Huge Victory! Northern California Wildlife Is Now Protected From Trapping & Aerial Gunning

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A settlement was approved yesterday requiring that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services implement numerous protections for wildlife in Northern California, including a ban on traps and aerial gunning in designated wilderness areas.

The federal court ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed in June of this year by the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote and WildEarth Guardians.

The settlement also requires Wildlife Services to analyze the environmental impacts of its killing of coyotes, bobcats and other wildlife in 16 counties in Northern California.

Wildlife Services is a multimillion dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, snares, poisons and aerial gunning to kill wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds, and other wild animals, primarily to benefit the agriculture and livestock industries.

“This is a big victory for California wildlife targeted by this federal program’s horrifically destructive war on animals,” said Collette Adkins, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney representing the conservation groups involved in the lawsuit. “We’ve saved hundreds of animals that would have suffered and died in traps set by Wildlife Services over the next several years.”

Under the court order approved on Wednesday, Wildlife Services must provide, by the end of 2023, an “environmental impact statement” that analyzes the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in California’s North District. The North District includes Butte, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, and Yuba counties.

Pending completion of that study, the court order imposes several measures to protect wildlife in the North District.

It bans the use of M-44 cyanide devices, den fumigants, and lead ammunition, as well as aerial gunning, and any use of body-gripping traps, such as strangulation snares and steel-jaw leghold traps, in designated wilderness and wilderness study areas.

The order also requires Wildlife Services to implement several measures to protect California’s endangered gray wolves from being accidentally killed in traps set for other carnivores. These measures include a ban on Conibear traps and non-breakaway snares in areas used by the wolves.

Last year Wildlife Services reported killing 1.6 million native animals nationwide. In California alone, this total included 3,893 coyotes, 142 foxes, 83 black bears, 18 bobcats and thousands of other creatures. Non-target animals including protected wildlife such as, wolves, Pacific fisher and eagles are also at risk from Wildlife Services’ indiscriminate methods.

“Wildlife Services’ lethal ‘control’ is ineffective, wasteful and cruel,” said Michelle Lute, wildlife co-existence campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “We are changing this clandestine government program state-by-state until wildlife and people are safe on our public lands.”

“Thousands of California wildlife will now have a much-needed reprieve from the federal killing agency,” concluded Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “This settlement sends the powerful message that Wildlife Services’ indiscriminate killing programs will not go unchallenged.”

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