American Sheep Industry Association Calls for Support of Wildlife Services

March 8, 2024

Approximately 250 agriculture, transportation and affiliated groups signed on to the American Sheep Industry Association’s annual letter of support for Wildlife Services, which was recently sent to congressional leaders.

The wide range of services provided by the agency protects not only American livestock and crops, but also American lives as civilian and military aircrafts are routinely engaged in bird strikes that create life-threatening encounters. Such strikes have decreased thanks to mitigation efforts by Wildlife Services.

“Wildlife causes more than $12.8 billion in damage each year to natural resources, public infrastructures, private property and agriculture. USDA Wildlife Services works to prevent, minimize or manage this damage and to protect human health and safety from conflicts with wildlife. Wildlife damage to U.S. livestock, aquaculture, small grains, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products has been estimated to reach nearly $1 billion annually,” read the letter to congressional leaders of both the agriculture and appropriations committees. “Wildlife predators cause more than $232 million in death loss to livestock; field crop losses due to wildlife total $619 million annually; losses to vegetables, fruits and nuts total $146 million annually; and 70 percent of catfish farmers incur wildlife-related damage. The annual industry-wide value of lost catfish sales revenue to cormorants averages $47.2 million, ranging from $25.8 million to $65.4 million, depending upon predation levels in any given year. As a result, WS is an essential program to U.S. agriculture.

“WS assists farmers and ranchers in 50 states and three territories to reduce the impact of predators on their animals, protecting 8.9 million head of cattle, 5.1 million head of sheep and 56 million head of other livestock in 334,000 direct control actions. In FY23, WS provided more than 20,800 technical assistance activities that enabled 6,061 livestock producers to implement improved husbandry and methods such as use of guard animals, exclusion, fencing and predator dispersal.

“In collaboration with state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Tribes, WS addresses livestock depredation and protects human health and safety related to wolves and grizzly bears. WS manages conflicts with gray wolves or Mexican gray wolves in 11 states. WS conducted operations with grizzly bears in three states, dispersing 22, capturing-relocating seven and lethally removing six in FY23. Congressional funding of $4.5 million in FY23 supported protecting livestock from large carnivore predation in 12 states using nonlethal strategies such as range riding, fladry installation and electric fence construction. WS filled 30 full-time positions and one part-time position to implement these strategies. WS’ National Wildlife Research Center evaluated the effectiveness of activities to reduce depredation.

 “It has been WS's cooperative nature that has allowed it to accomplish all of the above listed programs and has made it the most cost effective and efficient program in the federal government in the areas of wildlife damage management and public health and safety.”

Click Here to read the full Senate version of the letter.

Click Here to read the full House version of the letter. 

Source: ASI