USDA Wildlife Services Posts Fiscal Year 2021 Data on Management Actions and Funding Sources


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USDA Wildlife Services Posts Fiscal Year 2021 Data on Management Actions and Funding Sources

On March 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) wildlife damage management program, Wildlife Services (WS), posted its annual Program Data Reports (PDR) for fiscal year (FY) 2021. The reports are available on the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) webpage, representing the 26th year that WS has shared this information about its wildlife damage management activities. 

APHIS Wildlife Services’ activities seek to reduce or eliminate more than an estimated $232 million in livestock loss due to predation and $150 million in bird damage to crops caused by native and invasive wildlife annually. Comprehensive estimates of all types of wildlife damage are difficult to gauge but each year wildlife strikes cause approximately $200 million in loss to American civil aviation, and also pose a potential loss of life. APHIS responds to requests for assistance from individuals, companies, and other government agencies when wildlife causes or threatens damage to human health/safety, agriculture, natural resources, and property. 

In FY 2021, APHIS encountered about 26.6 million animals while responding to calls for assistance and dispersed nearly 25 million wildlife from urban, rural, and other settings where they were causing damage. APHIS dispersed 93% of the animals encountered. Not all conflicts can be resolved with nonlethal methods alone. Of all wildlife encountered, WS lethally removed 6.6%, or approximately 1.76 million, in targeted areas to reduce damage. Invasive species accounted for 77% (1,352,838) and native species 23% (404,565) of the wildlife lethally removed.  Additionally:

  • Of the wildlife lethally removed, 79% were either an invasive species or a species listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Depredation Order for blackbirds, cowbirds, crows, grackles, and magpies, due to the damage they cause.
  • The invasive species removed included more than 15,000 brown tree snakes in Guam, 143,905 feral swine, and 1,028,650 European starlings.
  • Of native wildlife lethally removed, 64,131 were coyotes. Coyotes reportedly kill more than 300,000 head of livestock annually and injure even more.
  • 75,351 were native Northern pike minnow that APHIS removed to protect federally threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest. 

Where WS uses lethal control, APHIS works to make full use of the resource which includes the donation of 188 tons of goose, deer/elk, and other meat— more than 1 million servings of protein—for people in need. 

Program Data Reports

In FY 2021, WS used $86.8 million in appropriated funds to help manage wildlife damage operations in every state and territory and to support special programs, such as managing feral swine damage and rabies in raccoons and other wildlife. APHIS also received funding from program cooperators, including federal and state agencies, counties, livestock producers, and other agricultural producer groups, other organizations, businesses, and individuals. This allows the program to maximize its scope and effectiveness. During FY 2021, WS received $102.1 million in cooperator-provided funding (54%) for field-based operational wildlife damage management (see PDR A) for funding sources and expenditures nationally and by state). 

APHIS used 40% of WS’ operational funding for field activities to reduce or prevent wildlife hazards to human health and safety, such as wildlife collisions with aircraft and disease transmission. APHIS spent about 28% of its funding to protect agriculture, including livestock, row crops, aquaculture, and timber. APHIS spent the remaining 32% on protection of property and natural resources, including threatened and endangered species. 

Data Highlights

The PDRs list the work carried out by APHIS wildlife biologists and field specialists, with information by state, species, and other details. Some key FY 2021 highlights include the following:

