NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Grant County Commissioners voted not to renew a contract with the federal government over the protection of residents, property, and livestock. USDA Wildlife Services would help with the removal of wildlife, but it’s how they did it that has come into question.
Grant County residents are no strangers to run-in’s with wildlife coming on their property or into town—but the big issue the commission is looking at is whether the wildlife services are prioritizing non-lethal methods when capturing them.
The Grant County Commission voted not to renew a contract with the USDA Wildlife Services ‘APHIS’ Program (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) which manages and resolves human-wildlife conflicts — like when bears come to town.
The county is worried about how the agency is doing it: “None of the reports that we have gotten this year outline or detail the use of lethal versus nonlethal in my reading of them,” says Alicia Edwards, Grant County Commissioner, “I actually think that this is a failure of appropriate reporting on behalf of wildlife services and I’m disinclined to give them another chance actually on this one.”
Additionally, the county wanted to know whether those non-lethal methods were being prioritized.
“It is still inadequate when you look through all the reports we’ve received, there are some references to non-lethal but there’s no description. And that hardly counts as prioritizing non-lethal in my book. I think they have paid lip service to the agreement we reached with them but they haven’t taken it to heart,” says Harry Browne, Grant County Commissioner.
County Commission Chair Chris Ponce—who was not at that meeting—agrees with the decision but worries about what might happen to the predators and nuisance animals in the absence of the USDA’s services.
“What happens is you lose statistics; you lose sight of what’s happening out there. Sometimes it leaves you not being able to fix or bring up concerns,” Ponce says.
Rudy Fajardo, the district supervisor of the project with the USDA, tells KRQE News 13 he couldn’t discuss the specifics of the decision but says they have followed all policies in the agreement with the county and that non-lethal methods are the primary method they utilize.
KRQE News 13 requested copies of the Wildlife Services reports from the county. They detail conflicts involving mountain lions, coyotes, black bears, northern flicker, feral pigeons, squirrels, woodpeckers, gophers, bobcats, and gray foxes over the span of several months.
KRQE News 13 also reached out to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish for comment on how this will affect their jurisdiction in the area but have not yet heard back.
Grant County would have paid up to $26,500 dollars a year for the program.