AWI Sues California County over Wildlife Services Contract

In November, AWI and allies filed a lawsuit against Mendocino County, California, alleging that the county failed to conduct the legally-required environmental review of its contract with the USDA’s Wildlife Services program. The contract authorizes Wildlife Services to kill thousands of animals in the county every year, including coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, bears, foxes, and others, without first assessing the ecological impact or considering nonlethal alternatives.

Through this program, federal “wildlife specialists” enter agreements with commercial agricultural producers directly and independently to determine the number of predators to be killed and the tools used. These tools include steel-jaw leghold traps, Conibear traps, wire snares, and poisons, each with the potential to cause horrible injuries and prolonged agony. Wildlife resource management—properly the duty of Mendocino County—is thus turned over to Wildlife Services and the individual specialists operating in the county, and conducted primarily to serve private commercial interests.

A closer examination of economic value would actually support discontinuing the county’s relationship with Wildlife Services, however. While the Mendocino program kills a large number of predators each year, the damage to agriculture reported in the county remains largely constant. Conversely, nearly 15 years ago, nearby Marin County replaced its Wildlife Services contract with a nonlethal predator control program that brought a 62 percent decrease in predation at one-third the cost.