Fourth California County Suspends Contract with Federal Wildlife-killing Agency

Photo from Flickr by Marcel Holyoak
Photo from Flickr by Marcel Holyoak

Siskiyou County to Seek Alternatives to Killing Thousands of Animals Each Year

Yreka, CA—Responding to legal pressure from a coalition of animal-protection and conservation groups, Siskiyou County officials recently announced that the county has suspended its contract with the notorious federal wildlife-killing program known as Wildlife Services. The program killed more than 28,000 animals in the county from 2008 to 2016.

In a June letter, coalition members warned Siskiyou County that its contract with Wildlife Services violated the California Environmental Quality Act and the California Endangered Species Act. Coalition partners include the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Protection Information Center, the Mountain Lion Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Project Coyote and WildEarth Guardians.

“Siskiyou is the fourth county to suspend its contract with Wildlife Services as a result of our efforts,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Other California counties with wildlife-killing programs should sit up and take notice: This succession of wins for wildlife has generated a momentum that is impossible to ignore.”

Siskiyou is the latest county in California to reexamine its contract with Wildlife Services amid pressure from the animal protection and conservation coalition. Earlier this summer, legal pressure from the coalition also induced Shasta County to cancel its contract with Wildlife Services. In 2015, in settlement of a lawsuit filed by coalition organizations, Mendocino County agreed to fully evaluate nonlethal predator-control alternatives. In 2017, a California court ruled in favor of the coalition in finding that Monterey County must conduct an environmental review before renewing its contract with Wildlife Services.

“With another California county having now canceled its contract with Wildlife Services, I’m hopeful that this victory marks the turn of the tide for California’s wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Siskiyou County is smart to seek out an alternative to this ineffective, cruel and harmful wildlife-killing program.”

Under its Siskiyou County contract, Wildlife Services targeted ecologically important native wildlife, including coyotes, mountain lions and black bears, without assessing the environmental damage or considering alternatives. Using indiscriminate methods, including traps, snares and poisons, Wildlife Services also harmed nontarget animals, including domestic dogs and cats. The county’s program has killed thousands of birds each year, including protected species.

“Siskiyou County’s decision recognizes the unacceptable risk that Wildlife Services’ methods present to the many threatened and endangered species that call the county home,” said Johanna Hamburger, wildlife attorney at the Animal Welfare Institute. “This is a significant step that will protect species such as the tricolored blackbird, which has declined by nearly 90 percent in the past 90 years, and is easily mistaken for other species of blackbirds that Wildlife Services routinely targets.

“We commend Siskiyou County for this enlightened decision,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “There are many nonlethal methods and models for reducing conflicts between people, livestock and wildlife that are cost-effective, ecologically sound and ethically defensible.”

“Communities across California are becoming models for successful science-based human-wildlife coexistence,” said Michelle Lute, PhD, wildlife coexistence campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “We welcome Siskiyou County to the growing community of people harmoniously living with wildlife in our shared ecosystem.”

Media Contact Information

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, [email protected]