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County Funds Killing Coyotes and Bears

Contracts show that Lane County paid thousands of dollars in 2011 to Wildlife Services, a federal agency that reports show killed almost 60,000 animals in Oregon over a 10-year period through trapping, snaring and poisons. It is unclear whether Lane County has signed a new contract with the agency in the new budget year, according to Commissioner Pete Sorenson.

Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense and Sorenson turned up a contract between Lane County Wildlife Control and Wildlife Services for $14,545. That contract ended June 30. The county’s Waste Management division signed with Wildlife Services as well, for $16,000 through Dec. 31. “If they can afford $16,000, then they can afford to fix the fence,” Fahy says. 

He says he recently went out to the county’s Rattlesnake Road disposal facility and saw large breaks in the fence. The facility recently had a trap set to catch a bear. Once a bear is caught, they are generally killed, Fahy says. He says fixing the fence and making the area less tempting to bear would be a better use of county money than trapping and killing animals. “These dumps are basically bait stations,” Fahy says. “I want Lane County solid waste to cancel the contract.” He was unable to find out if a bear had been trapped and killed. 

Sorenson says, “Brooks and I have worked over the years to eliminate any contract with Wildlife Services,” and says, “the Lane County Budget Committee eliminated what I would call ‘generic funding’ for Wildlife Services, but that may have been renewed in this last budget year.” Sorenson and Fahy discovered that the Eugene airport has also contracted with the controversial agency for $10,000 from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. 

Gail Gould, a sheep farmer in Pleasant Hill, says there are predator problems in Lane County. “We have regular losses to coyotes and cougars,” she reports. “I have lost six lambs with attack bites on the side or bottom of the neck. I have several living adult sheep with similar wounds. I am assuming that the damage is from coyotes.”

Fahy and Predator Defense advocate for and give advice on nonlethal means of predator control. 

Sorenson says Wildlife Services is “something I’m glad I got rid of; it’s a bit alarming that these contracts have crept in.” He says, “At the congressional level I’ve been supportive of [Rep. Peter] DeFazio’s efforts to eliminate federal funding of Wildlife Services.” 

He adds, “Wildlife Services is one of the most misnamed of all federal agencies — it sounds like it is for wildlife, when it’s not.”

A recent report by the Sacramento Bee showed that since 2000, Wildlife Services has accidentally killed more than 50,000 animals that were not problems — golden and bald eagles, rare or imperiled species and more than 1,100 dogs. Since 1987, at least 18 employees as well as several members of the public have been exposed to cyanide when they triggered spring-loaded cartridges meant to poison coyotes.

Fahy says that if the public knew more about this, they’d be outraged. 

DeFazio is a cosponsor of the Transparency for Lethal Control Act (TLC), legislation requiring the USDA to publish clear and accessible information on animals killed through Wildlife Services, which was introduced in the House Aug. 2. 

“It shouldn’t be incumbent on government to subsidize livestock producers,” Fahy says. “If the county is broke, where does it get the money for this?” Fahy asks.