WildEarth Guardians Wins Lawsuit Against USDA’s Wildlife Services To Stop The Use Of Cruel Traps, Poisons & Snares On Wildlife In New Mexico

In a victory for wildlife in New Mexico, WildEarth Guardians settled its lawsuit against USDA’s Wildlife Services after the federal program agreed to stop its reckless slaughter of native wildlife such as: black bears, cougars, foxes, and even endangered Mexican gray wolves, on all federal public lands. It will also cease killing wildlife on specific protected federal lands and end the use of cruel traps, snares, and poisons on public lands.

Tragically, according to its 2020 annual program report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s in-house wildlife killing program was responsible for the deaths of more than 433,000 native animals last year alone.

The new settlement additionally requires public reporting of Wildlife Services’ activities in the state, including documenting non-lethal preventative measures employed by the program. These protections will remain in place pending the program’s completion of a detailed and public environmental review of its work.

Notably, the agreement also mandates that a program district supervisor reviews all wolf depredation investigation reports before a livestock depredation determination is made. This would ensure appropriate safeguards for the endangered Mexican gray wolves that inhabit southwestern New Mexico.

“It’s past time for Wildlife Services to start grappling with 21st century science showing killing wildlife in hopes of preventing livestock losses doesn’t work, and is often counterproductive, horribly inhumane, and robs native ecosystems of critically important apex carnivores,” Jennifer Schwartz, staff attorney at WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement. “We are glad our settlement kickstarts this process, while affording New Mexico’s wildlife some reprieve from the government’s archaic and cruel killing practices.”

The settlement agreement, finalized on March 11th, includes multiple temporary provisions that will soon become permanent parts of New Mexico law as the result of the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act which bans the use of traps, snares, and poisons on all public lands in the state of New Mexico. While the Public Safety Act is set to go into effect on April 1, 2022, the new agreement ensures that Wildlife Services refrains from using these devices on public lands immediately.

Wildlife Services is guilty of killing thousands of animals in New Mexico each year including: coyotes, cougars, prairie dogs, and several varieties of fox. Per federal law, Wildlife Services must use up-to-date studies and the best available science to analyze the environmental impact of their animal damage control program on New Mexico’s wildlife and native ecosystems. Under the agreement, Wildlife Services must provide an environmental analysis of the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in New Mexico by December 31st of this year.

The settlement agreement also requires Wildlife Services to significantly increase its overall transparency with the public by documenting and releasing, via its state website, detailed yearly reports of its wildlife “damage control” practices. This includes the number and type of animals captured and by which method, the number of requests for assistance and the reason given, and types of non-lethal preventative measures employed by Wildlife Services or the party requesting lethal control. This type of detailed information has previously only been available through formal Freedom of Information Act requests, which typically take many months, if not years, for USDA to fulfill.

Over the last five years, litigation by WildEarth Guardians and partners against Wildlife Services has also resulted in similar settlement agreements in: Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

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