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

aerial gunning of wolves

UDATE: May 2, 2012

In light of the Sacramento Bee’s explosive expose on Wildlife Services and the lawsuit filed against the agency by WildEarth Guardians, I felt it would be important to re-post this 2009 piece.

 Remember this is a repost, reflecting what was happening in 2009,  so a few of the links are outdated but Wildlife Services hasn’t changed, they’re still doing what they’ve been doing for decades, killing wildlife.


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?



Predator Defense

Support HR 4775, (UPDATE: It’s now  HR4214)“The Compound 1080 & M-44 Elimination Act”, sponsored by Predator Defense. 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



Photo: Courtesy The Missoula Independent

Posted in: Wildlife Services War on Wildlife, Wolf Wars, gray wolf

Tags:  wolf intolerance, wolves or livestock, USDA, Wildlife Services, M-44, Compound 1080

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It is about time a newspaper picked up this nightmare – I keep writing to SF Chronicle, but so far getting nowhere – although they have done some real fair articles on Mountain Lion, Wolves and Coyotes. I have known about the “wildlife services” for years and years – what a misnomer and it is outrageous tax dollars pay for the livestock industry and wacko violent men running around w/ guns and traps and shooting from planes –


  2. These statistics are absolutely horrifying and so are the methods used to kill animals that are not the main problem of concern for the livestock industry.
    Nabeki, may I take extracts and use photographs form this page and run a campaign in face book? I was so shocked when I read “Who is Wildlife Services?” that I immediately copied the quote by (Jay Tutchton, Environmental law clinic, University of Denver School of Law)
    and pasted it on my TimeLine, with the photograph of that poor wolf who was trapped, and “nicked – my foot, plus the grinning ______” I really don’t know what to say about people who can be so insensitive to other creatures.


    • Allan…I don’t mind as long as you give credit to the photographers, myself and anyone else that contributed to the piece. I know the numbers are staggering and horrific. People have no idea what our wildlife is being put through. That’s why the wolf hunts are so deadly because now the wolves are basically facing two wolf hunts, one from WS and the other from the Fish and Game agencies.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


  3. Support HR 4775, “The Compound 1080 & M-44 Elimination Act”, THIS SHOULD BE HR4214


    • Save America’s Wolves…I wrote Locked and Loaded in 2009 and that was the number of the bill then. I think I explained that at the beginning of the post? I reposted it as a look back and how things have not changed and to show how much damage the agency did back then just as it is doing now.

      I updated the new bill number next to the old one.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


  4. I’ve stopped counting all the Petitions to President Obama and other organizations to stop this senseless carnage on our Wolves. Am beginning to think no one except the Wolf Warriors care. This makes me very sad and mad.


  5. This has gone too far, this is no more wildlife management, this is just an exaggeration; AERIAL SHOOTING? TERRORIST USABLE SUPER POISON?! (AKA 1080 COMPOUND) even pesticides as DDT have been banned for their toxicity and now they are placing rubber bladders full of that lethal chemical on the livestock that we will eventually eat?! Spring loaded cyanide charges scattered in the wildlands? what will happen the day that some unfortunate hiker gets killed by those chemicals? As I said before this has gone too far, this is no management, it has turned into mere TERRORISM, wildlife “services” are now EXTERMINATING wildlife not managing it, WE ARE SUPPORTING THIS ATROCITIES WITH THE TAXES WE PAY!! I’m not trying to be aggressive, but this has jus gone out of control, more than one wolf is being killed per day, we must do something RIGHT NOW by the time those greedy representatives take the time to get our voices heard there will be nothing else left to defend…
    At this point we have people cruel enough to torture an kill puppies that barely have lived 2 to 3 months, I had my husky since she was that age and I can say how fragile, and defenseless they are, and still that doesn’t even scratch the heart of the people that are committing such a monstrosity. We have totally lost any right to call any animal a “beast” as those people are doing the work of the devil itself…


  6. we must do something RIGHT NOW by the time those greedy representatives take the time to get our voices heard there will be nothing else left to defend thats the only thing that should be happening, shame on us, on people on human live……i wish i could do more but will surley post this and keep get more awareness for this killing, cruel behavior, senseless stupid awfull murders.


  7. Please post the link to this page on Fb Tw and other social media groups. The ‘tiny’ url is : http://tiny.cc/w0prdw

    Defenders of Wildlife has a week of action ongoing.
    Repeat your posts daily by changing them slightly…keep the awareness going. I know there are many petitions: sign each one. The issue IS gathering impact. Please keep repeating and retweeting.

    In closing:
    Elections: note which of your representatives/senators have voted for
    wolf delisting, the Sportsman Act of 2012, and the deregulating of federal lands and campaign for their opponents. Many state legislatures are under the influence of a corporate PAC called A.L.E.C. You can read more here:
    http://www.sourcewatch.org and http://www.alecexposed.org.

    Be as relentless at the ‘men with mechanical hearts’.
    Peace to the Wolves and All Sentient Beings.


  8. I have lived in USA since 1993. Lucky for me to chose the country I can stay. I always hate animal cruelty like my country, Japan. But, hey, where should I go now? No place to live. Human is most obnoxious animals on this planet.


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