2.3 Million Animals Were Killed By The U.S. Government Last Year

A family's beloved pet dog was one of the victims.

It was just announced that 2.3 million animals were killed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services in 2017 — and it wasn't just wild animals caught in the cross fire.

In March, a dog named Casey was out walking with his favorite boy, Canyon, behind their home in Idaho when he came across an M-44 — a capsule planted in the ground by Wildlife Services. These devices are full of cyanide and meant to attract and kill coyotes by poisoning them.

When the dog triggered the capsule, it exploded and poisoned him to death. Canyon was rushed to the hospital to make sure the poison didn't claim his life too. 

Canyon Mansfield with his dog, Casey, who was later killed by a Wildlife Services device
Idaho resident Canyon Mansfield with his dog, Casey, who was later killed by a Wildlife Services device | Theresa Mansfield
M-44 cyanide device that killed a family dog in Idaho
The M-44 cyanide device that killed Casey | Theresa Mansfield

Since that shocking day, the Mansfield family has been taking action. They started speaking out about how much they miss their dog and how dangerous these M-44 devices really are. And their courage and persistence paid off — the M-44 device was locally banned in Idaho thanks to them. 

But it wasn't just Casey — a total of 149 dogs were killed last year by Wildlife Services, according to its newly released death tally from 2017. The overall tally of intentionally killed native animals, including bobcats, foxes, cougars, bears, wolves, coyotes and beavers — who are killed by traps, snares, guns and poisons — reached a staggering 1,320,075. When counting invasive species killed by the agency, the total increases to 2.3 million animals. This is down slightly from 2016, when 2.7 million wild animals were killed; almost 1.6 million of them were native wildlife. 

Bobcat drinking water in Texas
A wild bobcat drinking from a stream in Texas; Wildlife Services killed over 1,000 bobcats in 2017. | Shutterstock

The reasons for these killings are controversial. Wildlife Services supposedly exists to help improve the coexistence of people and wildlife. But people have many different opinions of what coexistence should look like. Ranchers raising livestock, for instance, will have a different perspective on wolves than people who are concerned about helping wolf populations thrive after being decimated by hunters. Scientific investigations have cast serious doubts onto claims that these killings help coexistence.

“Wildlife Services does not serve wildlife or the public funding its outrageously cruel practices,” Michelle Lute, wildlife coexistence campaigner for WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement. “As long as the program continues with its status quo killing, our public lands are neither truly public nor protected but instead managed to serve private agricultural interests at the expense of life, recreation and public safety.”

Even endangered animals sometimes end up in the crossfire. Last year, an endangered Mexican gray wolf and two grizzly bears were killed by the government supposedly committed to protecting them. 

Endangered Mexican gray wolf
An endangered Mexican gray wolf was one of the animals killed by Wildlife Services in 2017. | Shutterstock

“Spending millions of taxpayer dollars each year to kill our native wildlife is fiscally wasteful, scientifically baseless and morally repugnant,” Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement.

Not only did Wildlife Services kill 69,041 coyotes, 23,722 beavers, 1,001 bobcats, 2,167 gray foxes, 1,585 red foxes, 552 black bears, 357 gray wolves and 319 cougars, it also intentionally wrecked animals' homes with an unknown number of baby animals inside; 58,604 prairie dog burrows, 393 coyote dens, 128 fox dens and 65 wolf dens were all destroyed. 

Fox kits
Fox kits playing together just outside their den | Shutterstock

“We call on the program to abandon its kill-first approach," Cotton said, stressing that the agency should "adopt science-based decision-making and spend public funds on effective non-lethal coexistence methods."

You can help protect wild animals by making a donation to WildEarth Guardians and Predator Defense