USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service kills 200 animals per HOUR

NEWS AND COMMENT: The Guardian newspaper tells us that the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service a.k.a. ‘Wildlife Services’ (a euphemism) killed 1.7 million animals across the US in 2021 at a rate of 200 per hour. This is a reduction to their normal attrition rate which reached 5 million animals in 2008 and 5 million again in 2010. The number of animals killed by this US Department was consistently above 2 million per year over a period of 12 years from 2007-2019.

The Infographic below comes from The Guardian newspaper. I hope that they don’t disapprove of my use of it because it is done so well. The source of the information is the US Department of Agriculture. The green figures represent native species and the purple figures represent invasive species. Each icon represents 5,000 animals killed.

Wildlife Services’ most-killed species in 2021
Wildlife Services’ most-killed species in 2021. Infographic: The Guardian newspaper online.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The declared purpose of Wildlife Services in America is to manage the damage done by wildlife. This can mean to improve rancher profits. It seems that they equate this with killing the animals. An example would be to reduce hazards to the aviation industry at airports to protect public safety and reduce damage to aircraft. This must be a reference to birds and ducks flying at or near airports which can in extreme cases bring down aircraft.

In 2021, over 400,000 native animals were killed by this agency. The number includes 324 grey wolves, 605 bobcats, 433 black bears, 200 pumas and 64,131 coyotes. It also includes 24,687 beavers.


The puma killings interest me the most. We are not told how they were killed. It seems to me that there is quite often a choice between tranquilizing and relocating a mountain lion in an urban area or shooting the animal where they find it. The former is more complicated than the latter as far as I’m aware. We don’t have a breakdown or at least I don’t have a breakdown of each situation where there was a decision to either shoot to kill a mountain lion or to shoot to tranquilize the cat.

Mountain lion in Santa Barbara County
Mountain lion in Santa Barbara County. The kind of encounter which leads to the killing of the cat. Picture in the public domain.

It is obviously a finely balanced decision as to whether to protect the public from a possible mountain lion attack by tranquilizing the animal or shooting it. The latter is less expedient than the former. From my knowledge of mountain lions, is a well-known fact that it is possible to scare away this rather shy but large feline.

The experts advise that people scare them away so it is distinctly possible. On this basis, it is debatable whether they present a genuine and immediate hazard to residents of an urban area. It should also be stated that the reason why mountain lions find themselves in an urban area is because the human settlement has been constructed on the mountain lion’s home range. If this cat is forced into contact with people, it is because people invaded their territory.

My gut feeling is – and I can’t be sure – that often Wildlife Services take the expedient route as is it simpler and quicker. It also indicates that the people running Wildlife Services have a disregard for conservation. Are they the right kind of people bearing in mind the mass slaughter of American animals that they are engaged in?


Colette Adkins, the carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, has strong feelings about this agency. She believes that they kill far too many animals. She said:

“It’s stomach-turning to see this barbaric federal program wiping out hundreds of thousands of native animals. Killing carnivores like wolves and coyotes to supposedly benefit the livestock industry just leads to more conflicts and more killing. This is a truly vicious cycle, and we’ll continue to demand change from Wildlife Services.”

Conservationist and animal advocate say that the approach of Wildlife Services degrades America’s environment. Their killings are indiscriminate they say. And targeting predators such as bears and coyotes can disrupt ecosystems. It can also lead to the spread of invasive species which is exact opposite of their objectives.

M-44 cyanide bombs

Some states have restricted their operation such as in California and Washington. Contentiously they use ‘cyanide bombs’ to kill certain animals. Wildlife Services describes them as an ‘effective and environmentally sound wildlife damage management tool’, to use their words. When an animal tugs at the device it ejects a cloud of sodium cyanide which kills the animal within five minutes.

The use of these M-44 canisters can go wrong when, for example, pet dogs or cats trigger them. A boy was covered in sodium cyanide when he encountered an M-44 canister in 2017 while walking his dog behind his home in Pocatello, Idaho. The boy was injured and his dog was killed.

Wrong attitude

The use of such devices also supports my impression that the administrators of this agency have the wrong attitude. There needs to be change at the top. If I was in charge this is what I would seek to do.


I have just learnt, too, that the USDA has stated that its own oversight of puppy mills is substandard because there is a lack of reliability in reports from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This alleged defect has an impact in New York City because the city plans to create legislation which ends the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in retail pet stores with the intention of stopping the supply pipeline from puppy mills. If the information is incorrect in impacts on the enactment of this bill into statute.


Below are some articles on mountain lion attacks.

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