Ocelots may have a better chance at survival in the United States, thanks to a June 26 settlement AWI and the Center for Biological Diversity reached with the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Per the settlement, APHIS and the USFWS have finally agreed to examine the threat posed by APHIS’ Wildlife Services program to endangered ocelots in Arizona and Texas.
Wildlife Services kills tens of thousands of animals in those two states every year using traps, snares, and poisons. The actual “service” this program provides to society is dubious at best, and it operates with little accountability or oversight. The Endangered Species Act, however, does require Wildlife Services to consult with the USFWS to determine the effect of its actions on endangered animals and what can be done to avoid harm—an obligation it has not fulfilled. The USFWS even warned Wildlife Services in a 2010 biological opinion that its activities put ocelots at risk.
Last October, AWI and the Center sued APHIS and the USFWS over this disregard for the law. After we filed our complaint, Wildlife Services and the USFWS began consultations to examine threats to ocelots and develop mitigation measures.
The suit also asserted that recent science must be taken into account to supplement the decades-old environmental analyses of Wildlife Services’ wildlife-killing program in Arizona. Under the settlement, the USFWS will incorporate up-to-date scientific information in its final environmental assessment, to be released by year’s end.
This welcome development may not, of course, induce Wildlife Services to see the light and clean up its bloody act. It will, at least, prevent the program from cavalierly ignoring the damage its killing program could do to at least one endangered species.