June 30, 2022

Grant County chooses not to renew contract with federal wildlife killing agency

George Andrejko/Arizona Game and Fish Department

A rural county in the heart of wolf country chose not to renew a contract with the federal agency tasked with killing carnivores that are deemed problematic.

The Grant County Commission voted 2-1 against renewing its contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services’ program during a June 23 meeting. The commissioner who voted against the motion supported tabling the item to discuss during a future July meeting when all five commissioners could be present.

The decision comes after a history of disagreement between the county and Wildlife services. Grant County previously gave Wildlife Services some conditions for the contract. That included prioritizing non-lethal practices and providing reports to the county.

The commissioners felt that Wildlife Services had not held up that end of the agreement and had not demonstrated that it was, in fact, using non-lethal measures whenever possible. During the meeting, the commissioners referenced a quarterly report. This report states that 101 animals—65 feral cattle and 36 coyotes—were killed from Jan. 1 through March 31. It did not provide any information about non-lethal methods taken or if non-lethal methods were actually prioritized.

Related: Shooting of unbranded cattle in the Gila National Forest draws ire

“I actually think that this is a failure of appropriate reporting on behalf of wildlife services and I am disinclined to give them another chance,” Commissioner Alicia Edwards said.

This move won the commission praise from the environmental advocates like Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians.

“Again and again we see Wildlife Services prioritize killing native animals rather than trying long-term, cost-effective, nonlethal coexistence practices,” Chris Smith, southwest wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians, said in a press release. “It seems like every year they disrespect the Grant County Commission by failing to transparently and thoroughly report on what the commission has contracted them to do.”

While this decision not to renew the contract received praise from environmental groups, they also noted that the contract could be brought up again for another vote at a future meeting when all five commissioners are present.

“We applaud the Grant County Board of Commissioners for staying true to their commitment to prioritize nonlethal methods of wildlife management,” Nina Eydelman, chief program and policy officer for wildlife with Animal Protection New Mexico, said in a press release. “The county is rightfully holding USDA Wildlife Services accountable when they repeatedly disregarded this contract provision by using cruel and indiscriminate poisons instead of nonlethal means.”