Thursday 7 June 2012

Is Wildlife Services Doing Its Job Properly?

I am writing about the USA in this post. I say that because "wildlife services" is a generic term. There is a petition on the website that tells us that Wildlife Services are killing too many animals unnecessarily in discharging their duties.  It has almost reached its goal of 10,000 signatures. The petition's author says that 50,000 non-threatening animals of various species have been killed over 10 years. She questions the need to kill so many animals, some of them protected species, and believes that Wildlife Services have gone beyond their remit in favoring killing as a means of wildlife management over non-lethal methods.

Also mistakes have been made and covered up, she says. The petition's author does not imply that there is something underhand going on. Remember, though, that government agencies are vulnerable to lobbying from big business. Wildlife gets in the way of business. The recent massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was partly a result of backhanders going to regulatory authorities who relaxed regulations. Most people don't realize the scale of lobbying and bribing by big business. It is all behind closed doors and largely unreported in the press. I make the suggestion that the demise of the Florida Panther is due to a conspiracy.

The petition is worrying to people who care about wildlife and who are sensitive to the abuse of wildlife. This is because Wildlife Services are meant to provide "Federal leadership and skill to resolve wildlife interactions that threaten public health". If the leadership is suspect or making poor judgements it could affect the general public and other government bodies in a negative way with respect to wildlife conservation.

It may be that its history holds it back. Until 1997, Wildlife Services was called Animal Damage Control (ADC). "Animal control" implies just that: killing of wild animals in effect. Also this government body was formed in 1895 as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Back in the 19th century attitudes towards wildlife were entirely different. It was much more brutal and hunting was unregulated. Does that legacy colour the attitudes of the management at Wildlife Services (WS) today?

What do they say is their mission? Here it is:

WS' vision is to improve the coexistence of people and wildlife.

This implies finding a balance between wildlife and human life.  They are there to resolve conflict issues between people and wild animals. The trouble with this aim is this: when push to comes to shove and you have no good ideas left to resolve the conflict you can always eliminate the more vulnerable party: the wildlife. That will obviously resolve conflict issues, won't it? My guess is that this is at the root of the problem. I believe the petition's author that there is unnecessary killing. And I also believe that there is an attitude problem at WS.

WS acts under two primary statutory authorities: The Act of March 2, 1931 as amended, and The Act of December 22, 1987.

Under The Act of March 2, 1931, The Secretary of Agriculture dictates how WS carry out their duties. The current incumbent is Thomas James "Tom" Vilsack. He is a democrat. He was raised under the influence of the Roman Catholic faith. For me that does not bode well in respect of a balanced attitude towards wildlife.

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