The California Superior Court has ruled that Monterey County’s contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program to kill predators and other native wildlife violates state law. The decision responds to a lawsuit filed by animal protection and conservation organizations.
The court concluded that Monterey County violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to analyze the environmental impacts before renewing the controversial program, which has shot, trapped and snared thousands of animals in the county in recent years.
“This is a decisive victory for California’s wildlife and for science as it sends a clear message to USDA Wildlife Services and to entities contracting with them that they must look at the impacts of killing thousands of animals to both target and non-target animals as well as to the environment,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote.
The court’s ruling finds that Monterey County’s contract renewal with Wildlife Services violates CEQA because the county wrongfully claimed an exemption from the Act. The court found “no evidence” to support the county’s claim that its contract for predator control could not result in “significant environmental change,” so the county must now analyze the environmental impacts of the program.
“This decision is a major victory for Monterey County’s coyotes, foxes and other wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “All the latest science shows predator control is expensive, ineffective and inhumane. We hope the court’s decision spurs the county to realize that business-as-usual wild animal killing is no longer acceptable.”
Monterey County’s previous contract authorized Wildlife Services to kill hundreds of coyotes, as well as bobcats, mountain lions and other animals every year without fully assessing the ecological damage or considering alternatives. For example, from June 2014 to June 2015, Wildlife Services killed 105 coyotes, three mountain lions and two bobcats in the county. Over the past six years, they have killed more than 3,500 animals in Monterey County using traps, snares and firearms.