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Lawsuit filed to stop US from killing coyotes in Idaho

by Keith Ridler
| May 8, 2020 12:42 PM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Three environmental groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the U.S. government from killing coyotes and other predators in Idaho until environmental studies are carried out.

Western Watersheds Project and two other groups are also asking a federal court in the lawsuit filed Thursday to rule that an eastern Idaho facility in Pocatello that manufactures poison to kill predators is operating in violation of environmental laws. The groups say the public health risks to the community also need to be examined.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are named in the lawsuit.

The Agriculture Department’s Wildlife Services kills coyotes and other wildlife that are killing livestock or damaging crops.

Wildlife Services killed 2.6 million animals nationwide in 2018, including 68,000 coyotes in 48 states, 2,900 of them in Idaho. Wildlife services also reported killing 84 wolves, eight mountain lions and 14 black bears in Idaho.

“Wildlife Services claims to kill coyotes to protect livestock, but science says lethal controls don’t actually reduce livestock losses,” Talasi Brooks, an attorney with Western Watersheds Project, said in a statement. “Wildlife Services cannot simply proceed with these futile actions without first addressing this contrary science.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, which defends federal agencies in lawsuits, didn’t respond to an inquiry.

The lawsuit follows a previous lawsuit that resulted in the Agriculture Department saying it would prepare an environmental impact statement for some of its predator damage management actions in Idaho.

However, the lawsuit said, there's no deadline for completing the environmental impact statement and the groups are concerned about intentional delays.

The lawsuit said the government is meanwhile violating environmental laws by relying on outdated environmental studies.

The environmental groups also contend the Pocatello Supply Depot, which manufactures poison used to kill wildlife, is operating without an updated environmental analysis. The groups say that includes potential harmful effects on area residents as well as the results of using the poison in Idaho and other states.

The groups in a news release note that the Supply Depot is where coyote-killing M-44 cyanide devices are made. The devices are embedded in the ground and look like lawn sprinklers but spray cyanide when triggered by animals attracted by bait. They are meant to protect livestock but sometimes kill pets and injure people.

Such a device mistakenly put on public land near a Pocatello family's home in 2017 injured a then-14-year-old boy and killed his dog. The family has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government.

“We don’t know how much danger Pocatello residents might be in, because Wildlife Services has never undertaken a public assessment of the risks and dangers posed by the deadly toxins manufactured and stored at the Pocatello facility,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director with WildEarth Guardians.