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This is a federal case from Washington D.C. the National Educational radio network brings you an examination of current issues facing our nation in its capital city. Here is an E.R. and correspondent Vic Sussman. Americans have what is called a Western heritage which has nothing to do with the Age of Greece or the Renaissance. Rather it is a link to the covered wagon cowboys and Indians. The six shooter Dodge City and all the other symbols celebrated in song story and TV rerun beneath the skin of even the city dweller who couldn't tell a quarter horse from a curb stone lies a Kit Carson yearning to ride off into the sunset and hear the yip of the prairie dog and the owl of the Lonesome coyote. And while this deep love and longing for something most of us have never known has spawned 20 years of television horse operas. It has also added fuel to the current interest in protecting what little wilderness and wildlife remains on our plundered
land that is millions of Americans are suddenly willing to express their concern for animals and the lands they have never seen and may never see. And that even if our lives be lived out amid steel and plastic and rubber tired monsters it is comforting and important to know that out there somewhere a coyote still howls at the moon. But these days many coyotes are howling at more than the moon. They are howling and arriving in agony. Their faces twisted in pain their throats seared with cyanide powder. The Lonesome coyote becomes the dead coyote the poisoned coyote and the prairie dog that the ubiquitous rodent whose labyrinthian towns once covered the plains. He too now lies vomiting death in the darkness of his borrow. The outrage of animals poisoned killed by the thousands is only heightened by the knowledge that the responsible party in all this is the United States government.
But is Uncle Sam the bad guy again. Uncle Sam the cyanide man many cattle men and sheep herders don't think so. Neither does the Bureau of sport fisheries and wildlife which carries out what it calls predator control. A complex program designed to control the numbers chiefly by poisoning and trapping of prairie dogs coyotes Fox and any other creature judged a danger to cattle sheep or other wildlife. One wonders how Mother Nature managed for so long without government help. Thus we find two armed camps those who say predator control is having irreversible effects on the ecology and is nothing more than another instance of exploitation and mismanagement. And those who say predator control is good land management which aids both farmers and valuable wildlife. Bureau of sport fisheries and wildlife executive Al Jackson defends the government program. The mission in a nutshell is to conserve wallah. Now
in terms of predator control I think this comes down to a question of how do you conserve. Well. All rationale for. Conducting the predator control program is that. We know that if we don't do a responsible selective and reasonable job of controlling animal damage that the landowners themselves will conduct control all to the detriment of all. Mr. Jackson is the chief of the bureau's animal damage section. He claims that the government is not involved in wholesale slaughter of animals it considers troublesome but rather it carries on a careful selective controlled program. Unlike private landowners and Stockman who might be indiscriminate in their killing you have to consider that selective control. Is Expensive control it requires a lot of management power. And it requires a lot of money. The landowner on the other hand or anyone for that matter. Can conduct a nonselective
program relatively cheap and they do it. So says Mr. Jackson. The government takes a studious thoughtful approach based on research experience. Well I mean by that we vary the use of certain for various animals according to the local conditions and the species being controlled. For example if there's an endangered species in the area we would use a certain two words if it weren't we might use another type 2. This is something that we store of knowledge that we've gained over a period of years that the others do not have. And for this reason we can conduct what we term a selective program opposing this view is the executive director of the Defenders of Wildlife Mary Hazel Harris when offered the government's opinion that a federal program is
less damaging than a private one. Miss Harris says well that's questionable because they do now they're encouraged to do so by friends you can tell people they didn't know. People give employees an impact and then tell them how to do it. So. I don't see much difference. The Defenders of Wildlife is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of all wildlife. It is opposed to wildlife bounties roadside zoos and what it calls quote all indiscriminate so-called control programs against wildlife. It is especially opposed to what it calls cruel traps and vicious poisons there is little killing is really necessary for instance. Now we wanted to where animals that. Are causing the trouble and then trapping will take care of that. And in Missouri Kansas they don't use poison. And when the.
