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USDA Wildlife Services Posts FY2019 Data on Damage Management Actions and Funding Sources

On October 5, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) wildlife damage management program, Wildlife Services (WS), posted its annual Program Data Reports (PDR) for fiscal year 2019. The reports are available on the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) webpage, representing the 24th year that WS has shared this information about its wildlife damage management activities.

APHIS Wildlife Services’ activities seek to reduce or eliminate more than an estimated $232 million in livestock loss due to predation and $150 million in bird damage to crops caused by native and invasive wildlife annually. Comprehensive estimates of all types of wildlife damage are difficult to gauge but each year wildlife strikes cause $625 million in loss to American civil aviation also posing a potential loss of life. APHIS responds to requests for assistance from individuals, companies and other government agencies when wildlife causes or threatens damage to human health/safety, agriculture, natural resources and property.

In FY19, APHIS encountered more than 31 million animals while responding to calls for assistance and dispersed 29.4 million wildlife from urban, rural and other settings where they were causing damage. APHIS dispersed almost 93 percent of the animals encountered. Not all conflicts can be resolved with nonlethal methods alone. Of all wildlife encountered, WS lethally removed 7 percent or 2.2 million, in targeted areas to reduce damage. Of those removed,

  • 85 percent were either an invasive species or a blackbird listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Depredation Order due to the damage they cause.

  • The invasive species removed included more than 18,000 brown tree snakes on Guam, 84,000 feral swine and 687,000 European starlings.

  • 62,000 were coyotes, the most often removed native mammal. Coyotes reportedly kill more than 300,000 head of livestock annually and injure even more.

  • 53,000 were native Northern pike minnow that APHIS removed to protect federally threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest.

Where lethal control is used, APHIS works to make full use of the resource which included the donation of 138 tons of goose, deer/elk, and other meat—more than 1 million servings of protein—for people in need.

Program Data Reports

In FY 2019, WS used $79 million in appropriated funds 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 and other wildlife. APHIS also received funding from businesses, organizations, individuals and other government agencies that allows the program to maximize its scope and effectiveness. Last year, this “cooperative” funding totaled $93 million (54 percent) of WS’ budget for field-based operational wildlife damage management (see PDR A for funding sources and expenditures nationally and by state).

APHIS used almost half (45 percent) of WS’ operational funding for field activities to reduce or prevent wildlife hazards to human health and safety, such as wildlife collisions with aircraft and disease transmission. APHIS spent about one-quarter (24 percent) of this funding to protect agriculture, including field crops, aquaculture, timber, and livestock. APHIS spent the remaining one-quarter on protection of property and natural resources, including threatened and endangered species.

Data Highlights

The PDRs list the work carried out by APHIS wildlife biologists and field specialists, with information by state, species, and other details. Some key FY2019 accomplishment include the following:

  • WS and its cooperators protected more than 300 threatened or endangered wildlife and plant species from the impacts of disease, invasive species, and predators. Partners seeking assistance provided most of the almost $10 million spent. These 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 threaten or damage the resources in operations where a stakeholder, cooperator, or WS has reported a damage value. It identifies the number and species of recorded threats or damage to the reported damage value. More than 76% of the recorded wildlife conflicts were associated with wildlife damage to property and agricultural resources.

  • Last year, APHIS served more than 376,000 participants in more than 91,000 information-sharing projects. These technical assistance projects, including phone or onsite consultations, written materials, and training, help individuals resolve wildlife conflicts they are experiencing. PDR D details technical assistance projects by state, type of service, and wildlife species.

  • PDR E highlights APHIS’ work to reduce aviation strikes with wildlife at 861 airports. 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 36,000 wildlife disease samples to test for 34 different diseases and conditions in wild mammals, birds and reptiles as part of the National Wildlife Disease Program. PDR F details the activity. More than half (20,619) of the samples were collected for the National Rabies Management Program. APHIS took samples from feral swine for 16 diseases or conditions, genetics or other research.

  • PDR G lists the number of animals dispersed, killed/euthanized, or freed during APHIS’ wildlife damage management operations. APHIS implements an integrated damage management approach which uses a variety of effective and practical nonlethal and lethal methods to resolve wildlife damage problems.

  • Invasive European starlings or native blackbirds, removed under a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Depredation Order, comprise 71 percent of animals APHIS lethally removed. These birds damage food crops, such as rice and other grains, livestock, property, and other commodities. They also can pose a human health and safety concern. APHIS used nonlethal methods to disperse an additional 20 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 2,544 native animals. We track and report unintended removal and make adjustments to field operations, wherever possible.
    • WS Directives require capture devices that minimize capture and injury to unintended species. These include pan-tension devices on certain traps and leg snares and use of smooth, offset jaws or padded jaws on foothold traps.
  • Invasive species accounted for 44 percent of all lethally removed wildlife, including a 15 percent increase in the number of invasive feral swine removed as part of the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program.

  • Coyotes reportedly kill 143,690 cattle/calves, 118,032 sheep/lambs, and 52,830 goats/kids annually according to livestock producers. In FY19, WS removed 62,000 coyotes through wildlife damage management operations to protect resources. By comparison, trappers and hunters in 37 states took approximately 500,000 coyotes in 2017-18 in state-regulated fur harvests.

  • Native species not listed in the USFWS blackbird Depredation Order accounted for 15% (358,195) of animals WS lethally removed. Lethal actions for damage management remove a small percentage of native wildlife compared to their overall populations or range. For example, out of an estimated 300,000 black bears, last year APHIS euthanized 400 and relocated 519 black bears, in compliance with wildlife agencies’ policies in 19 states. APHIS removed less than one-half of one percent of the national estimated red-winged blackbird and brown-headed cowbird breeding populations of 150 million and 120 million, respectively.

Most species whose damage WS’ actively manages, have increasing populations and/or expanding ranges. WS’ balances its focused efforts to resolve wildlife conflicts with the program’s 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.

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