In 2014, Wildlife Services killed 61,702 coyotes — one every eight and a half minutes. The agency, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, kills invasive species, nuisance birds and livestock-eating predators like wolves and black bears. Though its researchers study nonlethal alternatives, such as alarms, these are seldom implemented. Ranchers, local governments and businesses fund half the agency’s budget, and serving clients who want their wildlife problems eliminated remains its top priority (“The Forever War,” HCN, 1/25/16).
In April, Mendocino County, California, severed ties with Wildlife Services, joining Sonoma and Marin counties in cancelling or suspending contracts with the agency. Six environmental and wildlife groups had sued, claiming Mendocino County failed to consider nonlethal methods and needed to study the environmental impacts of killing predators. This is the first lawsuit to challenge the relationship between local governments and the agency; more counties are expected to cancel Wildlife Services contracts.