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Lawsuit Says Feds Illegally Killing Montana Wildlife

When the M-44 trap is set, only the capsule holder and capsule protrude above ground level.
Guy Connely - U.S. Department of Agriculture
Wildlife Services uses the M-44 cyanide trap to kill predators, like wolves and coyotes, known to hunt livestock. Wildlife advocates have pushed to ban the spring-loaded bomb, arguing that it’s ineffective and cruel.";

A lawsuit filed this week in Missoula says the federal government is illegally killing Montana’s native wildlife. The plaintiffs want a court to put a stop to it pending a full environmental review.

The suit was filed Tuesday in Missoula District Court by the environmental group WildEarth Guardians. It claims the U.S Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, is violating the National Environmental Policy Act.

The environmental group’s conservation director, Sarah McMillan, says that over the past three years in Montana alone, APHIS’s Wildlife Services agency has reported killing 152 wolves, "four grizzly bears, 52 mountain lions, 18 black bears, 320 foxes and more than 20,000 coyotes."

WildEarth Guardians says APHIS hasn’t reviewed the environmental impacts of its Wildlife Services program since the mid '90s, despite killing an average of over 1 million species annually.

"They actually acknowledged themselves in 2016, Wildlife Services did, that they needed to update their analysis," McMillan says.

"They started a process and we commented on that. It’s been over three years and as far as we can tell, they’re sitting on their hands continuing to operate on really, really outdated science and environmental analysis that’s supposed to look at the impacts of the actions they’re taking as well as alternatives to the actions they’re taking.”

Wildlife Services is frequently praised by ranchers for protecting livestock from predators.

Critics, however, say the agency’s tactics are heavy-handed and don’t rely enough on preventing predator attacks. Wildlife Services declined comment, citing the pending litigation.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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