Hunter decries new predator control rules
Hunters who use national forest land are concerned about new rules that allow the U.S. Forest Service to use poison and all-terrain vehicles to deal with problem predators in wilderness areas.Predators such as coyotes can be a problem for sheep or cattle grazing in wilderness areas, so the Forest Service is updating how it controls them. But outfitters like Gary Hubbell, who leads hunting trips frequently, worry the policy could encourage illegal ATV use or might inadvertently poison hunting dogs.”What if my dog sticks his nose into one of those traps?” Hubbell said.Hubbell doesn’t have a problem with getting rid of a coyote terrorizing a sheep herd. But he does have a problem with doing it with poison or ATVs – officers should just do it the old-fashioned way, he said.”It’s just outrageous for them to make that decision,” Hubbell said.The revisions in the Predator Damage Management in Wilderness Areas policy, published June 7 in the Federal Register, says U.S. Forest Service officers won’t be the ones killing predators that repeatedly cause problems. Instead, officers with the Agriculture Department’s Wildlife Services Division of the Animal and Plant Health Inspections Service will kill predators deemed a threat. In addition, the new policy allows them to use aircraft, motor vehicles like ATVs, or poisons and pesticides, with the approval of a regional forester.While the policy provides more options for killing threatening predators, they’re only a last resort, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jim Maxwell said. Plus, killing predators is already rare in national forests.”We know that predator species are important to the ecological well-being of the wilderness,” Maxwell said.The forest service already kills animals that cause problems, but officers tend to go on foot and use conventional traps or guns.Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and Maxwell said animals would be killed only to solve serious problems. A large imbalance between predators and prey or an animal that has repeatedly attacked grazing domestic animals are two cases in which it might be necessary, he said.The Forest Service will kill a predator only to protect the public, an endangered species, livestock or native wildlife, the policy states.Plus, he said the agency wouldn’t target large populations but would use “a surgical focus on one animal.” It probably wouldn’t relocate predators because they’ve already developed a habit that’s hard to break.”It seems like it would be very rare that they would go and transport that animal,” Maxwell said.The policy also says poison is not an option unless it’s the only effective way to kill the animal.Public comment is being accepted on the revisions until Aug. 7. Comments can be e-mailed to PDM@fs.fed.us or faxed to (202) 205-1145. They may also be mailed to USDA Forest Service Director of Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers, 201 14th St. Southwest, Washington, D.C. 20250.Greg Schreier’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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