ADC does damage control–– could be killed by Farm Bill

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1995:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Caught in a political trap, the
USDA Animal Damage Control program is battling for survival.
The ADC still has powerful friends, including western Senators of
both major parties, but the forthcoming Farm Bill debate could kill
it, after 65 years.
Conservative Republicans are queasy about the ADC
because it’s a federal subsidy for private enterprise: of the $19.6 million
1994 ADC budget, $10 million went to protect livestock.
Eastern politicians of both parties see the ADC as
expendible because it does little for their constituents: $9.7 million––97%––of
the livestock protection funds were spent in the 17
western states.
Environmentalists hate the ADC because it helps keep cattle
on federally owned land.

Animal defenders recognize the ADC as the agency that
killed 778,678 wild predators last year––and 5,720 nontarget animals
whose only offense was stumbling into a trap. ADC killing tactics,
moreover, are particularly gruesome. Last year the ADC strafed
29,072 animals from aircraft, including 27,642 coyotes, 1,289
foxes, and 321 bobcats. Burned alive or speared in dens were 2,240
coyote pups and 1,244 fox cubs. Spring-loaded cyanide-firing traps
called M-44s killed 23,217 coyotes, 2,203 foxes, nine bobcats, and
a bear. Neck-snared were 10,515 coyotes, 1,409 foxes, 635 bobcats,
11 badgers, 17 mountain lions, and seven bears. Ninety-
eight bears, 52 foxes, 37 mountain lions, nine coyotes, and one
bobcat died in ADC leghold traps.
In short, the ADC isn’t a cute, cuddly program. More than
a few federal politicians see it as an easy cut––and a way for
Republicans to look a little more green while perhaps hobbling the
Endangered Species Act and slashing environmental spending.
Fighting back with a media blitz, the ADC boasted in fall
press releases that the ADC “tracked, relocated, or killed 42 million
problem animals in 1994––six million more than in 1993. The ADC
claimed wildlife each year does $500 million in crop damage, kills
500,000 livestock, and costs $3 billion in
medical care for infectious bites plus property
damage caused by animal/car collisions.
Accepting the ADC party line, USA
Today reporter Linda Kanamine in a page one
expose cited as reasons for the purported
“boom” in complaints the expansion of suburbs
into former wildlife habitat, “20 years of
animal protection measures” which “have
boosted populations,” and “recent droughts
or snowpacks,” that “have pushed animals
into residential areas for food.”
But basic principles of ecology have
more to do with it:
• Suburban sprawl displaces
wildlife, by destroying habitat––but those
animals usually don’t survive. Some of the
same species, however, tend to return a
decade or more later, after ornamental trees
and shrubs reach maturity.
• Prey species such as deer and
Canada geese reproduce much more rapidly
than predators, e.g. coyotes and foxes.
• Most so-called nuisance species
help control others, as feral cats kill rodents
and coyotes kill cats, deer nibble away the
brush preferred by raccoons, and raccoons
rob the nests of Canada geese. But a disrupted
balance of nature is not quickly restored,
and the restoration may include population
explosions of various species before the controlling
species arrive in numbers.
The press releases were drafted to
emphasize growing attention to nonlethal
solutions (at least wherever voters are around
to see what the ADC does), and the $2.5 million
spent to protect crops, $2.3 million spent
to protect public health, and $2.9 million
spent to protect property.
Not just coyote-killers
Spokespersons also noted that the
A D C killed “only” 85,571 coyotes last year,
one of the lowest totals since the agency was
formed as successor to the agency which earlier
wiped out wolves across much of the
U.S. Bluntly, the ADC was formed to keep
the wolf-killers on the federal payroll and
pacify sheep ranchers, as wool prices plummeted
with the onset of the Great Depression.
The ADC has massacred nearly 10
million coyotes since 1930, but while continuing
to kill them en masse, now at least officially
encourages other responses to coyote
Arizona ADC director Richard
Phillips and Redrock Wildlife Area master
trapper Alton Ford shocked a recent conference
on predator/prey dynamics, held in
Silver City, New Mexico, with direct criticism
of coyote-killing. Ford favored only
selective trapping of individual coyotes
known to kill livestock. Both Phillips and
Ford argued that trying to wipe out coyotes
only leaves more forage for wily survivors,
who raise bigger litters. And Phillips concluded
that killing coyotes just because they
live near livestock is a strategic mistake.
“They might scare the hell out of
you by staring at your sheep all day long,”
Phillips told an audience composed largely of
ranchers, “but those animals might be keeping
livestock killers out of the area.”
Ironically, a less bloodthirsty ADC
could protect some predators, in the present
political climate. Unhappy with the declining
level of killing, Wyoming director of agriculture
Ron Micheli recently opened talks
with ADC national director Bobby Acord
toward possibly taking over nuisance wildlife
management on federal lands––if the feds
will give them, in Wyoming ADC director
Bill Rightmire’s words, “more resources and
less restrictions.”
That could very well happen if the
ADC is dismantled only to be replaced by
block grants to the states for predator control.
Currently the ADC is funded on a matching
basis, with 51% of the livestock protection
part of the budget coming from the federal
treasury, 24% from state treasuries, and
14% from livestock organizations and individual
While the current fiscal climate
minimizes the likelihood that states would be
given all of the money now going to ADC,
they might get some money––along with
exemptions from oversight requirements that
tend to run up costs.
According to Wildlife Damage
R e v i e w #7, Wyoming deputy director of
agriculture Bill Gentle told a June meeting
including Micheli, Gentle, and prominent
ranchers, “If we have to do Environmental
Impact Statements and meet all the other
restrictions just because we take their money,
then we haven’t gained a thing.”
(Wildlife Damage Review is published
from POB 85218, Tucson, AZ
85754. Thorough statistics on ADC activity
are published annually by The
Predator Project, POB 6733, Bozeman,
MT 59771.)

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