Locked And Loaded…..Wildlife Services Takes Aim At Wolves & Other Predators

aerial gunning of wolves

October 19, 2009

Who is Wildlife Services? If you asked the majority of Americans, they probably couldn’t tell you.  It was formerly known as “Animal Damage Control (ADC)”. The agency is the extermination arm of the Department of Agriculture.

“It’s just a subsidy to agriculture.. Somehow we’ve decided  as a culture that agriculture should be subsidized through the death of animals and this agency is particularly destructive because it robs the public of wildlife and doesn’t even do that much good.” (Jay Tutchton, Environmental law clinic, University of Denver School of Law)

They have the authority  to trap, poison, shoot and aerial gun animals, done mainly for the livestock industry.  Because Wildlife Services keeps a low profile, most people have no idea their tax dollars are paying a federal agency to kill off predators and other wildlife to “protect ranching.”

If you’ve ever wondered, as I have, what’s happened to all the foxes, raccoons, beavers and coyotes, just to name a few, well now you know.  A good many of them are being blown away each year by this agency.  And most of us, have absolutely nothing to say about it.  Does that seem right to you?

The statistics are shocking:

Wildlife Services killed 1456  gray wolves nationally from 2004 to 2008.  That’s an average of 364 dead wolves per year.  They even killed 9 Mexican Gray wolves in that same time period, one of the most endangered animals in the US, they only number 52 wolves.

“The governments own figures again show that mammalian carnivores kill very few livestock (0.18%)  Of the 104.5 million cattle that were produced in 2005, 190,000 (or 0.18%) died as the result of predation from coyotes, domestic dogs, and other carnivores (USDA, 2006). In comparison, livestock producers lost 3.9 million head of cattle (3.69%) to all sorts of maladies, weather, or theft, respiratory problems, digestive problems, calving, unknown, other, disease, lameness, metabolic problems, poison (USDA, 2006)

Coyotes were the primary cattle predators — they killed 97,000 cattle in 2005, followed by domestic dogs — which killed 21,900 cattle. Wolves killed remarkably few cattle, 4,400 head, as did the felids (USDA, 2006)” http://www.goagro.org/index.html

So let’s get this straight. DOMESTIC DOGS killed more cattle than wolves!. That’s from the USDA, 2006 numbers.  Coyotes, who killed the most cattle, 97,000, which still is a very small percentage, paid dearly with their lives.  696,936 coyotes were eliminated by Wildlife Services between 2004-2008.

Truth really does put everything in perspective and when you see how little damage wolves really do compared to other factors,  it’s mind-boggling that we’re having organized wolf  hunts, management plans, aerial gunning, poisoning, denning and  trapping of wolves with whole federal and state agencies devoted to making sure the wolf population doesn’t get any bigger.  You have to ask yourself why? Can you guess?  It’s called irrational fear, intolerance of another species and appalling arrogance.

just another day for wildlife services

Photo: courtesy James Balog

“Wolves killed in Polaris, Montana in 2004 for the purposes of livestock protection. Wildlife Services agents, school children, and teacher pose with dead wolves.”

Photo Courtesy:  http://www.goagro.org/


“In just one year, your tax dollars helped kill 252 gray wolves, 72,816 coyotes, 1.2 million starlings, 6,832 skunks, 330 mountain lions, 2,172 red foxes, 33,469 beavers, 356 black bears, three bald eagles and two grizzly bears. Have you heard of Wildlife Services?” (excerpt from The Exterminators)


“Wildlife Service kill totals for mammals were up sharply from previous years:

  • A record number of gray wolves (278), the subject of a highly publicized reintroduction effort, were killed in numbers that are up more than six-fold since 1996;

Another 116,610 mammalian carnivores, including 87,000 coyotes, 10,000 raccoons, 2,500 bobcats, 500 badgers, and 318 black bears were taken by federal wildlife agents who also killed 1,184 house cats and 512 dogs; and

  • Approximately 50,000 animals from the rodent and rabbit families—the largest toll came from beavers (28,000), followed by nutria (2,500), and marmots and woodchucks (3,700).”


Click this link to see the number of  mammalian carnivores  killed by Wildlife Services from 2004 through 2008:  Beavers aren’t included on the list because they’re in the rodent family  but we know Wildlife Services kills large numbers of them each year, 28, 000 in 2006.


