Letter to the Editor: Over 4,000 wild animals killed

Throughout Plumas County, third grade students are taught that it’s “cool to be kind” to animals. This very worthy program fosters empathy and kindness toward animals and each other. Are we adults living up to these basic codes of decency? Are we adults setting a good example of kindness for our county’s children?
According to our FOIA request, over 4000 wild animals—4248 to be exact— bears, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, muskrats, skunks, mountain lions, and others were killed over the last decade in Plumas and Sierra Counties using approximately $750,000 in county funds and federal agents for hire. A whole community of 1180 wetlands-dwelling muskrats were apparently killed by federal agents in one year alone (2014).

It is not kind to shoot a mother coyote just because she’s hungry and we’ve placed cows into her habitat—which are a tempting meal for any predator. It is not kind to kill her, leaving her pups alone, defenseless, and starving. It is not kind to kill beaver, who are a keystone species essential to river health and river habitat, because we think we know better than them, though they provide us their flood control and fish habitat services for free. It is not kind to trap a fox and leave him for days in his own feces until he slowly and painfully dies of dehydration.

We know according to science that fencing, guard dogs and llamas, and other deterrents can successfully defend livestock from most predation. Killing predators when these effective alternatives exist is simply unethical and unkind. Plumas and Sierra Counties currently spend approximately $76,000/ year of our tax dollars to kill wildlife.

State courts have ruled that renewal of a wildlife killing contract is subject to environmental review, and Plumas and Sierra have no such review in place. Without an environmental review, significant harm is likely, including the inadvertent killing of wolves who are repopulating our wild areas, and remain protected in California. Now is the perfect time for Plumas and Sierra Counties to suspend their Wildlife Services contract and look into adopting a non-lethal program supported by the whole community. 
Non-lethal alternatives are more effective and have been used successfully for decades, with the cooperation and support of ranchers. Marin County ended their co-operation with Wildlife Services in 2000 and replaced it with a program to provide funding for higher and more robust fencing, guard dogs and llamas, and compensation for remaining predation. These non-lethal methods reduced predation by 62% and continue to be effective and popular. Humboldt and Mendocino counties are also shifting to non-lethal programs. Plumas and Sierra County Supervisors should follow suit and suspend their Wildlife Services contract, adopting a non-lethal program in its place. Future generations will be inspired by their courage and kindness. Plumas Board can be e-mailed at: [email protected] Sierra Board can be contacted at: [email protected]gov
Josh Hart
Portola, CA