It has been a bad month for Wildlife Services.
The federal agency accidentally killed a wolf here in Wallowa County with an M-44, a cyanide-based trap that shoots poison into the mouth of a canine. The traps are intended for coyotes. Just a week later, a family dog was killed by an M-44 in Idaho, and a young boy who was nearby was injured when the trap went off.
The incidents were matching black eyes for an agency that likes to stay out of the headlines as it kills hundreds of thousands of nuisance animals across the country each year. That list includes pigeons and starlings, coyotes and badgers and bears. When wildlife becomes a problem, Wildlife Services likes to be the solution.
And in plenty of cases they do important, difficult work that saves the lives of many animals by culling those causing a problem. In other instances they are killing non-native and invasive species en masse, doing the difficult work that many of us are incapable of doing.
Still, there are problems. And a black eye can cause people to notice those problems. A pair leads to some serious questions.
M-44s are one such problem for a state that has an increasing wolf population. Maybe you don’t like wolves and hope they are poisoned. But you cannot argue the fact that taxpayers have spent a lot of money — and our government has spent a lot of time — working on their recovery. Each accidental death, especially those caused by the government, increases the money taxpayers will pay to fend off lawsuits, and the more active government will have to be in wolf recovery. The more active the management, the higher the cost.
And, as a side note, it’s a good time to talk about how wolves help control coyote populations.
But it isn’t just about money. Placing something in our woods that indiscriminately kills canines — be they wolves or coyotes or family dogs — is not smart. For the safety of our family pets, and our family members out traipsing around the hills, removing all M-44s makes sense.
Oregon has put so much money and so much effort into improving and conserving the environment in our state, for the benefit of elk and salmon and forests and water and humans and wolves. Any fatal actions must be taken with extreme caution.
Paying government trappers to kill predators may seem like a 19th Century concern, but it’s happening to this day in rural Oregon. There is still some need for it, but it should be updated to include 21st Century technology and ethical and social mores.