A government agency killed more than 1.75 million animals across the country in 2021, in what it claims were necessary actions. New data shows the Wildlife Services branch of the US Department of Agriculture, which acts to "resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist," killed 200 creatures every hour on average in an effort to protect the environment, agricultural output, other economic activity, and public safety, the Guardian reports. Making up much of the tally: more than 1 million European starlings in addition to tens of thousands of other birds, nearly 144,000 feral pigs, almost 64,000 coyotes, almost 27,000 Canada geese, 25,000 beavers, 15,000 snakes, more than 10,000 prairie dogs, 9,000 deer, and 8,600 raccoons.
Nearly a quarter of the animals killed (404,538) were native to the US, including 433 black bears, 324 gray wolves and pups, and 200 mountain lions. Bears and mountain lions were also among the 2,746 animals killed by accident, along with foxes, muskrats, otters, deer, turtles, dogs—and one bald eagle. That's due to the department's extermination methods, which include leg hold traps, snares, poisons, and gas, including M-44 cyanide bombs. Though higher than 2020's total, the 2021 total is actually among the lowest for the department in many years. (At least 5 million animals were killed in 2008 and 2010.) Still, "program insiders have revealed that Wildlife Services kills many more animals than it reports," according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
For Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the center, the data is "stomach-turning." "Taxpayer-funded wildlife slaughter needs to stop and be replaced with a program that provides nonlethal tools that effectively prevent most conflicts with wildlife,” she argues in a release. "Killing carnivores like wolves and coyotes to supposedly benefit the livestock industry just leads to more conflicts and more killing. This is a truly vicious cycle." According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, "Wildlife Services has become primarily a public-funded agency killing wildlife for private ranchers who believe their farmed animals are in competition with native predators for land." It adds the program costs taxpayers more than $100 million per year. (Read more USDA stories.)