In 2021 alone, the United States Agricultural Department’s (USDA) Wildlife Services division killed more than 1.75 million animals nationwide. This amounts to a shocking rate of around 200 dead creatures per hour.
Among the executed are diverse species of wildlife such as alligators, armadillos, doves, owls, otters, porcupines, snakes and turtles. These senseless killings have provoked outrage among conservationists and animal activists alike, who are calling for an urgent adjustment to the division’s approach to wildlife management.
With a mission to “resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist,” Wildlife Services maintains that the current federal program is necessary in their endeavor to protect and preserve environmental stability, agriculture, endangered species and public safety. The program targets invasive species that are considered major threats to the nation’s ecosystems. Last year, European starlings were its most-killed invasive species, totaling 1,028,642. This was followed by feral hogs, of which 143,903 were eliminated.
But invasive species are not the only victims of this controversial program - large quantities of America’s innocent native species are also killed. In 2021, 404,538 individuals were eradicated by Wildlife Services. This included 63,965 coyotes, 24,683 beavers, 3,014 foxes, 433 black bears and 324 gray wolves. Several of these poor creatures are wiped out unintentionally by leg hold traps, snares and poisons. The department also uses M-44 sodium cyanide “bombs,” which often kill coyotes and foxes.
According to Collette Adkins, a carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, the killing of predators such as coyotes and bears (unintentional or otherwise) can have devastating consequences. Any benefit that these killings might have for the livestock industry are outweighed by their interference with ecosystems. Adkins says that diminishing populations of natural predators further encourages the spread of invasive species in America.
“Wildlife is beset by so many threats that we should be strengthening laws to protect remaining wild populations,” says Tayla Lance of Animal Survival International. “These legal killings driven by the USDA’s Wildlife Services Division is an assault on the United States’ biodiversity.”