AWI Sues Wildlife Services in Northern California

On June 21, AWI and allies sued the Wildlife Services program of the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) over the program’s “Wildlife Damage Management” efforts in northern California. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, seeks an updated environmental analysis of the program’s killing of native wildlife.

Wildlife Services reportedly killed 1.6 million target and nontarget animals nationwide last year. Many thousands were killed in California, including a reported 3,893 coyotes, 142 foxes, 83 black bears, and 18 bobcats (although actual totals are likely higher). The program continues to use cruel and outdated methods such as steel-jaw leghold traps in California—despite a statewide ban on private use of such devices.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Wildlife Services to analyze the environmental effects of its efforts to kill predators and other wildlife. NEPA requires supplemental analysis when “significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts” emerge.

In northern California, the environmental analysis relied on by the program is over two decades old. The complaint asserts that many scientific studies have since emerged that demonstrate the ineffectiveness of lethal predator control and the efficacy of nonlethal methods to avoid wildlife conflict.

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