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PREDATOR CONTROL INEFFECTIVE

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In response to your editorial of June 30, entitled "Lift ban against predator control," the Humane Society of Utah strongly disagrees with the opinions expressed therein, which basically side with ranchers in suggesting that a ban on federal trappers working on BLM lands should be rescinded but fail to take into consideration any of the points which led to enactment of the ban in the first place.

The office of Animal Damage Control (ADC), which was established in 1931 to exterminate animals believed to be a threat to agriculture and livestock, is a relic of the past. It has never attempted to promote long-term resolutions of conflicts between man and other animals, but in fact actually worsens them.For example, in areas where coyotes are shot, trapped, and poisoned, females produce an average of eight to 10 pups per litter, compared to two or three where the population is protected.

Thus, where humans kill coyotes, survivors increase production to fill the void, proving the efforts of the ADC to be an exercise in futility.

This is also true from a monetary standpoint: Since 1972, the ADC has slaughtered 750,000 coyotes at a cost of $117 million to taxpayers - and has made no headway whatsoever in eradicating the problem.

As former ADC agent turned animal protectionist Dick Randall states, "The theory behind predator control is if you kill a lot of predators, especially coyotes, foxes, mountain lions and bears, then cows and sheep can sleep in peace. It's time we recognized that this philosophy has never worked and never will."

Furthermore, the methods employed by the ADC are morally unacceptable as well as ineffectual, involving such inhumane and/or primitive tactics as steel-jaw traps, denning (smoking pups out of their dens and clubbing them to death as they emerge), M-44s (devices baited with sodium cyanide powder that explode in the animal's mouth when bitten), aerial gunning from helicopters, and chasing predators with dogs and shooting them out of trees at point-blank range.

More civilized and efficient alternatives to protecting herds and crops do exist, including more sophisticated fencing, taste-aversion techniques, prompt removal of dead animals, avoiding the grazing of young in predator-prone areas, night corralling and placing burros, llamas and guard dogs with livestock animals.

The ADC's present programs represent an immense drain of taxpayer dollars to cover the losses of very few citizens. Ranchers suffering livestock losses graze their animals on publicly owned lands at very cheap rates.

Thus, Utah taxpayers are in fact subsidizing grazing for "welfare" ranchers who demand that we further subsidize, at enormous cost, the destruction of predator animals who are killing relatively small numbers of their livestock. Their demands ignore the suffering of the ADC's victims and the vital ecological role that diverse species play in their habitats.

The Humane Society believes that the ADC should redirect its focus to wildlife preservation while mitigating human/wildlife conflicts. More laws, time, money, and effort need to be focused on nonlethal ways to resolve problems resulting from human encroachment on wildlife.

And in these critical times, the public needs to demand and support such progressive attitudes, rather than clamoring for retention of outdated methods that haven't worked, have squandered enormous sums of public money and are ethically reprehensible to most people living in 1993.

Gene Baierschmidt

Executive director

Humane Society of Utah