Farmer is having trouble and teach him how to track that particular coyote or predator. In other words Miss Harris and her organization are not opposed to occasional trapping of a given single animal causing damage to livestock but they oppose the government's practice of setting out poison bait and cyanide traps. In a recent article in The New Yorker magazine writer faith McNulty reported that quote over the last 10 years the government has distributed 6 million 400000 strychnine baits and staked out 140000 chunks of poisoned meat each large enough to last a season. Harry Crandall is opposed to this too and he's been on both sides of the fence. CRANDALL whose father was a Colorado trapper spent 19 years with the Bureau of sport fisheries and wildlife. Recently he resigned to work for the Wilderness Society a Washington based conservation group. Crandall is opposed to poisoning but
he's also upset by this happening on federally owned lands being used by private cattle owners. I can't see any relationship at all between the trade of control and the economic benefit to stop. For one thing they are going to be the prairie dog is capable of completely depleting arranged. I think this happened in the past but in today's world I don't think this is capable they're capable of doing this kind of duping arrange and herding their stock in the public unaware to recognize that the majority of the stock in the areas of the country where these Act control activities are taking place are located on federal lands their grazing activities take place on federal land and it seems to me that if a person is being subsidized already to Greystock on federal lands that he should be able to take some chances. He should be
required to give you cancer and crazy stock in harmony with some of the wildlife that are indigenous to the to the Federal land and I'd like to emphasize that the predator and run control program of the bureau for fisheries and wildlife is a subsidy. It is not a service. It's a subsidy to stock. When is it when they are doing when they are control conduct and control activities in the stock grazing area. It's pure and simple. Now in the privately owned sector land. I have another individual feeling here I don't believe the federal government has any business at all killing wild animals by any method whether it's humane or not you made it through poison traps in this kind of than just protecting individual farmer. Now there's one that isn't say
stalk me sir. Missouri or some place it seems to me is or your extension services in your county. So these kinds of people provide all kinds of services in this area which the federal government is duplicating as Harry Crandall points out. This subsidy issue is a sorely contended item. Cattle men and sheep herders and farmers do not pay the government to poison predators on public lands. The taxpayer as usual gets the bill and this subsidy may not be the blessing cattlemen think it is. Says Mary Hazel Harris and the odds that the best pot won by a pot about it is that it's actually it's a very. Questionable. Value to stop demand because they are. Ruining them landing there and encouraging really. If. Tim. Is. Hard leaving him.
Bandits they seem to think it is a former government employee Harry Crandall again sees federal involvement in predator control as yet another example of the government as octopus. I think it continues out of force of habit and it's had become probably in them to itself rather than a means. I think it's a kind of program that the government fosters in perhaps and in many areas it has become outmoded and it's still in existence. Just the old bureaucratic syndrome Well it's what we've always done it so we continue to do it. And I do know that there are some playful implications here because of the voting pressures and the lobbyists from from the various stock ranching interests in the country so I think we should recognize that
the government's Wildlife Services obviously don't see themselves in this light. They believe animal control to be necessary economically beneficial and considering such questions as prevention of disease and the protection of Hunter ball game entirely justified. The bureau's main concern then is to ensure that the killing of animals not be done needlessly bureau spokesman Al Jackson described as the control of prairie dogs. We don't wipe out a prairie dog town. We go out when once the decision is made to. Extend to an area. We go through there and treat it one time that previously we made the first treatment and then went back about three weeks later and got that got the rest of them by well you know when you say treatment what exactly you're referring to the placement of poisonous bites. And. Whereas now we don't go back and make the second treatment. In
other words there are prairie dogs left. Also it we don't treat a town more than once every three years. Now there are some data in the literature that indicate that. Within a three year period they these animals can. Reproduce themselves by about three hundred thirty three percent. So. This week we still have lots of prairie dogs around the country. Thus using poison to control the numbers of prairie dogs which cattlemen say destroying valuable forage though no one agrees just how much forage these rodents consume. The government sees its methods as selective Miss Harris does not. It can't be selective when animal comes and takes the points of mama and so forth he may travel three miles spilling poison.
