Groups sue over NV Wildlife Services killings

Groups sue over NV Wildlife Services killings
Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows more than 15,000 coyotes have been eliminated through its Wildlife Services program on public lands managed by the BLM or USFS in the past five years. (Trish Swain/Trailsafe Nevada)

By Suzanne Potter
This story was originally published by Public News Service.

ELKO – Conservation groups want the feds to do a full environmental impact report on an agency that authorizes the killing of coyotes and other wildlife that prey on cattle and sheep.

Two non-profit organizations have sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program, along with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Adam Bronstein, Nevada-Oregon director for the Western Watersheds Project, one of the plaintiffs, said the Wildlife Services agents kill thousands of animals per year in Nevada, usually at the request of livestock operations.

“We have records of 29 mountain lions, five foxes, two black bears, one bobcat, about 2,500 ravens, and 3,662 coyotes,” he said, “and this is just in 2020.”

All three agencies declined to comment, citing pending litigation. The lawsuit alleges that Wildlife Services workers shoot coyotes from the air, and use body-gripping traps, neck snares and leg-hold traps that kill other animals as well – badgers, skunks and rabbits, ground squirrels, beavers and more. The suit alleges the program also uses gas to poison coyote dens and M-44 sodium cyanide bombs to kill foxes and coyotes.

The program is carried out mostly in Elko, Eureka, Humboldt and White Pine counties. The lawsuit comes in response to a July 2020 decision during the Trump administration that Wildlife Services’ predator damage-management program doesn’t significantly impact the environment. However, Bronstein said it takes place largely on land designated as wilderness or wilderness study areas.

“The environment is harmed by killing the native wildlife because it disrupts the natural systems,” he said. “The real disruption is livestock grazing out on public lands. That’s the true disturbance.”

The Humane Society analyzed data from the USDA and found the loss of livestock nationwide due to predation is minuscule – far surpassed by instances of livestock dying from dehydration, disease, lightning strikes or ingesting poisonous plants.