A series of stories in the Sacramento Bee last spring revealed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s agency called Wildlife Services had killed millions of animals and had used inhumane methods. One of the articles pointed to the Bishop Fish and Game office, which had hired Wildlife Services to kill mountain lions. We contacted Sacramento Fish and Wildlife for comment.
In April, Sacramento Bee reporter Tom Knudson wrote a series of stories on Wildlife Services. His articles documented a string of brutal and voluminous killings by that agency of coyotes, birds, black bears, wolves, mountain lions, and other animals deemed predators. Wildlife Services is generally hired by state fish and wildlife departments and private companies.
In one article, Knudson quotes a Bishop Fish and Game biologist as saying efforts to protect bighorn sheep have been “marred by the unnecessary killing” of mountain lions by the USDA’s Wildlife Services.
Knudson reported that he obtained records through the Freedom of Information Act that revealed “for the first time just where Wildlife Services kills animals and birds, intentionally and accidentally, across California. Knudson wrote that in many of those areas there is “conflict and concern.” One of those areas is the Eastern Sierra.
Knudson wrote that two Wildlife Services hunters, working under contract with Bishop Fish and Game, now known as Fish and Wildlife, tracked and shot a female mountain lion with kittens. A Bishop Fish and Wildlife biologist, Becky Pierce, is quoted as saying that the kittens were left to starve. She said in the article, “I’m not saying we don’t sometimes have to remove lions if they are preying on sheep. But everything should be done in a humane manner. And that isn’t humane.”
DFG information officer Andrew Hughan is quoted in the article as saying that the kittens may have survived. The article said Pierce has studied mountain lions for twenty years and disagreed. She was quoted as saying that the kittens were relying on the mother for milk.
Reporter Knudson wrote that in March last year in the Bishop area, “two more mountain lion kittens, just days old, were mauled to death in the Sierra when a Wildlife Services hunter’s dogs raced out of control and pounced on them.” Knudson wrote that the mother lion was then shot.
Inyo-Mono is just one area where Wildlife Services’ methods have come under question. The Sacramento Bee stories say, “Since 2000, Wildlife Services has killed nearly a million coyotes, mostly in the West. They have destroyed millions of birds, from non-native starlings to migratory shorebirds, along with a colorful menagerie of more than 300 other species, including black bears, beavers, porcupines, river otters, mountain lions and wolves.” Knudson said numerous golden eagles and pet dogs have also been killed accidentally by Wildlife Services’ traps and poisons.
Some reports indicate that Bishop Fish and Wildlife may have cancelled a contract with Wildlife Services and ceased mountain lion killings, that an investigation was conducted here, and that personnel issues were raised.
In response to our questions, a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson in Sacramento, Jordan Traverso said, “By law, we cannot discuss personnel matters.” She did acknowledge that there was a Wildlife Services’ contract in Bishop which expired. Officials from the Bishop Fish and Wildlife office consistently refuse to return our calls.
Find the Sacramento Bee story here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/28/4450678/the-killing-agency-wildlife-services.html