And then his body is. And other mammals. It can hardly be selective. So here we have the problem of secondary poisoning. If a poison breaks down slowly as do various pesticides this cycle of poisoning can continue right on down the food chain from predator to scavenger. Since everything is connected to everything else in nature the introduction of poison becomes a writer faith McNulty puts it a monkey wrench tossed into an incredibly intricate machine and it cannot be anything but detrimental to wildlife but wildlife bureau staffer Jackson agrees secondary poisoning is a problem. But he offers a qualification. We feel that this is very much over exaggerated. With prairie dogs we are nearly used to 80 which is a very controversial bite and yet we
think that it's a selective bait and when used in prairie dog control work the animals underground strychnine on the other hand if used in prairie dog control work it's a quick acting talks can the animals above Broome and. Where they may be picked up by hawks eagles and other animals non-target and. Now we do use strychnine in some cases where. Of say in the matter it's a case of a small town relatively small town where it's possible for it to go on there and then be sure and pick up all of the animals. BROWN But as ordinarily we used 10 ID ridden strychnine. Ten eighty four numbers designed to drive right up the wall those opposed to federal predator control originally developed almost 100 years
ago. Sodium floral acetate was introduced as a rat poison in 1044. It quickly picked up its Invoice Number 10 80 as a benign numerical euphemism disguising its deadly nature. Ten eighty looks like white sugar. There is no taste. There is no smell. It dissolves in water easily and when injected into meat its potential for killing lasts for months. Ten eighty is not a pleasant way to go. Death may take two hours and because 10 A.D. affects the central nervous system the animal spends its last moments vomiting and convulsing when death comes. The animal may be miles from the bait station having vomited up undigested food in its second wanderings. This food as well as the carcass itself may be eaten by other creatures as Miss Harris points out. And since 10 80 breaks down slowly a single death may produce a chain reaction of destruction. The Bureau of wildlife is Al
Jackson says recognizes this limitation of 10 A.D. but the bureau feels people like the defenders of wildlife have exaggerated the problem. Jackson for instance tells us that poison prairie dogs die in their burrows safe from scavengers. But Ms Harris counters. Well almost any predator that would prey on that prairie dog would go inside the barn to get it. So it's hard to understand that point of view. How about ferret goes inside and any other Fox or any animal that. I think the badges have been practically wiped out with that very. Message as if the use of 10 A.D. were not enough controversy. The predator control program is plagued by another concern a secretive member of the weasel family known as the black footed ferret the ferret one of the rarest creatures in the world was apparently never great in numbers long before the coming of the white man. The Indians saw the black footed ferret so
infrequently they never developed a name for the animal. So a creature rare centuries ago may now be on the edge of doom because the ferrets principal food is the prairie dog. And we're very much concerned about and treating every prairie dog. Our policy now is that a pretty controlled survey must be made to determine that there are no black footed ferrets in the area. They do leave distinctive signs that indicate their presence. You're a man Jackson says no poisonous set out until a survey is made to ensure the absence of ferrets. But writer faith McNulty again emphasized the difficulty of locating black footed ferrets. She wrote one man watching a hundred acres of prairie dogs for three days had a slim chance of seeing a ferret provided one was present at this rate. A man might
cover a thousand acres in 30 days and it would take 10 men a month to cover the ten thousand acre schedule for poisoning. Even then Miss Macnulty concludes failure to see a ferret would not prove that no ferret was present. Thus the government's effort to protect the ferret while poisoning prairie dogs depends to a large extent on luck and good intentions. No such good intentions seem manifested toward the coyote. Rather than going after a single marauding Killer of Sheep for instance. War is waged against all coyotes in a target area. Meat dosed with 10 80 poison is set out as is a nasty device known in the trade as a coyote get or a piece of baited rag or cotton is attached to a 38 caliber cartridge loaded with cyanide. An animal tugging at the bait triggers the getter and the animal is thus punished with a throat full of cyanide. How does the coyote get or kill.
Suffocates. Talk quickly. Very quickly. Usually with us too. It isn't unusual at all to coach within 15 steps of the Defenders of Wildlife. Don't like the coyote getter. Well that's very vicious and very cruel of course is one of the coolest methods of destroying wildlife but it is great and cost a great many pet dogs and animals that they're not trying to take get hold of it. The pet dog has been killed by one of some other things and there are other animals like wildlife that have been killed by this. Oh yes anything coming along. It's not just the coyote get a cousin there. I expect them more susceptible I don't know. The animal other animals are killed by cyanide strychnine 10 80 a catalogue of killers the government says they use selectively
and efficiently. But Harry Crandall says we must have alternatives because while Washington paints us pictures of selectivity and control surveys this rationality may not filter out to the men doing the killing. Why I think that it's only natural for people when they're engaged in any kind of a patient to compete OK with a filling station operator or two guys operating a bulldozer or two people digging a ditch or weapon whatever. And trappers say whether employed by the government or by the or by the state quite naturally are successful in their own eyes in the eyes of their peers and their coworkers when they catch animals in the fellow that catches the most animals is the most successful trapper. So therefore there is some very keen competition between individuals who are working in the same areas adjacent here he has to see who gets the most and
that into itself in a case that it's an E and her than to me and bureau spokesman Al Jackson recognizes the problem. There was a lot of competition at one time had what they call the scout club Kleck out scalps. We no longer allow this. At the supervisory level most all of our supervisors have training in wildlife management but training I mean they have a B.S. degree our master's degree and. So that all of these things along with. A very extensive training program for the DFACS we call them are trappers if you please. We give them very intensive training and ecological concepts and safety and link talks Gunson and so forth. So that we think that we've made an awful lot of headway in and.
