Earlier this month, Wildlife Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture division responsible for animal control, released data indicating that it killed over four million creatures in 2013 — a million more than it did the previous year. The agency, whose stated mission is to provide "leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts," undertakes plenty of non-lethal management, too: It dispersed nearly 18 million animals in 2013, shooting fish-stealing sea lions with rubber bullets and firing paintballs at bald eagles nesting near airports. Yet it was the hefty death toll that grabbed headlines — and outraged conservation groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, which called the agency's work "a staggering killing campaign, bankrolled by taxpayers."
Wildlife Services spokespeople say that all lethal control efforts, from putting down raccoons to prevent the spread of rabies to controlling expanding wolf populations, are based in sound science. But the agency's 665-page information dump provides little context for individual killings. That's not out of character for Wildlife Services, which Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has called "one of the most opaque and obstinate departments I've dealt with." Fear not: High Country News has sifted through the report to help our readers make sense of the slaughter. Scroll through the below interactive infographic to experience a year in Wildlife Services' campaign of lethal control.