WYOMING – Conservationists sued the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program today over its outdated wildlife-killing plan for Wyoming.
The lawsuit, filed yesterday in Cheyenne federal court, seeks an updated environmental analysis of the program, which kills thousands of the state’s native animals every year. The program primarily kills carnivores like gray wolves and coyotes that are important for balanced ecosystems.
“Wildlife Services’ cruel killing practices are ineffective, environmentally harmful and totally out of touch with science,” said Collette Adkins, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney representing the conservation groups involved in the lawsuit. “The science shows that nonlethal methods of addressing wildlife conflicts work. We’re suing the agency to force a closer look at alternatives to its mass-extermination program.”
Wildlife Services is a multimillion-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and aerial gunning to kill wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals. Most of the killing responds to requests from the agriculture industry.
In 2017 Wildlife Services reported killing more than 1.3 million native animals nationwide, including 5,645 coyotes, 52 wolves, 237 foxes, 1,023 ravens, 305 rabbits and thousands of other creatures in Wyoming.
Nontarget animals, including pets and protected wildlife like wolves, grizzlies and eagles, are also at risk from the program’s indiscriminate methods. Last year two family dogs died near Casper, Wyo., after encountering deadly poisons, often used by Wildlife Services, called “cyanide bombs.”
“Wildlife Services has long acted as the livestock industry’s ecological hitmen, targeting native wildlife for extermination,” said Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project. “It’s long past time to reform this rogue program in Wyoming and strip it of its most irresponsible, dangerous, and ecologically destructive tools.”
The National Environmental Policy Act requires Wildlife Services to rigorously examine the environmental effects of killing wildlife and to consider alternatives, such as those that rely on proven nonlethal methods to avoid wildlife conflicts.
The environmental analysis for Wyoming is more than 20 years old. According to the complaint filed today, Wildlife Services must use recent information to analyze the impacts of its wildlife-killing program on the environment and Wyoming’s unique wild places.
“It’s past time for this archaic program to move into the 21st century and start using current science,” said Taylor Jones of WildEarth Guardians. “Our treatment of carnivores should reflect their key place in the ecosystem, not outdated fears and prejudices.”
Today’s lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians.
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