Legal Action Halts Federal Use of Strangulation Snares in Washington
SEATTLE— A lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity has forced a federal agency to curb its killing of beavers, bears and other wildlife across Washington state.
A legal agreement, finalized today, requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to restrict use of pesticides and lead ammunition. It also bans the use of cruel leghold traps and strangulation snares on a national wildlife refuge and in several national forests, including Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
“It’s wonderful that the measures we’ve put in place will stop so much wildlife from suffering and dying needlessly,” said Sophia Ressler, the Center attorney representing the group in the lawsuit. “The agency has been forced to examine the damage caused by its reckless slaughter of Washington’s animals. This win is the next step in ensuring proper protections for our river otters, black bears and other wildlife.”
Today’s agreement also requires Wildlife Services to analyze the environmental effects and risks of its mammal-killing program in Washington, which targets wildlife such as beavers, coyotes, cougars and black bears. That process will give the public an opportunity to comment on agency’s activities.
The agreement imposes several measures to protect wildlife while the assessment is underway. For example, it bans the use of neck snares, prohibits lead ammunition in most instances, and restricts the use of several EPA-registered pesticides on public lands. The agreement also does not allow the use of aerial killing operations in any wilderness or wilderness study area in the state.
“We hope to end this agency’s damaging, nationwide war against our wildlife and ecosystems,” said Ressler. “With this agreement, we’re closer to reaching that goal.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services is a multimillion-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and aerial gunning to kill coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals. Most of the killing responds to requests from the agriculture industry.
In 2018 Wildlife Services reported killing nearly 1.5 million native animals nationwide. That year in Washington, the program reported killing 72,343 native animals, including 376 coyotes, 397 beavers, 429 marmots and 52 river otters.
Today’s victory follows several other recent wins by wildlife advocates in their campaigns against Wildlife Services, including in California (2020, 2019 and 2017), Oregon (2018), Colorado (2017), Arizona (2017), Idaho (2019 and 2018) and Wyoming (2019).