GRANTS PASS, Ore. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture division that kills problem wildlife says it will do the math to report how many wolves, robins, and other species it kills each year on a nationwide basis, rather than just posting state-by-state numbers.
Wildlife Services spokeswoman Carol Bannerman said Monday from Washington, D.C., that the decision to go back to publishing on its Web site nationwide totals of species killed came after the conservation group WildEarth Guardians filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the information.
Wildlife Services has been posting the nationwide totals since 1996. But when they posted the numbers for 2007 last July, for the first time they switched to a state-by-state format, forcing anyone interested in national trends to do the math themselves. A conservation group complained they were trying to avoid scrutiny.
Last week the agency posted a total for all wildlife killed in 2007 – 2.4 million, but did not provide totals for each species. They are now working on totals for each species and will post them, Bannerman said.
“We were trying to be as responsive as we could be and put up a total as quickly as we could and additional work will probably need to be done,” Bannerman said. “I think the fact that the numbers are openly there indicates we are not attempting to hide anything.”
“They are so late getting their data up,” Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians said from Denver. “They have done such a sloppy job of putting this together. They are trying to avoid public scrutiny. They have been under a microscope by us and other groups and we are not going to let them get away with sloppy work.”
The federal agency shoots, poisons and traps wolves, coyotes and other animals that kill cattle and sheep. It also scares off or kills birds that eat crops and could cause crashes at airports, bears that strip the bark off young trees, and foxes, ravens and other wildlife that prey on endangered animals.
Wildlife Services reported it spent $117 million last year, of which $56 million came from states, counties, agriculture groups and private property owners.
While the total number of animals reported killed is down from 2.7 million in 2004, the number of carnivores, such as wolves, coyotes and foxes, has been rising steadily, according to an analysis by WildEarth Guardians. The number was 102,345 in 2004, and 121,520 in 2007.
The vast majority of the 2.4 million animals killed in 2007 were birds – 2.1 million, including 1 million starlings.