Four environmental groups said Monday they will sue the USDA's Wildlife Services program to stop what they call the unlawful killing of wildlife in Idaho.
They say tactics like shooting wolves from helicopters, blowing up beaver dams and spraying lethal chemicals in the wild have caused widespread damage.
Travis Bruner heads the Hailey, Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project, one of the groups that joined the impending lawsuit.
“We'd like to see the end of wildlife services all over the West,” Bruner said. “It's not serving a purpose that is helpful to protecting our public lands. It's just killing wildlife and we don't really need to be funding that type of activity. Our public lands should be valued above all as wildlife habitat.”
Wildlife Services agents are tasked by the federal government with reducing conflicts that threaten public safety and property. In Idaho, that often means targeting carnivores that prey on sheep and cattle.
But environmentalists allege the agency has waged a large-scale attack on wildlife that is inhumane and disrupts the ecosystem.
The USDA declined to comment on this pending legal action. A spokeswoman says they know some people disagree with killing animals, but they use science-based methods and have conducted environmental assessments in Idaho.
The Center for Biological Diversity says agents killed more than 3,000 coyotes, black bears, mountain lions, bobcats and other mammals in Idaho last year. Environmentalists say the agency’s methods are imprecise and worry endangered species like lynx and bull trout could end up as collateral damage.
The USDA says 25 animals were killed unintentionally in Idaho last year -- no lynx among them. Nationally, animals killed unintentionally accounted for 0.11 percent of Wildlife Service’s total animals killed between 2006 and 2012, according to the USDA.