Russell Files, a trapper with the Wildlife Services (WS), a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, objected to a neighbor’s dog coming into his yard. So while on duty he set traps that severely injured the canine. Similar incidents of wanton cruelty have prompted legislators to call for an investigation of the Wildlife Service. Said Rep. John Campbell: “We continue to see more and more acts of cruelty coming from this clearly out-of-control, mismanaged and misdirected department.” A 2012 Sacramento Bee investigation found the agency’s practices “indiscriminate, at odds with science, inhumane and sometimes illegal.”
The Wildlife Service (WS) began in 1915 as a federal effort to boost beef production by killing wolves in Nevada. It was later expanded to kill animals considered threatening to agriculture, people, and the environment. Since 2000 the Wildlife Service has eliminated one million coyotes but also killed more than 50,000 animals such as golden and bald eagles, beaver, otters, and various bird species. More than 1,000 dogs, including domestic pets, have also fallen to WS action. The Service deploys cyanide in spring-loaded cartridges and crashes during the agencies aerial gunning operations have claimed the lives of 10 people since 1979.
Wildlife Services does not believe the public has a right to know, and will not allow reporters to observe agents in action. Carter Niemeyer, a former Wildlife Services manager told the Bee that much of the agency’s bloodletting is excessive, scientifically unsound and a waste of tax dollars.
Meanwhile, WS employee Russell Files was charged with felony animal cruelty and the dog injured in his trap survived. The Wildlife Services will likely survive a congressional probe, should one even occur. Once started, government agencies are practically impossible to shut down, even if they are secretive, out of control, mismanaged, and cause harm to people and animals alike. But Wildlife Services is not the only federal agency the critters should fear.
As we have noted, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been killing sea lions for the crime of eating more salmon than federal biologists think they should eat. The U.S. Forest Service kills beaver for building dams and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service targets barred owls for the crime of showing up near spotted owls.