  • WS and its cooperators protected more than 310 threatened or endangered wildlife and plant species from the impacts of disease, invasive species, and predators. Partners seeking assistance, including private organizations and federal, state, and local wildlife agencies, financially support most of these operations. (PDR B).
  • PDR C identifies the specific resources protected and the wildlife species that threaten or damage the resources in operations where a stakeholder, cooperator, or WS has reported a value of the damage. It identifies the number and species of recorded threats or damage to the reported damage value. About three-quarters of the recorded wildlife conflicts were associated with wildlife damage to property and agricultural resources.
  • In FY 2021, APHIS reached more than 157,000 participants in more than 72,000 information-sharing projects. These technical assistance projects, including telephone or onsite consultations, written materials, and training, help individuals resolve wildlife conflicts they are experiencing. PDR D details technical assistance projects by state, type of service, and wildlife species.
  • PDR E highlights APHIS’ work to reduce aviation strikes with wildlife at 784 airports. The airports and agencies requesting assistance from WS’ Airport Wildlife Hazard Program paid for this work under cooperative service agreements.  In FY 2021, WS trained 5,056 personnel on airport wildlife hazard identification and management.
  • APHIS wildlife disease biologists collected almost 40,701 wildlife disease samples to test for 31 different diseases and conditions in wild mammals, birds, and reptiles as part of the National Wildlife Disease Program.  PDR F  details the activity. About 40% (14,210) of the samples were collected for the National Rabies Management Program. APHIS took samples from feral swine for 6 diseases or conditions, genetics, or other research. Most sampling in feral swine was for classical swine fever, pseudorabies, swine brucellosis, genetics, and non-specific diseases.
  • PDR G lists the number of animals dispersed, killed/euthanized, or freed during APHIS’ wildlife damage management operations. APHIS implements an integrated damage management approach which uses a variety of effective and practical nonlethal and lethal methods to resolve wildlife damage problems. As noted above, APHIS removed 1.76 million animals in FY 21, including 1.35 million invasive wildlife and 404,565 native wildlife.  In FY 2020, APHIS removed 1.5 million animals, of which 433,192 were native wildlife. 
  • Invasive European starlings, native blackbirds, and other species listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Depredation Order comprise 61% of animals APHIS lethally removed in FY 21, totaling 1,069,811 birds. These birds damage food crops, such as rice and other grains, livestock, property, and other commodities. They also can pose a human health and safety concern. APHIS used nonlethal methods to disperse an additional 13 million starlings, blackbirds, cowbirds, crows, grackles, and magpies from areas where they were causing damage. In FY 2020, these birds accounted for 56% of total lethal removal, or 844,732 birds.
    • More than 99.8 % of the animals lethally removed were the intended targets of APHIS’ wildlife damage management actions. However, APHIS did unintentionally remove 2,746 native animals. We track and report unintended removal and adjust field operations, wherever possible.
  • Invasive species accounted for 77% of all lethally removed wildlife in FY 2021, including an almost 27% increase over FY 2020 in the number of invasive feral swine removed as part of the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program.
  • Coyotes reportedly kill more than 300,000 head of cattle/calves, sheep/lambs, and goats/kids annually according to livestock producers’ reports to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The 2020 NASS Sheep and Goat Death Loss Report noted that coyote predation accounted for 32.6% of sheep losses and 40.1% of lamb losses. Approximately $51.4 million was spent by 77.1% of operators who used nonlethal predator damage management methods. WS works in partnership with livestock producers to reduce predation through integrated damage management programs. In FY 2021, WS removed 64,131 coyotes through wildlife damage management operations to protect resources. By comparison, trappers and hunters in 37 states took approximately 500,000 coyotes in 2017-18 in state-regulated fur harvests.
  • Native species accounted for 23% (404,565) of all animals WS lethally removed. Lethal actions for damage management remove a small percentage of native wildlife compared to their overall populations or range. For example, out of an estimated 300,000 black bears nationwide, APHIS euthanized 433 and relocated 718 black bears, in compliance with wildlife agencies’ policies in 19 states. APHIS removed less than ½ of 1% of the national estimated red-winged blackbird and brown-headed cowbird breeding populations of 150 million and 120 million, respectively.
  • APHIS treated 16,875 acres using EPA-registered products to resolve damage. APHIS used zinc phosphide wheat or oats for control of various rodents (9,029 acres). Delta Dust insecticide reduced plague-vector fleas in prairie dog tunnels for the protection of the endangered black-footed ferrets (7,846 acres).
  • PDR G notes that more than 22,000 dens and burrows were removed -- primarily prairie dog burrows, along with ground squirrel and woodchuck burrows-- to protect pasture, rangeland, property, structures, human health and safety and agriculture. 

Most species whose damage WS actively manages are abundant or have increasing populations and/or expanding ranges. WS balances its focused efforts to resolve wildlife conflicts with the program’s stewardship responsibilities toward the long-term maintenance and health of wildlife populations. 

As a federal agency with public trust responsibilities to manage wildlife for present and future generations, APHIS complies with all federal and state laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Endangered Species Act, as well as executive orders pertaining to invasive species management. APHIS conducts careful environmental review of all agency actions through a NEPA process that includes public involvement. To learn more, please visit the WS website.