The Killing Agencies: Unmasking the Myth of Wildlife "Management"

Here's how our wildlife is managed in America. It's a travesty.

Photo of severed heads of 11 cougars killed by Wildlife Services

The Reality

In actual fact, wildlife management in America means killing millions of wild animals each year with taxpayer money. The state and federal agencies in charge of managing wildlife use methods that are not only cruel, indiscriminate, and ineffective, they also endanger humans and kill countless pets. We're working to reform these agencies and stop this barbaric and scientifically unsound war against nature. What we need is nothing less than a revolution for wildlife.

Here are some key mistaken beliefs we are working to debunk:

  • wildlife needs to be managed
  • we need to kill predators to control their populations
  • killing predators doesn’t have a dramatic negative effect on ecosystems
  • animal cruelty is OK
  • hunters are conservationists
  • minority interests controlling the majority’s wildlife is acceptable

Read more about these misconceptions in Myth vs. Fact. You can also get a sneak peak of interviews from our newest documentary in progress, The Killing Agencies, featuring key scientists, scholars and activists debunking these myths. Together we are working to raise America's awareness and change the culture.

The Name = An Oxymoron

Wildlife management is a loaded term for a number of reasons.   The name is an oxymoron. By nature, wild animals cannot really be "managed," any more than weather can be managed, or any other "act of god."  Wildlife can be killed, and that says a lot about the term and what it really means. 

Here’s our definition of wildlife management:  Wildlife agencies manage people who kill animals (mostly for sport). They do this by licensing hunters and trappers and by limiting how, when, where, which, and how many wild animals can legally be killed. 

Most people think wildlife management is a science based on principles of wildlife conservation, and that it is practiced for the benefit of wildlife species. 

We disagree and feel people have been mislead about the role of wildlife management agencies by media, by politicians, by sportsmen’s organizations, ranching associations, wildlife management agencies and even some conservation organizations.  Images of Ranger Rick and Smokey the Bear are a smokescreen for, and in conflict with, tools of the management trade, such as aerial gunning of wolves and coyotes, automatic weapons, gps collars, trail cameras, electronic call boxes, foot hold traps, strangling snares, instant kill traps, and high tech carbon fiber crossbows.

Myth vs. Fact

It’s no wonder there are so many misconceptions, when you consider the following wiildlife management myths and facts:

MYTH:  Wildlife management agencies work for the public, and for the well-being and benefit of wildlife species conservation.

FACT:  Wildlife management is a business.  Managers work to please the constituency that pays their salaries.  Wildlife departments are funded almost exclusively through the sale of hunting and trapping tags and licenses and from the sale of guns and ammunition.   Hunters and trappers are in the field to kill animals.

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MYTH:  Wildlife agencies use best available science to make policies.

FACT:  Agencies use the science that supports their policies, which are geared to maximize hunter and trapper success in killing their prey. Virtually every wildlife management agency promotes and provides seasons for killing of predator species which they view as competition to hunters.  Current science does not support the need for killing predators, and in fact shows that it causes increased conflicts such as predation on livestock and pets. The killing of predators also weakens prey species because hunters prefer the large trophy animals while predators select the very young or infirm.

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MYTH:  Wildlife commissions supervise management agencies, provide oversight.  Decisions are made for the public with their input.

FACT:  Most commissions are appointed by politicians, such as governors and congressional committees.  Special interests influence politicians.  Hunting, firearm and agriculture are powerful interests that influence politicians and their appointments.  Every state wildlife commission is top heavy with hunters, ranchers, and people from industries that support those interests.  Conservation interests are rarely represented, and if so it’s a token member. 

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What We're Working to Expose & Change

  • The Management Misnomer:  Failure to acknowledge that wolves and other predators are vital top-down trophic regulators of natural systems. They do not need to be “managed,” because their numbers are regulated by social structure, availability of prey, weather and spacial requirements.
  • The Intentional Anti-Science Mentality:  The public thinks management decisions made by federal and state wildlife agencies are all based on sound science and made for the benefit of wildlife.  The opposite is true.
  • Social Chaos & Ecosystem Damage:  The fact that the fracturing of family units creates social chaos for species, which also results in damage to ecosystems.
  • Who’s in Charge:  Big hunting and ranching interests control wildlife policy.  A special interest monopoly pulls the strings, in particular the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Cattlemen’s Association, and The American Sheep Industry Association.
  • Hunters Are a Tiny Minority, Yet Control Policy & Law:  According to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service census, hunters make up a mere 5-6% of the U.S. population.  Yet they have a stranglehold on wildlife policies and laws.
  • The Betrayal of Public Trust:   The fundamental principle of the public trust and our starting premise is that just, democratic governments must preserve environmental components as assets held in trust for current and future generations.
  • Conservation vs. Profit:  How the money raised from killing wildlife doesn’t go toward conservation, a claim that hunters often make. And there is a stark difference between conservation biologists, who work to conserve wildlife, and the wildlife management biologists used by the agencies.  The latter manage wildlife for profit and political gain. 
  • Misuse of Tax Dollars, Wildlife Services program i.e. “Murder Incorporated”:  Tax dollars are used to provide game for hunters and to subsidize ranchers.  The America public pays for wildlife management agencies to kill and scapegoat millions of animals each year.  They say they are doing it to: (1) preserve prey populations like elk and deer, yet humans, not predators, are the major threat; and (2) protect livestock from predators, when ranchers should be doing this themselves using nonlethal control methods.
  • Misuse of Public Lands:  Many areas, like public lands in the West, are simply inappropriate for livestock.  Wildlife and public interest should have priority on public lands.
  • False Alarm re Pubic Safely:  How alarming the public about safety concerns from predators is a red herring.  The methods used to control predators—poisons, traps and snares—are the real public safety concern.
  • Cruelty & Silence:  Wildlife agencies have remained appallingly silent regarding the torture of animals, killing contests, etcExample: Hunters posing with animals in traps while they’re still alive.
  • The Horror of Trophy Hunting (The Thrill of Killing for Killing’s Sake):  In August 2015 there was a worldwide outcry about the killing of Cecil the Lion in Africa by a trophy hunting dentist from Minnesota.  Yet people have been relatively silent regarding the slaughter of mountain lions in America—over 40,000 have been killed since 2001—and all killing has been legally sanctioned by state wildlife management agencies. Other predators are being killed in record numbers, too.
  • A Precedent for Change:  There's a precedent for not killing predators. In fact, there are places where they are treated admirably. Over 80 countries and eight U.S. states have banned or severely restricted trapping. California hasn’t hunted mountain lions in 40 years and Costa Rica banned hunting completely.  It’s time the United States followed suit. What we need is nothing less than a revolution for wildlife.

The Evidence

Below you will find a list-in-progress of essays, articles and published peer-reviewed papers by well-known biologists/ecologists, activists and philosophers. They debunk the widely held belief that wildlife management is a science based on conservation of wildlife and wild lands, and that it is practiced for the benefit of wildlife species. 

Research Articles

In the News