July 30, 2012
12-197

Malynda Dorsey
Communications Specialist

Professor Leads Effort Against Federal Lethal Predator Control

VALDOSTA -- The American Society of Mammalogists’ (ASM) conservation committee, led by Valdosta State University biology professor Dr. Bradley Bergstrom, continues an effort that has spanned over nine decades against excessive lethal predator control. A recent session with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services sparked intense discussions about some of the federal agency’s practices, which the society views as unscientific and partial to certain groups.

The session was held last month during the ASM annual meeting at Peppermill Resort Spa and Casino in Reno, Nev. The session is the result of a position letter prepared in May by the society protesting Wildlife Services’ lethal control activities.

“We feel the agency's lethal control results in too much ‘non-target’ mortality affecting many species of mammals and birds, some of them rare and even endangered,” said Bergstrom, who has chaired ASM’s conservation committee for the last five years. “They have not wholeheartedly embraced the many non-lethal methods of controlling depredation of livestock that have proven effective in some private pilot projects and that even publications by their own research arm have indicated are effective.”

Bergstrom added that there is no proof that indicates predator removal from local areas is an effective way to manage predators.

“The current science of trophic relationships within ecosystems indicates that it can cause a ripple effect of damage to ecosystem function and to biodiversity,” he explained. “At a minimum their killing of nearly 100,000 coyotes per year, every year for decades, indicates the practice has no long-term effect on the perceived problem.”

The society also questioned the finances of the agency, suggesting that some of its practices are motivated by requests from private supporters.

“We know that half the agency's funding is from ‘cooperators’ and not directly from congressional appropriation,” Bergstrom said. “We would like to know what amount comes from private agribusiness. The agency is rather secretive about what they do in the field and about who decides where, when and how many native mammals to kill. We suspect they do what their cooperators want them to do and we suspect that much of their lethal control is done for a minority of ranchers.“

The ASM feels that any federal government agency that manages wildlife should be accountable to the lawmakers and taxpayers and do what is in the best interest of the majority, using the best current science to guide their management.
“Private money may have undue influence in their management practices and decisions,” said Bergstrom.

Representatives from Wildlife Services were given opportunities to defend the agency’s activities during the session and declined to share information on its financial breakdown, asserting that some information was protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The ASM is preparing to continue discussions during the Wildlife Services Advisory Committee meeting later this year. The advisory committee opens the floor for public participation and input on the Wildlife Services program, including public health, safety, research activities and wildlife depredation.

Founded in 1919, the ASM encourages the study of mammals and advocates for the conservation of wild mammals. Its 2012 “President’s Special Award” was given to Bergstrom at this year’s meeting, for his and the conservation committee’s work for the Society on this and other conservation issues over the past year.

Bergstrom specializes in mammalian ecology and teaches ecology, mammalogy and ornithology. For more information on the ASM conservation committee, contact Bergstrom at bergstrm@valdosta.edu .