This is the letter that we sent to the Mendocino Board of Supervisors, who will be deciding this Tuesday whether or not to sever their contract with USDA Wildlife (Dis)Services. Mendocino County has responded to a suit brought by a colaution of wildlife advocacy groups. Read more about that suit here.
Mendocino County Board Of Supervisors
501 Low Gap Rd Room 1010
Ukiah California 95482
re: Contract with USDA Wildlife Services
By way of introduction, my name is Monte Merrick. I am one of the co-directors of Bird Ally X and our wildlife hospital in Bayside, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center. Our facility, which treats well over 1000 injured and orphaned wild animals each year, serves Northern Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties.
We have been closely following the effort to introduce an environmentally responsible and morally acceptable alternative to Mendocino County’s contract with the USDA’s notorious “Killing Agency,” Wildlife Services.
The history of the Wildlife Services, its controversial practices, and the recent attention it has received because of its agents (county trappers, etc) is widely available – the covered-up kills of non-targeted animals, the irresponsible use of poisons and traps, the opacity of its programs. That its agents employ and happily promote a moral code of “shoot, shovel, and shut up” is enough, one would think, to give elected officials pause before entering into any contract with them.
The broad actions of a federal agency may seem remote from the responsibilities of county Supervisors, but the actions of Wildlife Services are at the heart of this issue. The misdeeds of federal trappers occur in real communities. When a family pet is killed, when an endangered species is killed, when a wild family is disrupted and orphans are left to die, it happens somewhere. It happens on the ground in real time, in a real place, with real repercussions and ramifications. Mendocino is one of these places.
I am sure you have been made aware of the notorious cases of wrongdoing on the part of Wildlife Services agents – including the cases of agents who have, in some cases intentionally, killed family dogs. This happens right in Mendocino.
The Wildlife Services employee in Mendocino is known by residents as “Dead Dog” due to the number of dogs he is believed to have killed. Yet people are not willing to challenge him for fear of being targeted as well. Last year, when I was promoting the petition that I’d started to bring accountability and transparency to this agency (so far over 173,000 signatures), I spoke with many Northern Mendocino residents about “Dead Dog.” When I asked if any of them would be willing to make a public statement to their Board of Supervisors, I was told “it would never happen. He knows where we live.” Other residents have said they just try to get along with him, and avoid provocations.
Besides Dead Dog’s personal traits, we know that his contracted actions, which are the same actions as the Wildlife Services trapper in Humboldt or Sacramento or anywhere – are cruel and ineffective.
Trapping so-called nuisance wildlife doesn’t solve the problem. I am sure you have been presented with plenty of evidence that supports this. As a wildlife rehabilitator, I can tell you that trapping and killing raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, coyotes, bear and more (forgetting for the moment the non-targeted victims), does not eliminate the problem. Unless the cause of the problem is removed, the human behavior that has drawn wildlife into conflict, lethal solutions only provide another animal with the opportunity to exploit a niche – such as a cat food on the porch niche, or an open passageway to crawlspace niche, or unsupervised livestock niche. Also, trapping and killing wild animals disrupts the stability of their social structures which has been shown to cause more problems with livestock predation, property loss and population balance – certainly this is true in the case of coyotes.
Trapping a mother raccoon and killing her and leaving her babies to starve to death under someone’s house is immoral, inhumane and a potential public health hazard.
Additionally, trapping and killing is immoral because there are proven nonlethal solutions. Mendocino county is already partially served by Humboldt Wildlife Care Center on this score and Southern Mendocino is served by Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. Both organizations provide nonlethal human solutions that are effective because they strike at the problem not the symptom.
Frankly the reasons to terminate the contract are obvious and easily explored. The contract is not in the interest of the community you were elected to serve. Your constituency is perhaps broader than your predecessors who entered into this contract may have understood. The ecological systems, the people who live and work within them, our wild neighbors all have a right to peaceful co-existence and transparency when, for public safety reasons, lethal options must be used.
Your responsibility to all who call our region home demands that you sever the contract with the agency that Oregon congressman Pete DeFazio has called the most “opaque and obstinate.”
I trust that you will do the right thing and end this contract.
Robert ‘Monte’ Merrick