USDA’s Wildlife Services Posts FY2018 Data on Funding Sources and Damage Management Activities
On June 3, 2019 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services’ (APHIS) wildlife damage management program, Wildlife Services (WS), posted its annual Program Data Reports (PDR) for fiscal year (FY) 2018. The reports are available on the APHIS webpage. They represent the 23rd year that APHIS has shared information on its wildlife damage management activities conducted for the protection of human health/safety, agriculture, natural resources and property.
In FY 2018, $80 million in appropriated funds was used to help manage wildlife damage in every state and territory and to support special programs, such as managing feral swine damage and rabies in raccoons. APHIS also received funding from businesses, organizations, individuals and other government agencies that allowed the WS program to maximize its scope and effectiveness. Last year, “cooperative” funding totaled $87 million (52 percent) of APHIS WS’ budget (see PDR A for funding sources and expenditures nationally and by state).
APHIS used almost half (49 percent) of WS’ funding to reduce or prevent wildlife hazards to human health and safety, such as wildlife collisions with aircraft and disease transmission. APHIS spent one-quarter (25 percent) of the funding on protecting agriculture, including field crops, aquaculture, and livestock. APHIS spent the remaining one-quarter on property and natural resources protection, including threatened and endangered species work.
The PDRs list the work carried out by APHIS’ wildlife biologists and field specialists, with information by state, species, and other details. Some key information from FY2018 includes the following:
- APHIS and its cooperators protected 185 threatened or endangered wildlife and plant species from the impacts of disease, invasive species, and predators. Partners seeking assistance provided most of the $9.2 million spent on these activities. These partners included private organizations, as well as Federal, state, and local wildlife agencies. (PDR B)
- PDR C identifies the specific resources protected and the wildlife species that threatened or damaged them, and the number of recorded threats or damage by species. More than 72% of the wildlife conflicts addressed by APHIS were associated with property and agricultural damage.
- Last year, APHIS provided technical assistance to almost 269,000 customers in more than 70,000 projects. This information sharing (i.e., phone or onsite consultations, written materials, and training) helps to resolve wildlife conflicts. PDR D details technical assistance by state, type of service, and wildlife species.
- PDR E highlights work at 843 airports to reduce aviation strikes with wildlife. It also notes that APHIS experts trained more than 4,960 airport personnel in wildlife identification and control methods. The airports and agencies requesting assistance from WS’ Airport Wildlife Hazard Program paid for this work under cooperative service agreements.
- APHIS wildlife disease biologists collected more than 46,000 wildlife disease samples to test for 37 different diseases and conditions in wild mammals, birds and reptiles as part of the National Wildlife Disease Program. PDR F details this activity. One-third (17,012) of the samples were collected for the National Rabies Management Program and one-quarter (11,720) for the national wild bird surveillance effort for avian influenza.
- PDR G lists the number of animals dispersed, killed/euthanized, or freed during wildlife damage management operations. APHIS practices an integrated damage management approach that uses a variety of effective and practical nonlethal and lethal methods to resolve wildlife conflicts.
- APHIS dispersed almost 94 percent (40 million) of the animals it encountered in damage management activities unharmed. However, not all conflicts can be resolved with nonlethal methods alone. Of the 42.9 million animals encountered, APHIS euthanized 6 percent or 2.6 million in targeted areas to reduce damage. Almost half of those euthanized were invasive species.
- Eighty percent of animals APHIS lethally removed were either invasive European starlings or native blackbirds, which were removed under a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service depredation order. These birds damage food crops, other commodities, property, and livestock. They also pose a human health and safety concern in some areas. APHIS used nonlethal methods to disperse an additional 41 million starlings and blackbirds from areas where they were causing damage.
- More than 99.9 percent of the animals lethally removed were the intended targets of APHIS’ wildlife damage management actions. However, APHIS did unintentionally remove about 2,500 native animals. Unintended removal is tracked and reported, and adjustments made to field operations, as needed, to avoid future unintended removals.
- For example, in FY2018, river otters were the most unintentionally removed species, although this occurred in states where river otters are abundant and classified as a furbearer species that can be legally harvested.
- Directives require devices that minimize capture and injury to non-target species. These include pan-tension devices on certain traps and leg snares and use of smooth, offset jaws or padded jaws on foot-hold traps.
- Coyotes were the native mammal most often removed, totaling 68,186 in 48 states. By comparison, trappers and hunters in 39 states took approximately 440,000 coyotes in 2014-15 in state-regulated fur harvests.
- APHIS removed almost 55,510 native Northern pike minnow in the Pacific Northwest for the protection of federally threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.
- It is important to note that lethal activities remove only a small percentage of native wildlife compared to their overall populations. For example, out of an estimated 300,000 black bears, last year APHIS euthanized 361 and relocated 411 black bears, in compliance with state wildlife agencies’ policies. APHIS removed less than one-half of one percent of the national estimated red-winged blackbird population.
Most species whose damage is actively managed by APHIS have increasing and/or expanding populations. This suggests that the agency’s focused efforts to resolve wildlife conflicts are balanced with APHIS’ stewardship responsibilities toward the long-term maintenance and health of wildlife populations. As a federal agency with public trust responsibilities to manage wildlife for present and future generations, APHIS complies with all Federal and state laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Endangered Species Act, as well as executive orders pertaining to invasive species management. APHIS conducts careful environmental review of all agency actions through a NEPA process that includes public involvement. To learn more, please visit the WS website.