Greens Say US Kills Bears for Mule Deer

Calcite Springs Overlook
Yellowstone NP, Wyoming

DENVER (CN) — Federal “predator control” programs in Colorado, including poisons, snare traps and aerial gunning, do not actually protect the mule deer, which needs no help, but devastate other protected species, including black bears, bobcats and mountain lions, environmental groups claim in court.

WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Federal Court Wednesday, taking aim particularly at its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and USDA Wildlife Services. The nonprofits say the USDA plans, detailed in a massive January 2016 report, violate the National Environmental Policy Act.

The 324-page report, a “Final Environmental Assessment [of] Predator Damage Management in Colorado,” outlines lethal and nonlethal methods of replenishing Colorado’s mule deer, and claims that the widespread killing of wildlife would have no significant impact on the environment.

But the environmental groups say Colorado mule deer don’t need the help, as their populations have been rising “every year since 2013. The best available science reveals predator damage management is not effective at increasing ungulate species’ populations in Colorado.” Nor has it been proven to work; it is “experimental,” the groups say.

“This predator damage management work involves shooting, trapping, snaring, aerial gunning, and use of various chemicals and poisons to kill black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, and other native carnivores in Colorado,” the complaint states. “Wildlife Services kills these species largely on public lands and in response to reports of livestock depredations. In a controversial move, Wildlife Services is also expanding this work in an effort to boost the mule deer populations in Colorado.”

However, the complaint adds: “Petitioners’ staff, members, and supporters have witnessed the impacts of Wildlife Services’ predator damage management work firsthand, viewed dead predators killed by Wildlife Services in Colorado, lost pets (or have had pets injured) in traps set for other species, and feel that their experiences are and continue to be diminished and harmed by Wildlife Services’ predator damage management work.”

In fact, “Wildlife Services’ predator damage management has resulted in the accidental killing and/or capture of species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act,” the complaint states, including the Canada lynx and black bears, and other “non-target animals.”

The groups want the USDA’s finding of no significant impact vacated, and attorney’s fees.

They are represented by John Mellgren with the Western Environmental Law Center in Eugene, Oregon, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The USDA does not comment on pending litigation.

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