Your Government’s Role in Killing Wildlife

USDA Wildlife Services

"Wildlife Services" sounds pretty innocuous. The truth is pretty ugly however.

I have a friend at work who largely shares my political and social views, with one exception.  He’s much less cynical than I am.  When push comes to shove, I tend to believe that people will choose the path of least resistance or the path that gives them the biggest personal gain, no matter the negative consequences.  My friend is quite a bit rosier regarding the human race.   Every time I start to move in that direction, every time I start to feel my cynicism wearing off a bit, I read a story like this one, forwarded by another friend at work.

The story is about the Wildlife Services program at the U.S. Department of agriculture.  If you’re an animal lover, be prepared to be disgusted.  I’m already disgusted with how people treat wildlife.  After all I live in South Dakota, where the State Bird is an introduced species whose ONLY purpose for people here is as something you can shoot at.  But it’s one thing for red-necked South Dakotans to be out popping off wildlife.  It’s another for the Federal Government to be doing it, especially when so much collateral damage is being done, as shown in this article.

I’m amazed at the political clout a few large land owners in the West have regarding wildlife issues.  In South Dakota, the prairie dog has seemingly been labeled as public enemy #1…largely due to the efforts of a VERY few ranchers who claim prairie dogs cause immense damage to grazing lands.  A VERY few private citizens have somehow twisted the system to their advantage, so much so that prairie dogs are being poisoned on a lot of PUBLIC land in the state, if an adjacent land owner requests “control” of the species.   “Public” land in general is managed in South Dakota for seemingly one purpose…for the COMPLETE exploitation of whatever “resources” may be found on that land.  Parks?  National Grasslands?  Conservation and wildlife are DEFINITELY a secondary consideration in South Dakota.   Grazing trumps wildlife in every case.  In state and other parks, it’s the use of the area for camping, hunting, cross-country skiing, or any other human activity that is far and away more important than the actual habitat or wildlife in that park.

This story about the Wildlife Services part of USDA is simply an example of the same mindset, but at a Federal level.  Endangered species?  Completely harmless species?  People’s PETS, for god’s sake?   It’s a pretty disgusting picture of what Wildlife Services does, all supposedly for the sake of “protecting” people from that nasty harmful wildlife.

$$$$$ trumps wildlife…it’s a message that sadly continues to gain traction in the U.S.    And again…my cynacism and complete lack of faith in humanity is restored.

And despite my status as a Federal employee and as someone who has strongly DEFENDED government in the past…with recent experiences I’ve personally had, and with many of the recent news stories, I’m having a hard time maintaining that support of government.

2 Responses to Your Government’s Role in Killing Wildlife

  1. I don’t disagree with your feelings regarding wild animals, wilderness, etc. But I have seen large colonies of prairie dogs decimate the landscape.

    I was on the northern edge of the Pine Ridge Res, when I came to a barren moonscape to my right. I was shocked. I stopped to try to figure out what happened. Soon the dogs popped back up and were running about. There was not a blade of grass in a 2-3 acre area. It was just dirt, and lots of holes, hundreds of dogs. I didn’t know they could do that.

    2-3 acres is not much, but I wonder what would happen if there were no efforts to manage the dog population? How many acres could they devastate? I’m telling you, it was just barren of any living thing except the dogs.

    We do manage other species for their welfare. We institute hunting and trapping seasons, so it’s not an unheard of thing to poison them.

    I have to say that I have been mystified about the clamor over “endangered” prairie dogs. I’ve lived West River for several years, and I have seen millions of them!

    Could you say more about what is so upsetting to you about the prairie dog killing? Is it purely that it is not “natural?” Or that it is for the benefit of a few? Or that you want humans to just leave wildlife alone?

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Prairie dog killing bothers me greatly for 2 main reasons…1) Human beings using a live animal for target practice, for NO other purpose than to have “fun”, and 2) The completely twisted and WRONG view people have about prairie dogs and their role on the prairie.

    http://www.publiclandsranching.org/htmlres/wr_prairie_dog_gone.htm

    This is a great summary of the benefits of prairie dogs. Historically, Bison and Pronghorn PREFERRED to feed on prairie dog towns. The vegetation mix is different, and more nutritious, and as the piece above notes, cattle TOO generally prefer to graze on prairie dog towns, and develop just the same as they do on land without prairie dogs.

    The “Barren Moonscape” isn’t the fault of the prairie dog. Overgrazing is MUCH more likely the cause, as Prairie Dogs don’t move into an area and complete remove all the vegetation.

    From an ecological standpoint, there are SO many other species that suffer when Prairie Dogs are exterminated. When I go birding on the Fort Pierre National Grasslands, the FIRST place I head are the prairie dog towns. Raptors are obviously drawn to Prairie Dog towns, but they’re not the only birds. There are some species that I”ve ONLY ever seen on Prairie Dog towns, such as the Sprague’s Pipit, a bird that, not surprisingly, is MUCH less common now than it was when Prairie Dogs were more widespread.

    I’m a scientist, and the science shows a wealth of benefits associated with Prairie Dog towns, benefits that even extend to the very ranchers who are trying to exterminate them.

    As for people killing them for “fun”? Not in the mood to get into that right now, but suffice it to say I have some very choice words I use to describe people (nearly always men) who go out and shoot animals for no other purpose than for their own “enjoyment.”

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