Hollister, CA — The San Benito County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to withdraw its support of a controversial federal predator control program that kills thousands of wild animals in the county each year to benefit private livestock ranchers. The Supervisor’s decision, which passed 4 to 1, is being hailed by wildlife and conservation organizations as progressive and fiscally responsible.
“The San Benito County supervisors deserve to be praised for listening to their constituents and withdrawing county support for this cruel and archaic program that is out of step with public sentiment,” said Camilla Fox, Animal Protection Institute Director of Wildlife Programs. “Many San Benito County residents have made it clear they will not tolerate the use of their tax dollars to kill wildlife for private interests.”
Citing the county’s fiscal crisis and public opposition to the county’s use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize killing wildlife for private ranching interests, the Supervisors’ vote officially ends the county’s contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program. For the last three years, the county has spent $50,000 annually to support two full-time federal trappers who have killed coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and other animals on and around private ranches in San Benito County. In less than three years, these trappers used strangulation neck snares, denning (poisoning coyote pups in their dens with gas and/or clubbing them to death), and other lethal methods to kill 3300 coyote adults and pups in the county. Nationally, the USDA’s Wildlife Services program kills close to 100,000 native carnivores each year.
Investigative reporters with The Pinnacle, a Hollister-based newspaper, uncovered the county’s involvement with the controversial and secretive government agency. The award-winning series of articles was instrumental in raising public awareness of the program, and prompted the Animal Protection Institute to organize the grassroots campaign that successfully convinced county residents to oppose the Wildlife Services killing program. Despite ranching being the county’s top industry, Supervisors indicated their commitment not to use this program in the future.
San Benito County is California’s second to withhold taxpayer funding for the program. In 2000, public outcry prompted the Marin County Board of Supervisors to terminate the county’s contract with USDA’s Wildlife Services program as of June 30, 2002. Funds previously allocated for lethal predator control in Marin now fund an innovative non-lethal program aimed at assisting ranchers in implementing humane livestock protection measures — from secure fencing to guard dogs and llamas — that have proven more effective over the long run than lethal methods.
“More communities are realizing that lethal predator control is ineffective, ecologically destructive, and wasteful,” said Fox. “We believe the decisions by San Benito and Marin counties to end taxpayer-subsidized lethal predator control is just the beginning of a national trend.”