out only a few days ago, so I think that the city probably hasn’t had the opportunity put much thought into what they will do next.

    Although some may not approve of Wildlife Services approach to dealing with predators, an advantage of programs of lethal control is that they do not rely on the people who live in a given area having to learn to live with the animals that some people consider vermin and a nuisance. Getting people to do that, I would imagine, is difficult and made even more difficult if the people are resentful of having to change their behavior for animals that could easily be lethally dispatched.

    It will be interesting to see what the city does from here. If the city is to put in place a non-lethal program designed to promote coexistence with coyotes, I hope that sufficient resources are allocated so that: (1) a team with expertise in coyote behavior and ecology can be assembled to advise the city on how best to design such a program, and (2) the program can be evaluated to determine it’s effectiveness.

    I believe that what must accompany the criticism of Wildlife Services approach to predators is the development of viable alternatives. It will be interesting to see if the City of Davis is able to do that.

    1. Mike Avatar

      Animals are not a “nuisance” unless they are stuck inside your home or blocking runways (or a few other safety hazard issues).

      I really don’t care what people consider “vermin”. That has no meaning of any kind.

      1. JB Avatar

        “I really don’t care what people consider “vermin”. That has no meaning of any kind.”

        American Heritage Medical Dictionary:

        vermin (n. pl. vermin)
        “Any of various small animals or insects, such as rats or cockroaches, that are destructive, annoying, or injurious to health.”


        I think an important (an unacknowledged) point in this debate is that animals are not a nuisance because of their existence or their taxonomic classification–they become a nuisance when they interfere with human activities or threaten human property or life. (Why I object to indiscriminate killing of carnivores, but not to carnivore hunting.)

        1. Salle Avatar

          Actually, humans are the biggest nuisance threat to all other life forms on the planet, perhaps we could do with a lot fewer of us in order for the other life forms to have a life outside the mandatory control by humans that we impose upon them. It’s a little too lopsided out there and if we weren’t so adamant about eradicating everything else in favor of our benefit profit and convenience, life would be better for all life forms including our sorry species. It is going to bite us in the a$$ sooner or later if we don’t start controlling our own species better and have respect for the other lifeforms (actually it already is but the deniers own all mass communications so it won’t be televised for those who can’t tear themselves away from the TeeVee).

          1. Harley Avatar

            “perhaps we could do with a lot fewer of us in order for the other life forms to have a life outside the mandatory control by humans that we impose upon them”

            Ooo goody! We can impose restrictions like China so there aren’t too many of us spreading too quickly! Because we all know how well that model is working for them over there…

            1. Nancy Avatar

              Harley – might want to check out this site when you have the time:


              “As described in Chapter 91, “Animal Rights and Environmentalism,” some people believe that Man has no particular status on this earth, and that he is just another animal who must take into consideration all the other animals when making any decisions regarding his own welfare.

              This all sounds logical from a Humanistic point of view, but when people begin to see themselves as morally equal to or even lower than animals, a certain inevitable depressive world outlook must result.

              After all, if we are not the supreme creation of God, then we are a cancer. If we do not occupy a privileged place on this earth, we occupy the lowest rung of existence because of our unparalleled ability to destroy other species. If we desire to escape responsibility in sexual and other matters, we may assuage our consciences by accepting culpability for ‘destroying’ our planet — a psychological ploy that allows us to take no concrete action other than being politically correct in our speech”

              http://www.ewtn.com in case you missed it.

            2. WM Avatar

              Harley, Salle,

              You might give some thought to the fact that over the last 15 years or so the largest single factor for increased population in the US has been…..illegal immigrants from Latin countries. Guess who the biggest group having babies is now (and many with religious and cultural beliefs aligned with the Catholic church invoking few restrictions on numbers of children a family should have whether they can afford them or not). This group (and, by the way no racism intended here just facts impacts of a new population source) will be the largest factor affecting US population over the next 20 years and beyond.

              Then of course there is China and India (one in three people in the world is from these two countries), and the newcomer to the party Africa, where most of world population growth is expected to occur over the next 50 years.

              After 15 freakin’ years the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation finally figured out they should focus on birth control in Africa instead of providing birthing kits and improving infant survival (a morally tough issue indeed but nonetheless a huge impact to population increase). The Gates Foundation just made this decision last week!

