America’s war on wildlife is finally getting some media attention. At the behest, mainly, of farmers and ranchers the now ironically named agency Wildlife Services has been trapping, poisoning, shooting and otherwise destroying the public’s wildlife since 1885. Until recently this practice has had very little public scrutiny and even less oversight. In 2010 Among the most highly targeted species are predators, ranging from weasels to bears and wolves. Wolves and coyotes are often blamed for astronomical numbers of livestock deaths, but the facts suggest otherwise. USDA statistics (below) tell the story.
Cattle and calf losses from animal predators totaled nearly 220 thousand head during 2010. This represented 5.5 percent of the total deaths from all causes and resulted in a loss of $98.5 million to farmers and ranchers. Coyotes and dogs caused the majority of cattle and calf predator losses accounting for 53.1 percent and 9.9 percent respectively.
Cattle and calf losses from non-predator causes totaled 3.77 million head or 94.5 percent of the total losses during 2010. Respiratory problems represented the leading cause of non-predator deaths, accounting for 28.0 percent, followed by digestive problems at 13.4 percent.
The importance of predators, especially large apex predators, has been repeatedly confirmed in scientific studies for the last 3 decades, yet the livestock industry, and to a lesser extent a certain segment of the hunting public, loathes the idea of competing with them for natural resources, be they livestock forage or big game. Given the minimal impact of predators on either livestock or big game populations, it seems they protest too much, and at the public’s expense to boot!
If Wildlife Services must continue its deadly mission, perhaps it should concentrate on some truly destructive critters. I’m thinking of feral hogs in the Southeast and escaped pythons in the Everglades in particular. If ever there were critters needing removal from our landscapes, these 2 species surely rise to the top of the list!