Photo courtesy James Balog/www.goagro.org


We’ve seen the brutal statistics.  How do they accomplish this mass killing of  America’s wildlife?

From all-creatures.org:

“Wildlife Services utilizes killing methods that are non-selective, haphazard, and brutal, including:

Trapping and Snaring

Trapping may be the most inhumane method used by Wildlife Services. Traps can go unchecked for days, allowing the animal to suffer. When not killed outright by the trap, animals can endure physiological trauma, dehydration, exposure to severe weather, and predation by other animals. Most traps are notoriously indiscriminate, capturing almost any animal who triggers them. Non-target species found in traps include endangered species, raptors, dogs, and cats. The most commonly used trap is the steel-jawed leghold trap, a restraining device with spring-loaded jaws that clamp on an animal’s foot or leg when triggered. Leghold traps can cause fractures, self-mutilation, limb amputation, and death. A desperate animal will even try to chew off a limb to escape. Snares are primitive wire nooses that tighten around an animal’s leg or neck. When snared, an animal may struggle for days.


Aerial Gunning

Alaskan wolf shot by aerial gunner

“Wildlife Services uses helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to shoot animals from the air. In 2007, the agency killed over 37,000 animals using aircraft. An agency Environmental Assessment revealed many wounded animals may be left to die.[4] Because Wildlife Services uses snowfall to track coyotes in early spring, agents may kill pregnant or lactating females. Deaths of the latter leave pups to starve. Aerial gunning is also used for “preventative predator control,” permitting agents to shoot as many carnivores as they can prior to domestic animals entering an area. The price tag for shooting carnivores from the sky can be high: killing one coyote can cost $1,000.




Photo courtesy USDA

In 2005, Wildlife Services used M-44, small devices that shoot cyanide gas into an animal’s mouth when triggered, to kill more than 12,700 animals nationally.


Wildlife Services prefers two toxins to kill predators: Sodium Monofluoroacetate (aka Compound 1080), a rat poison developed by the Nazis during World War II, and sodium cyanide. To distribute 1080, the agency uses Livestock Protection Collars – rubber bladders attached to the neck of a goat or sheep that, when pierced, releases the poison. 1080 is so lethal a single teaspoon can kill 100 people. Wildlife Services also sets M-44 devices, spring-loaded, baited mechanisms that release sodium cyanide into the mouth of any animal who disturbs the device. 1080 and sodium cyanide present serious national security risks. The FBI has listed both as “super poisons” that are “most likely to be used by terrorists or for malicious intent.”



wolf pups 2

Denning is the practice of tracking carnivores to their dens then killing pups inside. Poisonous gas canisters are placed in dens to asphyxiate pups. Or government agents dig pups out and shoot, club, or decapitate them. Pups have even been burned alive in their den.

Wildlife Services’ lethal control programs ignore the importance of carnivores. As “keystone species,” carnivores play a pivotal role in sustaining ecological integrity and preserving species diversity. For example, large carnivores regulate deer and elk, as well as smaller mammal, populations. The disappearance of top carnivores triggers the loss of other species and the intricate connections among the remaining residents begin to unravel. Many carnivore species need big, wild areas to survive. Wide-ranging animals like grizzly bears are considered “umbrella” species. By protecting habitat for such predators, we save places for many more animal and plant species.””



The Exterminators

June 7, 2007

Missoula Independent

mountain lions killed

In just one year, your tax dollars helped kill 252 gray wolves, 72,816 coyotes, 1.2 million starlings, 6,832 skunks, 330 mountain lions, 2,172 red foxes, 33,469 beavers, 356 black bears, three bald eagles and two grizzly bears. Have you heard of Wildlife Services?


PredatorDefense.org sponsored bill, HR 4775, “The Compound 1080 & M-44 Elimination Act”. It’s stalled in Congress and needs our help.  Please call your representative and ask them to support this important legislation.  Eliminating the use of these deadly poisons against wildlife is critical!! Barbarous methods like these do not belong in the 21st century.  Make your voice heard!!

Conservation groups have continually called on the USDA to end Wildlife Services’ mass killing of predators and other wildlife, yet they still operate with impunity at the bidding of big ranching.  What will it take for a policy change in Washington?

