IDAHO: Need for Better Science Halts USDA Carnivore Killing

gray wolf Idaho

BOISE, Idaho, July 1, 2022 (ENS) – A U.S. District Court in Idaho has approved a settlement agreement filed by Advocates for the West on behalf of two conservation groups that will protect Idaho’s native carnivores through restrictions on methods of killing wildlife.

Based in Boise, Advocates for the West, with in-house counsel from Western Watersheds Project, represented the nonprofit groups WildEarth Guardians and Predator Defense in the case.

The agreement between the conservation groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, and the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management guarantees interim protections for native wildlife pending the completion of new environmental reviews of Wildlife Services’ actions.

“We’re pleased to have added restrictions to the wildlife-killing activities that USDA Wildlife Services is pursuing across Idaho,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “This new agreement blocks wildlife killing on protected public lands across Idaho, and blocks the use of certain lethal methods employed against native carnivores throughout the state.”

The settlement gives Wildlife Services until the end of 2024 to complete a new environmental review of its activities on federal lands.

The settlement also requires the agency to consider an alternative restricting native predator-killing on certain public lands, blocking “preventative” killing of wolves and coyotes, and placing a long-term moratorium on the use M-44 “cyanide bombs” of the type that poisoned 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield and his dog near Pocatello, killing the family dog, in 2017.

“Working side-by-side with the Mansfield family, as well as with other M-44 victims for over 30 years, I have witnessed the pain and loss these indiscriminate poisonous devices inflict,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, a national wildlife advocacy group. “Since M-44s can never be used safely, Wildlife Services agreeing not to use them in Idaho, even temporarily until their analysis is complete, will better protect people, pets and wildlife.”

In the interim, the agreement halts the use of “denning,” a term that means gassing or immolating wolf pups in their dens, limits the agency’s methods of trapping, and requires reporting if Wildlife Services traps go un-checked for more than 72 hours, a measure to prevent animal cruelty.

“This settlement forces the federal agencies to come up to speed on the new science around management of native carnivores and to stop using inhumane and antiquated methods like poison or body-gripping traps,” said Wildlife Program Director of WildEarth Guardians Lindsay Larris. “This settlement ensures that Wildlife Services won’t use gas cartridges or burn wolves alive in their dens – a practice they were unfortunately still able to lawfully employ, until today.”

Under the settlement, Wildlife Services will not use snares to target gray wolves in Idaho on public lands. When using foothold traps for wolf damage management, Wildlife Services will only use foothold
traps with offset jaws, pan-tension devices set to a minimum of eight pounds of resistance, and swivels.

In 2011, Congress ended protections for gray wolves in the northern Rockies, and in 2020 the Trump administration stripped wolves of their Endangered Species Act protections across the country.

The settlement was reached pursuant to a lawsuit filed in Idaho District Court in 2020, asserting that Wildlife Services had violated federal law with regard to its predator management programs by relying on outdated and inadequate assessments of its policies and methods.

“Our settlement also means that native predators that live in Wilderness or Wilderness Study Areas in Idaho will not be killed by Wildlife Services except to protect human health and safety,” said Laurie Rule, senior attorney at Advocates for the West. “These areas are intended to remain in their natural state, including allowing predators to fulfill their natural role in the ecosystem.”

This settlement follows a March 2020 settlement in an earlier lawsuit that restricted the places where Wildlife Services could kill wolves in Idaho. Predator protections under both agreements will be in place until Wildlife Services completes a new environmental impact statement in 2024.

The government agencies that are defendants in this case agreed to pay plaintiffs $50,000 to satisfy all claims related to this lawsuit.

Read the Settlement here.

Featured image: A gray wolf, canis lupus, in Idaho. Gray wolves are no longer listed for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. (Photo courtesy Idaho Department of Fish & Game)

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