Siskiyou County to Seek Alternatives to Killing Thousands of Animals Each Year
Responding to legal pressure from a coalition of animal-protection and conservation groups including the Mountain Lion Foundation, Siskiyou County officials have announced the suspension of the county's contract (see the letter here) with the federal wildlife-killing program known as Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program has killed more than 28,000 animals in the county over the past decade.
"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."
Under its Siskiyou County contracts, Wildlife Services killed approximately 28,000 animals in the County from 2008 to 2016. The program targeted ecologically important native wildlife like coyotes, mountain lions and black bears without assessing the environmental damage or considering alternatives. Using inhumane and indiscriminate methods like traps and snares, Wildlife Services also killed nontarget animals, including domestic dogs and cats. The program, which has killed thousands of birds each year, likely also harmed protected wildlife such as tricolored blackbirds.
"With another California county having now cancelled its contract with Wildlife Services, I'm hopeful 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."
The Mountain Lion Foundation has heard from members concerned for the mountain lions in Siskiyou County escalating over the past year. With the additional pressure of continuing drought and devastating fires in Northern California, mountain lions are at greater risk than ever. These disasters reduce the prey base, make water more difficult to find, and cause direct injuries and deaths, which disrupt mountain lion social structures.
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, Shasta County cancelled 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. And 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.
"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, a 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, wildlife coexistence campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. "We welcome Siskiyou County to the growing community of people harmoniously living with wildlife in our shared ecosystems."