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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
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Wildlife Services: Then and Now

Since 1886, government trappers from the USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services program and its predecessor agencies have provided assistance to people struggling with wildlife damage issues. Traditionally, their efforts involved the protection of crops and livestock from rodents, birds and predators, such as coyotes, wolves, bears, bobcats and mountain lions.

"I liked the challenge. I liked the freedom. ...I worked for people, and you knew that there was things that had to be done or it was gonna cost these people a lot of money."

--Philip, age 68

As experts in their field, government trappers knew the lay of the land and the intricate lives of the wildlife that lived there. Many grew up hunting or trapping with their families and respected the connections among people, wildlife, and the environment. They also built strong ties to the ranchers and farmers in their communities who depended upon them to protect their livelihoods.

Packing in to remote trapping areas (1961).Over the years, the philosophy of wildlife damage management has evolved, along with societal values and perspectives. Today, Wildlife Services' field specialists, disease biologists, and scientists continue to protect agricultural resources, but they also work to conserve threatened and endangered species, protect public health and safety, study and monitor wildlife diseases, and eliminate the negative effects of invasive species.

WS specialist explaining the use of fladry (flagging) to ranchers. This nonlethal tool to reduce wolf predation is being evaluated.Trapping and other capture methods remain important tools for managing animal damage and conducting wildlife research; however, Wildlife Services acknowledges the public's concern for animal welfare and works to develop and test more selective and humane capture devices and attractants. Ongoing training ensures Wildlife Services' experts are knowledgeable of the latest tools and techniques and follow established safety, animal welfare, and environmental protection protocols. The Wildlife Services program and its dedicated staff strive to find wildlife damage management solutions that are safe, effective, selective, economically feasible, and environmentally responsible.

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