A recent poll by TrapFreeOregon found that almost half of Oregonians think trapping is illegal in Oregon. It’s not.
Few people know that a federal agency uses both cruel and brutal traps, along with dangerous poisons, to kill our native wildlife. Most people have no idea about the scope of the killing by the USDA Wildlife Services agency. Every year it kills thousands of coyotes, as well as cougars and wolves, at taxpayer expense, mostly for the benefit of private ranchers.
Most dog owners are unaware that dogs in Oregon have fallen victim to the barbaric traps. Some have died in traps while their horrified owners tried helplessly to free them, one as recently as last spring. Wildlife Services traps have been set close to publicly used hiking trails, often with little warning to the public.
Thousands of non-target wildlife are killed in the traps. Former Wildlife Services trappers say the motto was “shoot, shovel, and shut up” when a pet or non-target animal was found trapped.
Aerial gunning of coyotes occurs on public BLM lands that private ranchers pay a pittance to use. Yet studies show the killing does little to solve the conflicts between wildlife and ranchers, and actually increases coyote numbers.
President Nixon banned the use of Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide on federal lands, but this was reversed by President Reagan. A 2004 Inspector General report found serious issues with their safety.
These poisons are not only dangerous for our environment, but could be used by terrorists. Rep. Peter DeFazio and Predator Defense in Eugene have been attempting to get legislation to deal with this issue, yet some Oregon legislators have not supported their efforts.
Recent research has shown that top predators, like cougars and wolves, are necessary for a healthy ecosystem in numerous ways. Coyotes help regulate rodent populations, and some large cities like Chicago have seen advantages to having coyotes. Much can be done by communities to co-exist with wild predators.
Some ranchers are learning it is possible to co-exist with the use of dogs and other deterrents.
“Wild Things,” a film by the Natural Resources Defense Council, is about Wildlife Service’s war on predators. It will be shown at the Salem Library’s Loucks Auditorium on April 3rd, 6:30 pm. The event is free and open to the public. The film will be followed by presentations by John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Dr. Bob Beschta of OSU.
Another even harder hitting film, featuring statements by former Wildlife Service strappers about what they witnessed as agency employees, is available for viewing on the Predator Defense website at www.predatordefense.org.
It is time for a change in what Wildlife Services does. The public needs to learn about the agency’s little-known needless war against top predators, and pressure elected officials to take action. See “Wild Things.” Watch the Predator Defense film. You will be motivated.
Laurel Hines is a retired psychotherapist. She now is an animal and land use advocate, and volunteers at the Willamette Humane Society.