Mendocino County Supervisors voted 3-2 on Tuesday to continue the county's $160,000.00 contract with the USDA's wildlife-killing program known as Wildlife Services. In spite of numerous public comments that were overwhelmingly opposed, the Supervisors made a decision that perpetuates the federal program’s heavy-handed use of lethal methods to manage mountain lions, coyotes, bears, bobcats, and other wildlife that cross paths with livestock owners. By a margin of just one vote, the county missed the opportunity to join a growing number of California counties that have opted for a more humane and effective approach. Humboldt, Shasta, Siskiyou, Monterey, and Sonoma Counties have rejected Wildlife Services’ outdated use of lethal means to curb attacks on livestock instead of continuing the lethal wildlife practices used by Wildlife Services.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Supervisors fielded public testimony that urged them to vote to adopt more effective and sustainable approaches to wildlife management for the County. The Mountain Lion Foundation (MLF) was among the conservation organizations that attended the meeting and provided public testimony. As MLF's staff biologist Diana Lakeland testified, "the indiscriminate killing of wildlife does not resolve conflict and, in many cases, actually leads to increased conflict."
Lakeland also clarified for the Board of Supervisors that California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife emphasizes nonlethal approaches statewide. In the case of mountain lions, Diana told the board, "CDFW has now expanded the 3-step policy for acquiring a lethal depredation permit to cover the entire state, not just Southern California. These permits allow for non-lethal take such as pursuit, catch or capture, and hazing along with requiring the property owner to take action to protect their livestock through better animal husbandry practices. The way to reduce human-wildlife conflict is not by killing predators, but by changing common animal husbandry practices and holding livestock owners responsible for the animals they have put on the landscape.”
Among the long list of others speaking against the contract renewal, a local rancher testified that private landowners should not depend on a federally-funded program to address wildlife problems that are often the result of poor animal husbandry. Proper fencing, pens, lights and other deterrents are more effective than lethal controls at managing and preventing conflicts. The rancher urged the Board of Supervisors to spend money within the community rather than on this private interest group. Another local sheep grower said she has been badgered and harassed by Wildlife Services contractors and that the predator she fears most is not the mountain lion, but Wildlife Services.
While last night’s 3-2 vote indicates that the public’s input had some impact on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, the end result will mean a continuation of Wildlife Service’s inhumane trapping and shooting of Mendocino’s native wildlife. “This is a missed opportunity,” said Mountain Lion Foundation CEO Debra Chase. “The Board of Supervisors heard from a public that wants a more sustainable and scientifically sound approach. Mendocino County needs to find a better way, our native species are depending on us all for their very survival.”