Contact President Obama and ask him to abolish this destructive agency, who is poisoning, trapping and shooting America’s wildlife.

President Obama

White House Phone Numbers

202-456-1414 (switchboard)
202-456-1111 (white house comment line)




Group Calls for End to the War on Wildlife

WildEarth Guardians

Seeks End of Aerial Gunning & Poisoning of Wildlife on Public Lands


wolf pack in winter



 Photos: Courtesy Missoula Independent
Posted in: Wildlife Services War on Wildlife, Wolf Wars
Tags:  wolf intolerance, wolves or livestock, USDA, Wildlife Services, M-44, Compound 1080

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21 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My father took me out to Yellowstone National Park and the Jackson Hole area when I was young.The Wolves were not there at the time,so I did’t get a chance to seem them.I just hope if I ever get the chance to go back,I will get to see one,in fact any predetor.I have seen enough cows,sheep,and goats around here where I live.


    • Hi Rita,
      I haven’t been to Yellowstone in a long time either. I’m up here in the Northwest corner of the state, so I spend my time in Glacier. The wolves are very elusive here, They aren’t out in the open like the Druids.

      I’m sure if you visit the Lamarr Valley you will have a chance to see one of the wolves although I’ve heard some of them have mange. I wish the park would treat it cause all they do is scratch themselves.

      I hear you on all the cows, goats and sheep. I saw a grizzly last year in Glacier. It’s fun if you have a spotting scope, you can plant yourself near the top of Going-To-The-Sun Road and watch the mountain goats and all the wildlife.


  2. This may be a bit off the topic but where I live the ‘Wildlife Services’ add up to a bunch of hired sport hunters – literally. Added incentive to perform ‘control’ is a sizable paycheck and a $100 bounty for every scalp awarded by the government – i.e. straight from the taxpayers’ pockets. $30 000 000 p/a is spent on killing our wildlife, in particular *an endangered species [C. lupus dingo]. Their losses to these animals are small, less than 0.018% and yet there is all this paranoia like ‘they drive farmers out of business’, ‘they are huge animals over 40kg’, ‘they roam in packs of up to 80 savage cattle killers’ and ‘they will kill our kids in our backyards’.

    Trapping (this includes snaring), 1080 baiting and shooting programs – backed by hunting and farming lobbies with the full support of the national government… yet kept (un)surprisingly quiet from the general public.

    The issue around predators is global – especially where hunting and farming has a solid foothold on local affairs. What is it with the livestock industry and their mass killing of wildlife?

    (*Of course there is a convenient method of overstepping this issue: call the animals ‘feral dogs’ or in the state where I am from label them a pest species)


    • Wow that’s pretty eye opening, I’ve often wondered who these nameless people are in Wildlife Services that do all the killing? It has to be something similiar here. Does our government employ sports hunters or contract the jobs out to sports hunters? I don’t know. It’s amazing to me that even the same poison is used, like 1080.

      It’s so true predators are demoniized to make it more palatable to kill them. Wolves are constantly portrayed as pests or evil dogs preying on livestcck. They’re really become a political football for angry people that need a scapegoat. This of course provides cover for the mass killing of our predators. I’m sad to hear it’s a global problem buit it makes sense it would be.

      Of course who benefits from all this killing? Agriculture of course. The feds sanitize the landscape for ranching and farming. The amount of animals killed is staggering. and done without very little oversight. I think America is just waking up to this.


  3. […] and who knows how many more wolves will die this winter in “lethal control” actions by Wildlife Services. Montana has given the green light to take out another 22 wolves for livestock depredation.  So […]


  4. […] lost a large gene pool with the demise of the 500. Entire packs were eliminated in 2009 and Wildlife Services is still out gunning for […]


  5. kayla addressing Wildlife Services:

    I think that what you are doing is not right. i feel that you just do this for fun.Well dont. its affecting you to but you dont know it yet. those animals are part of the food chain and your not supposed to kill a bald eagle!


  6. I think so too.
    Thats not right at all!!!


  7. How many other businesses in this country, that claim to be self employed (as in livestock raisers) have government hitmen at their disposal as in WS with planes & helicopters available to aid them at any time, unlimited resources (as in radio tracking devices and field personnel) and, its all funded by our taxes? What a sham! Time to wake up America!


