Monday, November 19, 2012

Federal Wildlife Services makes a killing in animal-control business

By Tom Knudson The Sacramento Bee
Last modified: 2012-11-18T08:03:33Z
Published: Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1A

As founder of one of the nation's largest urban wildlife damage control companies, Kevin Clark is no stranger to competition.
But one competitor costs him more business than any other: the federal government.
"Government is not supposed to compete, head to head, with the private sector when the private sector is already fulfilling the need," said Clark, chief executive officer of Critter Control, a franchise with branches in California. "Nuisance wildlife control operators are more than capable of handling these problems."
His concern is directed at an agency called Wildlife Services, which is already under scrutiny for its lethal control of predators and other animals in the rural West. A Bee investigative series earlier this year found the agency targets wildlife in ways that have killed thousands of non-target animals, including family pets, and can trigger unintended, negative ecological consequences.
Now the agency's killing of other species in more populated settings is drawing fire from entrepreneurs who say it siphons jobs away from private companies, lacks transparency and overlooks nonlethal alternatives.
"It's been such an uphill struggle," said Erick Wolf, CEO of a California firm called Innolytics, which developed a form of birth control for Canada geese and pigeons with help from Wildlife Services' scientists in Colorado.
Wildlife Services – which has killed 170,000 geese and more than 950,000 pigeons since 2000 – does not use it.
"All they want to do is shoot, trap and poison," said Wolf. "They don't want to consider anything else."

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