Wild places and wild things constitute a treasure to be cherished and protected for all time. The pleasure and refreshment which they give man confirm their value to society. More importantly perhaps, the wonder, beauty, and elemental force in which the least of them share suggest a higher right to exist–not granted them by man and not his to take away. – Richard M. Nixon, 1972
67 Coyotes, 9 Mountain Lions, 38 Black Bears, 235 Raccoons, 218 Striped Skunks, 57 Opossums, 17 Gray Fox – animals reported killed by Wildlife Services in Humboldt County between 2010 and 2013.
We are deeply disappointed with the Humboldt County Board of Supervisor’s decision to renew our County’s contract with one of the US Government’s least accountable agencies, Wildlife Services, whose illegal activities, cover-ups, opacity, and lack of regulatory framework have been as well-documented as possible given that very opacity. Still, we are glad for the opportunity to have much needed discussion regarding this agency’s activities in our own backyard. Past contract renewals have slipped by without notice. With an approach to human/wildlife conflicts as outdated and entrenched as Humboldt County’s it certainly must be true that it will take more than a couple of hours of 3-5 minute public comments to undo decades of poor practices.
Humboldt Wildlife Care Center operates in every district of Humboldt County as well as Northern Mendocino, Del Norte, Trinity, parts of Siskiyou and even Curry County in Oregon across the state line. We respond to calls regarding injured, orphaned, and so-called nuisance wildlife every day of the year. We run on the proverbial shoestring budget, utilizing volunteer labor and relying on the generosity of our community. We assist with any problem, and when something is beyond our local capacity, we have resources around the State and the Nation on which we can rely.
The decision to renew the contract is disappointing, not only because it legitimizes past unnecessary wildlife kills, and not only because of the future unnecessary wildlife kills it will allow, but also because it undermines the public education and outreach work on which HWCC/BAX spends a significant amount of resources.
Incredibly, it was even suggested by the Supervisors that HWCC/BAX could collaborate with Wildlife Services. With our commitment to co-existence, to the intrinsic value of wild animals, to non-lethal measures, transparency, and accountability to our community, obviously we find little in common with the branch the Sacramento Bee calls the “Killing Agency.” Our work in this county, to promote co-existence between people and our wild neighbors, to educate on the laws regarding how wild animals may be treated, competes with the County’s diametrically opposed message.
Trapping wildlife does not solve human/wildlife conflicts. Trapping doesn’t address or control rabies. The circumstances that bring a wild animal into conflict with people are most often, if not always, sources for food, water or shelter that are provided, intentionally or not, by people – often by the same people experiencing the problem. Removing these provisions usually results in the wild animal moving on – trapping and killing the animal changes nothing, leaves the attractant in place for other animals, risks orphaning any young of the trapped animal, and needlessly applies a capital penalty on the wild animal for a human transgression. In short, trapping is lazy, cruel and ineffective. Humane solutions are not only ethically superior, humane solutions last.
The Board’s statement, that there is no problem that needs to be addressed, displays a callous disregard for the lives of countless wild animals who have been killed without cause, their disrupted families, and also the values and concerns of a majority of people everywhere. According to Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf, since 1921, Humboldt County has contracted with Wildlife Services. The number of animals senselessly killed over the last 9 decades would be astonishing if it were calculable.
The Board of Supervisors has neither the the knowledge or experience to make decisions on these matters. Presented with legitimate concerns regarding a controversial program, it is our view that the Supervisors did not perform due diligence in seeking alternative perspectives from knowledgeable sources. Rather than research the issue, members of the Board stood by childhood playmates, gross misapprehensions of disease vectors and a poor understanding of the successes of more advanced programs in other counties. The decision to continue contracting with Wildlife Services does a disservice to the County, to the citizens of this County who deserve better leadership, and to the wild animals who have as much right to their existence as we have to ours.
We of course will carry forward with our mission. We will continue to provide quality care for injured and orphaned wildlife, to partner with trustee agencies to provide non-lethal solutions for human/wildlife conflicts and embrace and support the progress our culture has shown in our ability and willingness to share in the bounty of Mother Nature.
While we wish to find a way forward toward a more humane future for Humboldt County and California, it would be negligent of us, as citizens of this county and as one of the many voices for this county’s wild residents, if we did not express our sorrow and disappointment with the Board’s decision and the deeply flawed reasoning that produced it.
Meanwhile, please take a look at this online petition to bring transparency and accountability to Wildlife Services. If you’ve already signed it, please share it with your circle of friends and colleagues. https://www.change.org/petitions/wildlife-services-stop-slaughtering-millions-of-wild-animals
P.S. This kind of advocacy work may not cost us much in food, medicine or other resources, but it does take time. Please contribute what you can. Help us supply the ounce of prevention… Thank you for your support and for your love of wildlife