Oregon Public Broadcasting aired this interview today in response to the recent expose on the USDA Wildlife Service’s war on wildlife in Malheur County in southeastern Oregon.
In June of this year, Wendy Keefover of WildEarth Guardians published an extensive study titled The Deadliest Dozen Counties in the American West: Mapping Wildlife Services’ Killing Fields. According to this report, Malheur County is the second most lethal county for predators, with over 11,000 of them, mostly coyotes, killed by Wildlife Services from 1998-2008.
Today’s interview was an interesting one, featuring Bob Skinner, a fifth generation rancher from Malheur County and Brooks Fahy, Executive Director of Predator Defense, a non-profit based in Eugene, Oregon.
Brooks cited facts, including the total number of animals killed by Wildlife Services nationwide, a whopping 75,000 to 100,000 a year, and most of this is indiscriminate killing. He discussed the situation at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in 1995 when antelope populations plummeted due to nasty weather. There was talk of the aerial killing of coyotes so they wouldn’t keep the antelope from re-populating, but this was not implemented. Surprising to some, the antelope returned with NO lethal control of coyotes. And their population is still thriving. In Brook’s words, “The whole idea that predators need to be killed to save or enhance ungulate populations is not based on science.”
The fifth-generation rancher, Bob Skinner, discussed his personal experience with coyotes on his ranch, stating he sees coyotes, “Every day, every day.” And that there is no physical way to keep coyotes away from his cattle, guard dogs are not an answer, his only resource is to “put pressure on them.” He said, “I’m not a coyote hater, but I do think they have to be controlled for the coyote’s sake.”
Mr. Skinner disagreed with a caller who explained how coyotes primarily kill rodents and that she keeps her goats safe from predation by bringing the babies in at night. He said her story was a “fairy tale.” Online commenters seemed a little peeved with Skinner for remarking that there’s no such thing as female horned goats, which of course there are.
Brooks mentioned wolves and their effect on coyote populations in Yellowstone, where coyotes have decreased about 50% since the reintroduction of wolves in 1995-96. He did a great job in the short time he had, of explaining the vital role predators play in the environment and how the war against them is unnecessary.
This brief interview is worth your time. I for one, learned a lot. But as with so many of these talks, I felt frustrated by the end. Science can reveal all the facts, but sadly, that doesn’t mean everyone will listen.