Amid growing protests from various groups, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services has proceeded with the killing of wild animals that can come into "conflict" with humans and their activities. In 2013, the agency was able to cull more than 4 million wild animals.
The USDA's Wildlife Services is often called in by various federal agencies to deal with problems between human activities and the local wildlife. These types of requests can come in due to a wide variety of reasons. From preventing bird strikes on airplanes near airports by reducing local bird populations to killing off predatory coyotes endangering livestock in various ranches, the Wildlife Services is called in to deal with the problem.
"Rather than dialing back in the face of criticism, the program that has the nerve to call itself 'Wildlife Services' seems to be putting its foot on the pedal in its systematic slaughter of America's wild animals," said Center for Biological Diversity lawyer Amy Atwood. The center is one of the organizations which has petitioned for changes to be made to the USDA's wildlife program.
By the end of 2013, Wildlife Services had disposed of 3 eagles, which included one bald eagle. Moreover, the agency had also culled 419 black bears, 528 river otters, 866 bobcats and 973 red-tailed hawks. Some of the hardest-hit animals include prairie dogs and coyotes, of which 12,186 and 75,326 were killed, respectively. Many of these killings were requested by farmers and ranchers, but some insiders have come forward stating that some of the deaths were unnecessary or even accidental.
"These numbers pull back the veil on a staggering killing campaign, bankrolled by taxpayers, that's happening every day beyond the view of most Americans," Atwood said. "These appalling new numbers show that Wildlife Services is simply thumbing its nose at the growing number of Americans demanding an end to business as usual at Wildlife Services."
Aside from private organizations, a number of U.S. lawmakers have also decried the Wildlife Services' activities. These lawmakers have referred to the program as secretive and are calling for more transparency. The allegations were made in light of the agency's perceived failure to publish more information about these killings. Multiple parties have called for investigation into Wildlife Services' affairs, and the USDA inspector general is currently investigating the practices of the Wildlife Services.
One of the primary concerns about these state-sanctioned cullings is the sometimes unpredictable death toll. In some years, the agency killed around 1.5 million wild animals, followed by a sudden rise to 5 million the year after. Concerned parties are asking for more details regarding the large fluctuations in animal deaths.