Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Rob Davis, Voice Of San Diego
Larry Hawkins, Wildlife Services
It's a reasonable bet that not many San Diego County residents have ever heard of Wildlife Services, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Yet this agency is responsible for the killing of more than 18,000 animals, mostly in San Diego County's back country, since 2005.
The role of the agency is to protect both endangered species and humans when they come into conflict with wildlife. This may mean wild ducks and geese on golf courses, coyotes attacking farm animals, or hawks attacking the nests of least terns.
After reading an investigative series in the Sacramento Bee on the agency and its role in wildlife killings in Northern California, Rob Davis, a reporter for Voice Of San Diego, embarked on an investigation of his own into what the agency was doing here.
Wildlife Services' Statement
Wildlife Services gave him some of the information he wanted to know -- how many animals are killed and the general reasons for the killings -- but often information on why specific kills were made was unavailable. Davis was particularly interested in why animals like great blue herons, meadowlarks, beavers, crows and several species of ducks were killed. He was unable to reconcile the killings of large numbers of coyotes with reports of attacks against humans or farm animals.
Seven mountain lions have also been killed, including one with a collar being tracked by researchers at the University of California at Davis.
Davis' series prompted Representative Susan Davis (D-San Diego, no relation) to introduce legislation in Congress to require Wildlife Services to disclose far more information about the animals they kill across the country than the agency does today.