Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Kill List 2005

OK, here is a *real* conservation alert.

We have talked (again and again) about how the City of Chicago is using its henchmen at the USDA to exterminate the various gull colonies in the Chicago area. As part of that Gull Extermination Program, the, the USDA's Division of Wildlife Killing have tagged a bunch of gulls. They have asked for birders to report the locations of those tagged gulls, and birders, being good-hearted but sadly gullible, have been dutifully reporting those gulls as they move south for the winter. Here is a good example of how birders and wildlife lovers are trying to do the right thing, without realizing that the info they are submitting will probably be used to kill birds. These well-meaning birders don't know the real story, so...we're going to tell them!!!

What role does the entity which tagged these gulls -- technically the Wildlife Services division of the USDA, but we'll call it by a more accurrate title, the Wildlife Killing Division -- in conserving or protecting birds?


Their one and only purpose is to scare away and literally kill birds (and other wildlife) that they consider to be a nuisance. Oh, they use lots of euphamisms like "property damage control," "protecting property," and (amazingly) "protecting wildlife," but basically what they do is help people kill stuff.

Now, in some contexts, like killing exotics in Hawaii, Wildlife Services might actually be helping wildlife. And you can certainly make an argument that, under very limited circumstances, scaring away or even killing birds might be necessary to save lives, for example, at an airfield where bird strikes are a real problem.

But the devil is in the details, and we ran across this blog post today that "details the details" that were revealed when the USDA was forced to publish its "Kill List" for past years, up to and including 2005.

So, exactly *what* did Wildlife Services, the entity responsible for this gull "survey," do in 2005?

They killed more than 1.5 million birds.

Yes, you read it right, they killed 1,500,000 birds in the last year for which data is available.

How many birders know that this is even happening? Now, while many of those 1.5 million birds are blackbirds and starlings, a lot of them are not. Again, the devil is in the details. Take a look at that link, and you'll see that in the year 2005, the USDA's Wildlife Killing Division killed a lot of gulls. More than 16,000 gulls, including:

1,807 Herring Gulls
3,267 Ring-billed Gulls
6,272 Laughing Gulls
3,221 dangerous Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Those totals include 635 Ring-billed Gulls and 45 Herring Gulls that were killed right here in Illinois.

What else did the USDA kill in 2005?

Cunning and dangerous birds such as:

American Avocet
Brewer's Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow Bittern
Black-necked Stilt
Long-Billed Curlew
Barrow's Goldeneye
Bald Eagle
Golden Eagle
Snowy Egret
Northern Flicker
Pied-billed Grebe
Ruffed Grouse
Cooper's Hawk
Northern Harrier
Swainson's Hawk
Black-crowned Ngiht-heron
Stellar's Jay
American Kestrel
Western Kingbird
Horned Lark
Purple Martin
Northern Mockingbird
Nighthawk (apparently they couldn't even be bothered to identify what they killed)
Short-eared Owl
Snowy Owl
Barn Owl (397!, most in Hawaii)
Brown Pelican
Semi-p Plover
Common Snipe
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Tree Swallow
Violet-Green Swallow
Black Tern
Gila Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Greater Yellowlegs

You can check the USDA site and see the same type of info for prior years.

We have to ask: exactly what could cause you to kill an American Avocet? Or a Western Kingbird?

And exactly where (and why) did they kill a Snowy Owl in Virginia in 2005?

More to come...


Patrick B. said...

Wow, that's unbelievable. I thought the Yellow Bittern was a typo, but it looks like they took them at Guam and Midway Atoll. While doing some querying, I found a lovely recipe for Yellow Bittern Tettrazini. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Please change the color of your font. Bright red text on a dark green background is virtually illegible (it hurts my eyes so much I could not finish reading the article). Also, since it's on a green background, color-blind people probably can't even see the letters at all.