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Court smacks down USDA's wildlife killing program in Idaho

Wildlife Services has killed thousands of animals due to conflicts of native predators with livestock. Science shows that killing these predators does not decrease predator-livestock conflicts but has been repeatedly ignored by the company. (Photo: MGN)

(KUTV) - A lawsuit, put in front of Idaho courts in May of 2017 by Western Watersheds Project, Wild Earth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, and Predator Defense against Wildlife Services, a federal agency, has finally received a ruling.

Wildlife Services has killed thousands of animals due to conflicts of native predators with livestock. Science shows that killing these predators does not decrease predator-livestock conflicts but has been repeatedly ignored by the company.

“Indiscriminately killing native carnivores does not achieve any of Wildlife Services’ stated goals. Instead, it increases the likelihood of conflict and undermines ecosystem functions,” Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for Wild Earth Guardians, said in a press release.

Controversial tactics employed by Wildlife Services to kill wolves, grizzly bears, otters, and coyotes have been used with no oversight or accountability. Dangerous and indiscriminate methods such as leg holding traps and m-44 sodium cyanide bombs are used, though they can kill non-target wildlife.

“Wildlife Services will now have to fairly evaluate how killing thousands of coyotes in southern Idaho each year affects the environment,” Talasi Brooks, a staff attorney for Advocates for the West, said in a press release.

Millions of taxpayer dollars are used by the agency to carry out the killings. Audit records from 2013 have revealed violation of state and federal laws as well as lack of transparency from Wildlife services.

The original lawsuit noted that Wildlife Service’s wrote itself a “broad, statewide authorization to kill Idaho’s native predators … without taking a hard look at the impacts of its unscientific slaughter.”

Courts agree with the judge’s 24-page decision on the unreliability of Wildlife Service’s data and lack of convincing evidence, according to a press release published on Monday.

“This is a big victory for Idaho’s native wildlife and a major rebuke to this trigger-happy federal agency,” Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. “Killing predators like foxes and coyotes is ineffective and inhumane. We hope this decision is the beginning of the end for the careless slaughter of Idaho’s animals.”

Wildlife Services continues to ignore and dismiss comments from those who filed the lawsuit.

The case is proceeding to the remedy phase where a solution to the problem will be found.

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