Responding to advocacy by a coalition of animal protection and conservation groups, including AWI, Humboldt County, California, approved a new contract with the federal wildlife-killing program, Wildlife Services, that adds vital protections for the county’s native species. The new contract is the result of negotiations that began after the coalition notified the county in a letter that its existing contract violated the California Environmental Quality Act by allowing the use of lethal methods without considering their impacts on the environment.
The new contract requires Wildlife Services to implement numerous reforms to reduce wildlife suffering and death. The agency can no longer kill animals involved in conflicts with humans in urban or suburban areas until all feasible nonlethal measures have been implemented and given adequate time to work. The new contract also imposes reporting requirements and restricts cruel or ecologically harmful killing methods, such as pesticides, lead ammunition, and body-gripping traps.
From 2008 to 2017, Humboldt County employed Wildlife Services to kill nearly 2,000 ecologically important native animals, including at least 178 coyotes, 54 black bears, 43 gray foxes, 23 mountain lions, 483 raccoons, 880 skunks, and 112 opossums.
Humboldt is the most recent California county the coalition called upon to reform its wildlife management program. Shasta, Siskiyou, Monterey, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties have all terminated, suspended, or considered the environmental effects of their contracts with Wildlife Services—either voluntarily or by court order—after the coalition and others took or threatened legal action.