Breaking! Center For Bio Diversity Lawsuit Challenges Federal Killing of Thousands of Washington’s Bears, Beavers & Bobcats Every Year

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The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program yesterday over the killing of thousands of native animals every year in Washington State.

The lawsuit seeks an updated environmental analysis of the agency’s wildlife-killing programs, which trap, shoot, and snare black bears, bobcats, beavers and other wild animals vital to maintaining healthy ecosystems in Washington. The suit was filed in federal court in the Western District of Washington.

“Washington’s bears and bobcats deserve better, so we’re suing Wildlife Services to force officials to consider alternatives to their mass-extermination programs,” said Sophia Ressler, a Center attorney in a statement. “The science shows that nonlethal methods of addressing wildlife conflicts work. Wildlife Services should acknowledge the research and scrutinize its cruel and outdated programs.”

Wildlife Services is a multi-million-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons, and aerial gunning to kill wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals. Most of the killing is in response to requests from the agriculture industry.

In 2018, Wildlife Services reported killing more than 1.5 million native animals nationwide. In Washington state last year, the agency killed: six black bears, 397 beavers, 376 coyotes, 429 marmots, 448 squirrels and thousands of other animals.

Animals that aren’t intended to be killed — including pets and protected wildlife like wolves and eagles — are also at risk from the programs’ indiscriminate methods. Wildlife Services killed nearly 300 of Washington’s pocket gophers last year. This risks harming the state’s four species of endangered pocket gophers.

“We need to stop Wildlife Services’ destructive war on Washington’s wildlife,” Ressler said. “It’s long past time to use the best available science to inform these management decisions. Not doing so is irresponsible, dangerous and ecologically destructive.”

The National Environmental Policy Act requires Wildlife Services to rigorously examine the environmental effects of killing wildlife and to consider alternatives, such as those that rely on proven nonlethal methods to avoid wildlife conflicts.

Yesterday’s lawsuit is part of a larger Center campaign to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its inhumane, unscientific wildlife-killing programs across the country. Court victories in: California, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming have led to vast on-the-ground improvements in the programs in these states.

The environmental analyses for Washington’s programs for killing predators and aquatic mammals are almost a decade old. According to today’s complaint, Wildlife Services must use recent information to analyze the impacts of its mammal-killing programs on the environment and Washington’s unique wild places.

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