US Wildlife Services Killed 1.3 Million Non-Invasive Animals in 2017

©. Ronnie Howard

From foxes and falcons to otters and owls, the USDA program is doing away with wildlife in droves.

Wow. Who knew that the Wildlife Services branch of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHS) was so busy? I stumbled across their "Program Data Report G - 2017" and honestly, it stopped me in my tracks. (Well, if I had been walking.) The database breaks down how the agency dealt will wildlife over the course of the year, showing the types and numbers of animals that were dispersed, killed or euthanized, removed or destroyed, or freed.

All told, 2,307,122 animals fell into the "killed or euthanized" category. While there may be justification for the 987,047 of them who fall into the category of invasive species, I have trouble wrapping my brain around the 1,320,075 non-invasive animals that were killed. (And to be fair, 11,673,485 non-invasive species were dispersed rather than just killed, so at least there is that.)

Among many, a random sampling includes: 23,644 beavers; 983 bobcats; 2,196 red-crested cardinals; 22,924 mourning doves; 330 great egrets; 1,513 red foxes; 316 mountain lions; 35 great horned owls; 355 gray wolves. All of them intentional killings and all non-invasive species.

According to APHS, the mission of USDA APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) is to "provide Federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist."

They go on to list particular programs, noting that "WS personnel recommend and conduct wildlife damage management activities to protect many types of resources." They list Agricultural Resources, Natural Resources, Property, and Human Health Safety. I am guessing that Agricultural Resources is a big one. They further explain this category:

"Agricultural resources are those associated with farming and ranching, and associated industries. This includes livestock (e.g. sheep, cattle, calves, fowl, and swine), crops (e.g. corn, soybeans, strawberries, and pecans), rangeland and timber, aquaculture (e.g. farm raised catfish and trout), agricultural animal feed, and animal products. WS activities to protect agriculture may include predation management to protect livestock, alleviation of bird damage at aquaculture facilities, and application of integrated waterfowl and deer damage management programs to reduce crop damage."

I understand the importance of dealing with invasive species. And I am sure that there are times when wildlife is a valid threat – but it really is shocking to learn that so many animals are intentionally killed each year. I realize that people's livelihoods may depend on wildlife control, it just seems like there should be a better way for us to coexist with the creatures. What right do we have to invade their habitats ... and then kill them when they present a problem for us?

You can browse the whole database here: Program Data Report G - 2017.