Reform urged for Wildlife Services

tknudson@sacbee.comNovember 18, 2012 

It's not everyday that trappers and animal lovers share the same view about federal wildlife management.

But it's happening now with both sides calling for reform of a government agency called Wildlife Services. "It's time to sit down, roll up the sleeves and take a look at how it can be reformed," said Gene Harrington, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association.

"They are chasing a lot of pigeons in a lot of city halls across the country and I just don't think that's a priority for the federal government," Harrington said.

"There is a good function the federal government can serve in mitigating human-wildlife conflicts but this program is so heavily weighted toward lethal approaches it just needs to be overhauled," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization.

Their voices join those of Congressmen John Campbell, R-Irvine, and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who earlier this year asked Darrell Issa, R-Vista, chairman of the House Oversight Committee to investigate the agency following a three-part Bee investigative series.

But Issa was busy with other investigations. "We're going to keep pushing," said DeFazio. "We're talking an ineffective, indiscriminate, expensive, taxpayer-subsidized program. Who wants to stand up and say they're for that?"

Carter Niemeyer, a retired Wildlife Services trapper and district supervisor, said an oversight hearing is overdue.

"The momentum is here," said Niemeyer, author of "Wolfer," a book critical of the agency. "There is a lot of room for reform. Do we want to keep up this sustained killing of wildlife or are we willing to pay more and look at other methodologies?"

Private animal control specialists also say the agency kills too much wildlife. "They use lethal means any time they can," said Dave Cheaney, vice president of National Bird Control in Seattle. "It's quick, it's easy and they don't have do answer to anybody."

But their biggest complaint is losing work to the agency. "It's taking a lot of money out of a lot of peoples' pockets and it's hurting the industry," said Cheaney.

"Quite a bit of what they do is not an inherently governmental service. It's very easily provided by the private sector," said Dixon Herman, vice president of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association.

"We don't believe there is going to be any change until something changes at the administrative level from Congressional action," Herman added. "We don't believe that they are going to do it internally."

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