            3. Salle Avatar

              Dear Harley,

              You have been so privileged to be able to make as many humans as you want to, regardless of whether they will impact the rest of the species on the planet. The idea that we all have the right to reproduce is enhanced by all those IVF babies because “everyone who wants to have babies should be given the unnatural help in doing so”. Ever think that there’s a natural reason why some folks can’t reproduce and that they should accept it just like they have to accept that there are clouds in the sky? You can’t always get what you want just because you want it, even though a true American fallacy states that you can (promoted and perpetuated by the profit seeking medical industrial complex for their own gain and not that of all the other species.)
              And then, of course we have all these state legislators presuming that we need to truncate the right of women to CHOOSE whether they want to reproduce and that it’s okay if men foist their you-know-whats on them and impregnate them… don’t get me started on that one, I was of reproductive age when we won the right to choose and recall the ugly nightmares that brought that about, and lost friends by that mindset and methodologies back then.

              We are not the saviors of the planet, quite the opposite and we seem to have mistakenly appointed ourselves as such.

              And, WM, I find your take just flat-out offensive and lacking any factual information beyond your old stand-by stats without regard as to WHY these conditions are even factors. Blaming other cultures and countries for coming to this one is pretty damned lame. It makes you sound like one of those angry whiteboys.

              I don’t have all the answers but I think some malice of forethought and real investigation with regard as to how things came to be this way on your part is called for here, without it you’re blowing smoke.

              There are too many humans for the carrying capacity of the biosphere and we all, regardless of geolocation, are about to see the awful truth, hope you have a cave to crawl into… one big enough for you and all your progeny. Maybe there will be something for you to feed on too, nonhuman that is… Wildlife will be the first to go so…

            4. JB Avatar

              “…if we are not the supreme creation of God, then we are a cancer.”

              Hmm…I do not see how these two are related. If we’re being objective, one might simply note that we–like coyotes, cockroaches and starlings–are merely a very successful species (both in numbers and geographic distribution). Like all species, our success comes at a cost to our competitors. (Consider: Cancer doesn’t consciously set aside parts of the organism it is attacking for the purpose of conservation).

              Do we have too many people for the earth to support. Not yet, but we’re headed there fast, and the quality of life of most individuals is going to be greatly impacted at some point with so many mouths to feed.

            5. Barb Rupers Avatar
              Barb Rupers


              7,000,000,000 and still increasing.

              Do you not see a problem?

            6. WM Avatar


              ++ Blaming other cultures and countries for coming to this one is pretty damned lame. It makes you sound like one of those angry whiteboys.++

              My comment was to shed light on sources of increased population in the US and the world. That was the topic of the two previous posts, yours included. You took the topic to the gutter, with a certain degree of condescension for no good reason. I should learn from such past exchanges not to engage with you, even for the good of providing facts to the conversation which many do not have, or if they do have them try to rationalize away their importance by criticizing the messenger.

            7. WM Avatar

              Some might find this interesting reading regarding current and future population growth of the US. It was prepared by some pretty objective folks:


            8. Harley Avatar

              I see many problems. I’m thinking I don’t see the same problems that you do.
              So let’s limit everyone to 2 kids… Don’t YOU see a problem with that ideology? Cause I sure do.

              Dear Salle
              You bet I think everyone who wants a child should have the chance at having one. Adoption would be my first choice however.

              thanks for the link. Contraception is a good thing. Abortion as a contraception is not. That’s just my belief. You don’t want children, don’t have sex. Nothing is absolute in preventing a pregnancy except not engaging in the act that results in a pregnancy. I’m sure my views are not shared by many, if any here. I’m good with that.

            9. Salle Avatar

              “You don’t want children, don’t have sex. Nothing is absolute in preventing a pregnancy except not engaging in the act that results in a pregnancy.”

              Ha! Good luck getting the male portion of the population to get on board with that one.

          2. skyrim Avatar

            one of the early industrialists (forgot which one) was quoted “we don’t need to create a better product, we need to create more consumers”
            Bad Science!

            1. Salle Avatar

              Unfortunately, that has become the prevailing philosophy of late.

      2. Kit Parker Avatar
        Kit Parker

        Exactly. What defines “vermin” and “nuisance” today is a joke. Our wildlife agencies have demoted many species and now we have people allowed to say a raccoon or fox passing thru their backyard is a “nuisance”. They now have given free rein to their Trapper customers who can’t sell fur – and have created the public apathy for wildlife that plagues their budgets today.

        What is “nuisance”?? we should demand to be clarified. Stepping on a .79 cent plant? Eating from bird/pet dishes we leave out? Getting in that roof opening you should have fixed 3 years ago?

  16. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    Interesting in the Ridley Scott movie Promtheus, the quote “that if we don’t stop that ship, there won’t be an Earth to go back to.” did the “creators”realize they had made a mistake?

