In response to your cover story, “Tinkering with nature,” (HCN, 3/31/03: Tinkering with nature), one must remember that Animal Damage Control, now masquerading as Wildlife Services, was set up in the 1930s at the instigation of livestock operators for the sole purpose of killing coyotes, lions, bears and bobcats for the ranchers. (Wolves by that time had been nearly extirpated.) It has expanded its scope to include most things not on the endangered species list. In a recent year in Idaho, in addition to 5,113 coyotes, they slaughtered 5,665 of those vicious predators, ground squirrels, 1,204 California gulls, and 994 of that voracious avian menace, the rock dove.
I know a few Wildlife Services folks and some of them, unfortunately, seem to take a dark and perverse pleasure in their work. The agency recognizes that if the general public was aware of their mission and their success, their budget would probably disappear in a heartbeat. It’s only the Western livestock interests that shepherd their budget through Congress every year.
Wildlife Services goes to great lengths, usually successfully, to exempt themselves and their activities from Freedom of Information Act requirements, and with good reason. Seldom mentioned are the numerous fatal aircraft accidents connected with aerial gunning of coyotes and the huge costs to taxpayers resulting therefrom. It is a renegade outfit run amok which deals in secrecy and death, and the sooner Congress clips its wings, the better.