Meeting this problem that you mentioned. Is there a moral issue. Is it right for a man or for a government of man to take on the task of slaughtering animals they consider useless or damaging to private interests. The Bureau of wildlife has nearly eight hundred men involved in trapping and poisoning is the bureau pleased with this. Well I can only agree that it's objectionable to kill any animal I'm personally opposed to it always have been to the particular to kill it needlessly. No I don't mean by that. Opposed to hunting and I'm a hunter but I think that there has to be a reason for killing an animal before it's killed. We determine what and a chance to see whether the program is justified. Now as to how this might affect a man's personality in this sort of thing I'm acquainted with a wide
number of trappers who actually do this laying on the ground and I know that there are a good number of them are church doors and from all outward appearances. Although I'm not a Sack characterised. It would indicate to me that they're just as well adjusted as anybody Bureau of wildlife staffer Al Jackson. But what are the alternatives to the present program. Are there better methods. There are. No doubt our instincts. When a coyote a president becomes accustomed to killing even sheep or something like that. Think you can do is to trap that particular animal and I understand it is comparatively easy thing to do. Instead of throwing out poison due to destroy all the coyotes then what happens is that the rodents come along you get too many rounds and they have to put on more poison over the land to kill loons. He would allow the natural predators that are doing the job they're intended to do.
Leave them to do it. Why it would be much simpler. And them. More desirable. Mary Hazel Harris points to the trapper extension services used by Kansas and Missouri to states who see poison bait and poison guns as neither selective nor necessary. They have this tractor extension trap a system already three systems and they do not use any poisons. Over the land it all works very well and cost very little. The figures are. Amazingly low. Of taxpayers money. And yet it works. The Defenders of Wildlife report that the total cost for predator control in both states Kansas and Missouri is less than $11000 per year in 1969 the federal government spent seven million dollars doing the same thing and Kansas and Missouri have used this alternate program for more
than 20 years. Obviously Mr. Harris and others would like to see some federal legislation in this direction. Well the overall picture is. An. And aiming to make universal this Missouri system limiting poison from the soil. And trying to trying to be really selective by trapping only. In areas and places where they are losing. Animals of some kind. And Harry Crandall would like to see the whole federal effort in predator control discarded as an antique. Perhaps there was a need in the early days of the country for the federal government because the people want to be able to there are no local you know rebel governments. And this is just perhaps necessary for the government to to render assistance along these lines. But in today's societies with its complex governmental systems and all kinds of services being performed by local
government by the state government and also by the federal government. He did it seems to me. And then with the financing of the program by the local state governments largely it seems to me that it's an arcade outmoded institution. And needs a real hard look ahead. But Crandall doesn't see the impetus for change coming from the government itself. If change comes it must come from the people themselves disgusted and outraged over the money and manpower expended in killing year after year. Thousands upon thousands of animals placed on a list and called nuisances but will a change in policy come in time. Well I'm an eternal optimist. I'm firmly convinced in my mind that the intelligent American people. To put a stop to this kind of thing if they really want to. I said I sometimes feel that people will give lip service to
the causes and don't really want to go right down to working for they don't really want to I think see evidence of this in a number of areas but I think when people do feel strongly about something and band together they can stop it. I think I feel that there's a future like that it's fair and I think there's a future for great art. I hope there's not a future for poisoning because I don't think it is in place of our time. I do think there's a future for her. Are wild creatures because we are becoming more aware of their environment and we are becoming more aware of our relationships Tewari our ecology. And when people recognize that either they're all other animals on the face of this earth have just as much right to live here as we do and perhaps adopt more of an
A Federal Case II
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Predator Control
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National Educational Radio Network
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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"A Federal Case II" is a weekly program produced by the National Educational Radio Network which examines current political topics in the United States and Washington, D.C. Each episode features interviews with experts, members of the public, and lawmakers concerning a specific issue of government.
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Producing Organization: National Educational Radio Network
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Chicago: “A Federal Case II; 10; Predator Control,” 1970-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 20, 2022,
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