“Wildlife Services.” The name of this USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) agency has such a nice ring to it. It conjures up a picture of distressed animals being tended to by kindly government employees. “How may I serve you today?” a needy deer or bear is asked when it gets to the front of the Wildlife Services clinic waiting line.
The home page of the agency’s website tries to convey this sort of benign image. The reality is much different, as Laurel and I described on a “Coyotes don’t need killing by USDA Wildlife Services” page that we put up when a neighbor tried to get the agency to come into our neighborhood and protect unnatural feral cats by killing natural coyotes. The agency should be named “Wildlife Needless Destruction Services,” because that’s what they do.
An article in yesterday’s Oregonian about killing cougars reminded us of how useless and ill-informed Wildlife Services is. About two and a half years ago the agency’s director in Oregon, Dave Williams, and a local employee, Brian Thomas, became adept at not returning Laurel’s phone calls. She merely wanted to know why a federal agency was willing to trap, poison, or shoot coyotes because they were killing feral cats.
Figuring that Wildlife Services would be happy to get some publicity about the “valuable” services they provide, Laurel told Williams and Thomas that a newspaper reporter was prepared to cover their coyote killing/feral cat protecting. I guess Wildlife Services is publicity-shy, because they never came out to our neighborhood.
But Wildlife Services is killing lots of wildlife elsewhere. In 2003 this report says that about 76,000 coyotes, 2,500 bobcats, 4,800 foxes, 500 badgers, 460 cougars, 330 bears, and 190 wolves were killed. What a marvelous waste of taxpayer money.
It’s estimated that 2.7% of cattle and calf losses are due to predation and 97.3% to other causes. Plus, shouldn’t ranchers be protecting their own livestock? Why is a government agency killing coyotes on a ranch for free when there isn’t enough money for Medicaid to protect children against diseases?
And killing coyotes just results in more coyotes. As I wrote about before, some people have the anthropomorphic attitude that coyotes go up to the body of Joe Coyote, shot by an angry sheep owner, and say, “Ooops. We've got to get out of this neighborhood. Look at what happened to good ol' Joe.” Actually, research suggests that the more likely inner dialogue is, “Oh boy, Joe is finally out of the way. Now we can all move up a level toward the Alpha Coyote status we've been hankering for.” At least, this is the male attitude. The females think, “Oh my, I've got to have more coyote babies now to keep our numbers up. Better get breeding.”
Similarly, a chart accompanying the Oregonian article shows that the number of cougars killed in Oregon has risen from 229 in 1992 to 408 in 2005. Yet, “State wildlife managers say Oregon is home to 5,000 to 6,000 cougars, nearly twice as many as a decade ago, despite increased hunting in that time.”
Where’s the problem? There hasn’t been a single cougar attack on a human in Oregon. Yet, strangely, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is advising people not to hike alone. People attack other people in Oregon infinitely more often than cougars attack people (in my admittedly mathematically-challenged mind, the ratio of 0 to any other number is infinite). So why aren’t we being advised to never walk along the sidewalk alone, or never be in a parking lot alone?
Expanding on my earlier thesis that humans are irrationally afraid of cougars because these animals are tougher than us in a fair fight, I’d add that what has been called the “Fuck it or kill it (FIKI)” hormone (namely, testosterone) almost certainly is at play here also. Today Laurel and I were appalled, but not surprised, to see a photo of a man with a recently-killed 31 point buck on the back page of the Statesman-Journal’s sports section.
The man called the killing a “once in a lifetime deal.” If he thinks that this is one of his great accomplishments in life, that’s pathetic. I understand the pressure of primal “FIKI” urges, but being a human animal means something more than merely being an animal. We should be able to look upon a noble fellow creature, such as a 31 point buck, without feeling the urge to do anything else.
Just look. If it's a danger, then deal with it. If it isn't, and such will almost always be the case, then leave it alone.
Those who look upon other animals like cougars and coyotes simply as a life that deserves to be snuffed out are falling prey to their own atavistic FIKI selves. They should be worrying about what’s killing their own humanity.