Wolf, © Didier J. Lindsey

Auditing America’s Predator Control Program

Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. That sounds a lot like Wildlife Services’ lethal predator control program, especially when it comes to wolves.

When wolves are in the vicinity when livestock are lost, ranchers can call Wildlife Services to come and shoot or trap and remove any wolves around their property, whether they were at fault or not. Removing a pack may solve some problems in the short term, but what happens the next spring, when another pack has moved into the territory and the livestock are still just as vulnerable to attack? Yet year after year, Wildlife Services will perform this duty and not require livestock owners to make any changes to deter future attacks.

Fladry fence, © Defenders of Wildlife

Nonlethal tools like fladry have proven extremely effective at deterring wolves from livestock without killing them.

Inefficient management, poor results and high costs are the reasons we (and many of you) asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to conduct an audit of Wildlife Services’ predator control program. An audit was originally proposed in the OIG’s FY2013 Annual Plan, but is now slated to be carried over to FY2014. However, due to budget constraints, the OIG may have to pick and choose which audits to perform in FY2014 and the Wildlife Services audit may fall by the wayside.

A few weeks ago, Representatives DeFazio (D-OR) and Campbell (R-CA)renewed their demand for an audit, this time joined by Representative Peters (D-MI) and supported by more than 157,000 Defenders and Natural Resources Defense Council members and online activists. Only time will tell if it happens.

Wildlife Services spends millions in taxpayer dollars each year killing native carnivores. It would make better sense to modify ranching practices to make livestock less vulnerable to attack. Techniques such as timed birthing, night-corralling when offspring are young and increasing human presence with range-riders would also benefit livestock owners by reducing losses from birthing complications, injuries, digestive and respiratory disease.

But because of Wildlife Services’ lack of transparency, we don’t actually know how much their lethal control actions cost. They also do not track the amount of time and money spent implementing non-lethal techniques, so finding an appropriate balance between the two is almost impossible.

Taxpayers need to know what kind of methods Wildlife Services is implementing if the program is to be improved. We hope a strong audit will lead to some major changes that will ensure that this program, funded by the American taxpayer, uses the most effective methods to protect livestock and wolves.


Charlotte Conley is a Conservation Associate 

9 Responses to “Auditing America’s Predator Control Program”

  1. Claudia Gibson

    By taking care of the natural world we also care for ourselves. We are nothing without the natural world. But we are destroying with out regard for the future. We need to think sustainably. We need to co-exist.

  2. Pamela S.S. Snider


  3. Kathleen Cheatham

    All the money used to pay the pencil pushers could be implemented in true NON lethal control. It’s crap that so many animals (target and NON target). If range riders were used, a lot less cattle would die just to illness. The biggest loss is due to sickness and weather, use your heads and figure this out instead of feeding the fear mongering

  4. Ellen O'Connor

    The only out of control predator is human hunters and agency staff. Please step back from these unscientific, unethical, wasteful, cruel “controls” and learn about how wilderness creatures can be supported and how they will rebalance when you stop intefering.

  5. Cmdr. Humphrey M. Dimitrov

    I believe wolves are to be protected.

    They have given us so much. Wolves gave us dogs and we need to respect that. They gave us thousands of years of happiness with our dogs. Dogs are descendants of the wolf and are loving, kind, and friendly. We owe them so much and I believe that they should be granted immense respect.

    They can offer you a family and love if you just gave them the chance and take the proper steps. They have so much more to give us. Save our wolves.

    Screw elk and deer. What do they offer?

    Wolves at least offer you something and some interest. They are beautiful creatures just as important as any other.

    They keep our forests from being eaten up. Deer, Elk, and Moose all eat up that beauty. Wolves keep the perfect balance in the animal kingdom.

    Wolves are one of the most beautiful creatures out there.

    They can be friendly. There has been incidences where people have run into a wolf pack and instead of being attacked, they were greeted with nuzzling, licking and playfulness. 🙂

  6. Theresa Sykes

    You and I know we are the most intelligent species on this planet….or are we?… We think we know all there is to know about this planet and its INHABITANTS.If we are what we say and think we are THEN Lets BEHAVE AS SUCH Use our heads and our hearts to solve this challenge for the Best Outcome– TO CO-EXIST with our COUNTERPARTS– NATURE AND WILDLIFE. Think about this…… and you will do what is RIGHT, FAIR AND JUST FOR ALL. Our planet and its INHABITANTS are a gift for all mankind.

    Theresa Sykes
    Powder Springs, Ga

  7. Don Phipps

    CMDR, How can you talk such rubbish. Whether the wolf is wonderful or not, I don’t care. The wolf is one of the most hideous murderers in the woods, first in the line of killers, then the coyote, bear, lion and yes, man…………… Killing for joy, killing for food, killing……Screw the elk, or deer? Screw the moose? Screw people who don’t have compassion for all animals………………

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