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Critics Rip USDA's 'Inhumane' Killing of Wolf Pups in Idaho

Students tracking the pups, conservation groups blast culling, while agency defends it
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2021 8:11 AM CDT
USDA's 'Lethal Control' of Wolf Pups Wins Few Friends
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/JohnPitcher)

(Newser) – For students at Idaho's Timberline High School, a wolf pack roaming nearby in Boise National Forest offered the opportunity to study the animals, and so they've tracked the group since 2003. This spring, though, a shocking find was made: eight pups in the pack were killed by none other than the Wildlife Services branch of the US Department of Agriculture, which defended its move by explaining the wolves were killing livestock. Now, conservation groups in the state are joining in the outcry, blasting the Biden administration for the "inhumane" killings, per the Idaho Statesman.

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In early August, representatives from various organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Watersheds Project, penned a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack noting how "dismayed" they were at the pups' killing on public lands, and slamming legislation signed in May by Idaho Gov. Brad Little that gave private contractors the go-ahead to kill up to 90% of the state's wolf population, which hovers at around 1,500, per the Washington Post. "There is nothing biologically sound or socially acceptable about killing wolf pups on federal lands," the letter noted. "Wolf pups pose no threat to domestic livestock—in Idaho, or anywhere in the Western United States."

On Oct. 1, Jenny Lester Moffitt, the USDA's under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, responded in her own letter, conceding that the department had taken out eight wolf pups in Boise and Idaho counties only after "nonlethal methods proved ineffective." She added that while the Wildlife Service's biologists "work diligently to find practical, humane, effective, and environmentally safe solutions to wildlife problems or conflicts ... in some situations—such as that in Idaho—it is necessary to use lethal control methods." She noted wolves are only removed "to protect livestock, other agricultural resources, natural resources, human health and safety, or property."

For members of the Boise community, the culling of the pups proved more personal. Timberline student and environmental advocate Michel Liao tells the Post the killings were "shocking," while Dick Jordan, who used to teach science at the school, calls them "inhumane"and "unethical," per the Statesman. Meanwhile, Suzanne Asha Stone of the International Wildlife Coexistence Network says other methods could've been used to keep the wolves under control, including using safety lighting and guard dogs to keep livestock safe. "It was incomprehensible that these pups had to die," she says. (Read more wolves stories.)

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