    The only reason were afforded the privilege of this discussion is by accident of where we were born. The numbers of people on the face of the Earth are so many, and our impact on everything so great, it is almost abstract. We are metaphorically as ubiquitous as bacteria, just not as many, but larger.

  17. skyrim Avatar

    Maybe it’s just me and maybe it’s just tonight, but this dialog is some of the most enlightening I’ve read here.
    I’m an angry white boy Salle, but not of the group you have referenced. We are born with the drive and ability to mindlessly procreate. We are no different than the animals we persecute and that, in my mind, is THE original sin.
    Until we have an honest dialog on population control, nothing short of that makes much of a real difference….Thanks to all who have participated in this discussion.

    1. Salle Avatar


      Interesting perspective, for what you’ve shared. I just joined the conversation because I felt that, as in a lot of these conversations, the concept that our attitudes are a major issue here, is often talked around but rarely faced.

      I think you have articulated a major part of my point, or maybe I’ve misinterpreted or something…

      We are born with the drive and ability to mindlessly procreate. We are no different than the animals we persecute and that, in my mind, is THE original sin.
      Until we have an honest dialog on population control, nothing short of that makes much of a real difference…

      I disagree with the part where you see us as no different than the others in the animal kingdom. I argue that what sets us apart on the procreation point is that we have the ability to choose whether to do so or not… knowingly, willfully.

  18. skyrim Avatar

    Salle: yes, but as I look upon society, it is more than clear to me that having the “ability” to choose is not always exercised rationally.

    1. Salle Avatar

      Yes, skyrim, absolutely true. But why is that?

      I suggest that it has everything to do with a willingness to exercise that ability… which is actually the power of thought and deliberate decision-making rather than blindly reacting to … “drive”. That is the difference between what we tout as the superiority of the human mind over the “animal mind”. I suspect that we utilize that power of thought less than we, as a species, claim to put to use. (Rape-which is a power over others device-and men holding physical and cultural/religious/legislative power over women is present in 99% of the cultures on the planet. I argue that this is due to the power of brute force and ignorance, with exploitation as the goal, being exercised over the power of rational thought and the promotion of respect for other living things… including female humans.)

      As the Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Oscar Arias often says; “Until women are given the power to make decisions that impact their lives and well being, there can be no lasting peace in this world.” It has a everything to do with equality and respect, concepts our culture has shown to be frivolous pipe-dreams in the minds of many, a travesty of catastrophic proportion in this day and age.

  19. Ida Avatar

    “We are born with the drive and ability to mindlessly procreate.”

    We certainly are. An nowhere is the fact that we are also animals more evident than in our reproduction – the same as any other mammal in every way. I always wondered if infertility was nature’s way of keeping the population in check, but today we have the Octomoms, who don’t seem to be able to take care of one child, nevermind 14. But where we are human, we can do everything we want. We can’t always get or do what we want, and we should accept it. I am for birth control, don’t believe in abortion personally, but respect an individual woman’s right to choose for herself.

    “After all, if we are not the supreme creation of God, then we are a cancer. ”

    I don’t think it is this sharply defined. There’s a vast middle ground. If we are supposedly the surpreme creation of God, he must have his head in his hands in disappointment a lot of the time.

    Of couse we would think we are entitled to a special place in the world, because we are the dominant force, and have been told so by relgion for ages. It’s self-serving and unfounded, and has been the raison d-etre of domination of our own kind for centuries.

    We are different, though, in that we do have conscience and capacity for advanced thought. But if not all of us use it – a sort of “if the tree falls in the forest…” analogy.

    Yes, animals do have rights – just because they may not comprehend them the way we define them doesn’t lessen them. For example, today we would never think of denying a mentally handicapped person, or someone in a hospital and unconsious, their rights simply because they don’t comprehend them. But we have done so terribly in the past. Someday we will become enlightened enough to recognize that animals have them too.

    1. Harley Avatar


      Ouch, comparing the treatment of the mentally challenged to the treatment of animals is like comparing equal rights for homosexuals to the civil rights of black Americans in my humble opinion. In my opinion, we are talking about two very different things in both cases. While I have never and will never condone the mistreatment of animals, I will draw a line in equating them to humans, mentally challenged or otherwise.

      1. Ida Avatar

        You misunderstood entirely – I said it was similar, not the same. In both cases, it’s the denial of rights that someone is born with. If you read further down I mention how certain of us have dominated other members of society for centuries. I stand by what I said.

        1. Ida Avatar

          if you were judging by someone’s capacity to understand. Someone had posted earlier something about animals not deserving rights because they cannot comprehend them. I was saying that is is not the standard to judge.