    • Nancy,
      It’s welfare for agribusiness plain and simple. An entire agency devoted to sanitizing the landscape of predators and other wildlife. Unreal.



  8. “Wolves killed in Polaris, Montana in 2004 for the purposes of livestock protection. Wildlife Services agents, school children, and teacher pose with dead wolves.”

    I’ve lived in Polaris for close to 20 years and this family of wolves (Mom, Dad and 5 kids) were wiped out for killing A CALF on my neighbor’s ranch.

    Look closely at the picture of those children, who were hustled out of a classroom and down to the site (where the dead wolves were brought to) by their teacher (who by the way, had a wooden rifle in her hands for the picture) 3 out of those 4 children lived on local ranches and the poor child on the far left? Wasn’t and couldn’t understand why everyone was so excited about why those wolves were dead in front of her.

    And so it goes out here in the west, til the rest of the nation wakes up to the millions of dollars being wasted by government to protect the lazy few livestock raisers here, and at what cost to wildlife?


    • Nancy,
      It’s bad enough the wolves were killed for killing one calf… but the worst part is having the children marched out there for the photo shoot. Talk about brainwashing children.

      When will the American people wake up to the fact WS is just a subsidy for agribusiness? It’s anyone’s guess.



  9. Ummmm hi i guess. Anyway there are alot of people killing wolves today and other animals to. So umm Where im from were surrounded by mountains, woods, and lakes. Anyway again, Were im from you guys don’t have to worry about the animals where im from we actually respect the animals & there are NO POUCHERS, NO HUNTERS, & NO ANIMAL KILLERS. My point is there are alot of animals down here, we just can’t see them but they see us watching over us. As your people take down their land, their homes, and their freedom. So just don’t worry about them down here okay’ their safe.


    • Glad to hear your animals are protected Janaya Paul. May I ask where you live? If only our country didn’t have to contend with poachers and animal killers. One of our own government agencies, Wildlife Services, formerly Animal Damage Control, killed almost five million animals and birds last year. How outrageous is that? They especially target our predators. It’s a sad situation.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,




  11. Just goes to show, some will never learn.

    Nellie Bowley, trapped and shot dingoes until she was 90, she only quit because of her failing eyesight. She boasted how she wiped out all the dingoes in her local area, how she took thirty lives in thirty nights (trap and shoot). The hunting and farming community calls her a ‘national legend’ and a “true farmer”. If I were a farmer, I wouldn’t appreciate being likened to such a person – seeing as how farmers proclaim themselves ‘stewards of the land’.
    She died last year. Pardon my lack of sympathy for her family but:

    Good Riddance.


    • Ditto John.


  12. i am so glad i came across your page. thankyou for adding me as a friend. it is good to get factual information instead of rantings from wolf enthusiasts. my life is m dogs. dogs came from wolves. i’ll do what i can to protect what i consider to be my family.
    rene in scotland x


    • Welcome rene, I love to meet wolf friends from all over the world. Thank you for the kind words, I try to tell it like it is, with my opinion thrown in…lol.

      Our dogs are house wolves, wolves who have learned to live with us but they show us the qualitites of their great canine ancestor the wolf. Some of our house wolves are great hunters, trackers, runners (like the Afghan hound), they love us the way the wolves love their families. We’re their pack now. Wolves are the most altruistic of creatures when it comes to their own clan. Dogs are the best, just like their wolfy kin.

      Long live our beloved dogs and wolves!

      A h-uile là sona dhuibh ‘s gun là idir dona dhuib


  13. You want to know something really stupid and infuriating the [New South Wales] government did with Australian taxpayer money in 2002? It sent people over to the United States, for about a month, to take pointers from Wildlife Services on how to manage coyotes in Australia (yes, you read correctly). The report’s title, however, is a misnomer.

    Click to access Hunt2005c.pdf

    (Notice the section on “non-lethal” measures, great to see such confidence in their willingness is to attempt to live with resident wildlife…not)

    This information is from Feral[.org.au] a site that lies through its back teeth about Australia’s wildlife [in particular, the dingo] and contains a summary of the nation’s dirty little secrets concerning them.


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