Breaking! Siskiyou County In California Is The Fourth County To Suspend Its Contract With Federal Wildlife-Killing Program Known As Wildlife Services

Responding to legal pressure from a coalition of animal-protection and conservation groups, Siskiyou County officials in California have announced the suspension of its contract with the notorious federal wildlife-killing program known as Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is reportedly responsible for the deaths of more than 28,000 animals in the county over the past decade.

The Siskiyou County decision came after coalition members warned the county in June that its contract with Wildlife Services violates the California Environmental Quality Act.

Coalition members include the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare InstituteCenter for Biological DiversityEnvironmental Protection Information CenterMountain Lion FoundationNatural Resources Defense Council, Project Coyote, and WildEarth Guardians.

“Siskiyou is the fourth county to suspend its contract with Wildlife Services as a result of our efforts,” Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund said in a statement. “Other California counties with wildlife-killing programs should sit up and take notice: This succession of wins for wildlife has generated a momentum that is impossible to ignore.”

Under its Siskiyou County contract, Wildlife Services killed approximately 28,000 animals in the County from 2008 to 2016. The program targeted ecologically important native wildlife such as coyotes, mountain lions, and black bears without assessing the environmental damage or considering alternatives. Using inhumane and indiscriminate methods like traps and snares, Wildlife Services also killed non-target animals, including domestic dogs and cats, as well as thousands of birds each year.

“With another California county having now cancelled its contract with Wildlife Services, I’m hopeful this victory marks the turn of the tide for California’s wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Siskiyou County is smart to seek out an alternative to this ineffective, cruel, and harmful wildlife-killing program.”

“Siskiyou County’s decision recognizes the unacceptable risk that Wildlife Services’ methods present to the many threatened and endangered species that call the county home,” explained Johanna Hamburger, a wildlife attorney at the Animal Welfare Institute. “This is a significant step that will protect species such as the tricolored blackbird, which has declined by nearly 90 percent in the past 90 years, and is easily mistaken for other species of blackbirds that Wildlife Services routinely targets.”

Siskiyou is the latest county in California to reexamine its contract with Wildlife Services amid pressure from the animal-protection and conservation coalition.

As previously reported by WAN, earlier this summer, Shasta County cancelled its contract with Wildlife Services. In 2015, in settlement of a lawsuit filed by coalition organizations, Mendocino County agreed to fully evaluate nonlethal predator-control alternatives. In 2017, a California court ruled in favor of the coalition in finding that Monterey County must conduct an environmental review before renewing its contract with Wildlife Services.

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