          Our (over)reproduction is not a choice, it is an instinct, just like any other animal. The drive to reproduce. We may think we have a choice or consicious control of it, but we don’t entirely.

        2. Harley Avatar

          Thanks for the clarification, yep, read it wrong. 🙂

          1. Harley Avatar

            Or should I say, I interpreted it wrongly. In any case, thanks Ida!

    2. JB Avatar

      Harley, Salle:

      We don’t need to adopt China’s policy or force birth control on people to control human population growth. In fact, essentially all population growth in the US is from immigration (legal and otherwise)–meaning our birth rate ~2.1 children/woman is essentially at replacement rate.

      If we wanted to further slow reproduction, all we need do is turn the current incentive structure around. That is, currently we incentive birth by providing a tax deduction for every dependent child. A better policy would one that provides a big deduction for the first child, a small deduction for the second, no deduction for the third, and then starts penalizing people (i.e., taxing them for every child beyond three).


      On the subject of minority rights…

      “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

      Personal opinion: Our basic rights as individuals should be the same, no matter our race, ethnicity, eye color, height, language, sexual orientation, etc. Arguments against equality essentially dehumanize people as justification for inequality; and once you start parsing out reasons why some people should have more rights than others, you open the door to more of the same.

      1. Harley Avatar


        Interesting way of doing that, I like that solution a lot. Good grief my farm cousins would have been paying through the nose though. 17 kids, 13 survived to adulthood. I guess they needed the help on the farm. Unlike Octomom though, the parents could and did care for their children without any help from welfare. Of course, that was also ‘back in the day’ lol!

        Totally agree with the second part as well JB.

        1. Harley Avatar

          However, in retrospect, the Catholics might cry discrimination since they aren’t supposed to use contraceptives and we all know what you call those who use the rhythm method… Parents! Ok, just kidding, trying to inject some humor.

      2. Salle Avatar


        I think you misinterpreted what I was saying here.

        It is not just an immigration into the US of A that is the root problem here. It is a problem of attitude and propagation of corporate power that is the real issue. If we weren’t exploiting “less fortunate” cultures and countries ~ and what I mean by that is the lack of concern and respect for others regardless of goelocation and monetary wealth (a conceptual fabrication for nefarious reasons) ~ in the name of the gods of profit that are the issue here. Corporate power, monetary wealth ~ an excuse for disregard for life and liberty of others and the exploitation of resources of other lands, though it happens in this country too, is the real issue.

        We, as a species, claim to have the power to decide what actions we engage in but refuse to accept the responsibilities that accompany this so-called power of cognition. Why? Because we want to have the power to control others by some fiat of force, be it monetary or physical domination of one sort or another. It all boils down to some having the ability to control others, be they humans or other species, in order to ensure some concept of superiority. A transitory and delusional sense of comfort for some, only once achieved, is never enough… always chasing that “high” that can only be experienced once ~ the first time, after that it is a delusion that perpetuates itself accompanied by the delusion that it is a sustainable thing when, in fact, it is an impossibility. All the same, we chase that high and justify it with ideological themes based on fear and guilt ~ like a drug addict, get it at any cost.

        I wasn’t arguing for legislative edict to control population, though your concept of incentives has merit, I argue that is a responsibility (for lack of a more appropriate term at the moment) of the individual to accept that each one of us is not “free” to foist our will upon others for fun, profit and convenience without regard to the rights and responsibilities of those we seek to control by whatever means. Apparently, it’s too much to ask that we accept that we are not the arbiters of the rights of others to exist unshackled by our desire to control them.

        Also, we, as a species (or is it culture?), claim that we are superior in that we have the power of independent cognition. I think we have a long way to go in showing that we have come even close to grasping that concept, proof is in our actions. Humans have the advent of reason but we misuse it at every opportunity in order to achieve the power to control others without mastering control over ourselves first… including the power to individually control our reproductive urges. If we weren’t so interested in taking what makes life livable for other cultures in their native lands for the sake of our convenience and touting our superior quality of life at the expense of others, we wouldn’t have to be so selectively concerned about who is here on this continent now would we? Perhaps it won’t even matter in the very near future as we careen beyond the point of no return.

        Once again…

        Food for thought:


  20. Ida Avatar

    You all have such great comments, I agree also – it’s the basis of our great Constitution. I wish we could extend empathy to our non-humans that we share the planet with also, and many of us do. It is a great responsibility to bring a life into the world and guide them to adulthood, and many have done an outstanding job doing so. The rewards can be profound also, just listening to a child and how they see the world. I don’t mean to sound cynical all the time. 🙂


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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