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Controversial wildlife control contract approved by Doa Ana County Commissioners

Following a tense hour-and-a-half of public debate, Doña Ana County Commissioners voted Tuesday to amend a county contract with a controversial wildlife control program.

“I’ll tell you, a good skunk is a dead skunk,” said Eddie Binns, a county resident. “It is necessary that you control wildlife so it is not excessive.”

“Skunks do not hurt anyone and are on this earth for a purpose,” said Olivia Solomon. “So why kill them?”

Wildlife Services is a federal agency under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture that traps and exterminates wildlife animals throughout the country described as “dangerous” (like coyotes and rattlesnakes) or a “nuisance” (such as skunks).

Doña Ana County’s contract with the United States Department of Agriculture is $39,000 (on page 256 of this document) for fiscal year 2020.

Dozens of county residents, including farmers and animal advocates, spoke strongly in support or against the resolution.

“I think what this really comes down to is whether you think an animal causing a ‘nuisance’ is a good enough reason to exterminate it,” said Amanda Munro, who works with the Southwest Environmental Center.

“(If) a mountain lion or a bobcat or a coyote climbs over a wall and takes your Chihuahua… it becomes your problem,” said Sandra Graves, whose husband works in Wildlife Services. “You open your eyes to the nuisance animals.”

Following the public debate, District 5 Commissioner Manuel Sanchez proposed an amendment for the agency’s contract to use two non-lethal methods before they kill an animal with a lethal method. That amendment passed 3 to 2.

Commissioners then passed the amended contract 4 to 1, with District 3 Commissioner Shannon Reynolds voting against the contract.

“I still don’t believe we have enough evidence from either side to specifically determine one position is better than the other,” Reynolds said. “They both have their merits.”

Christopher Smith criticized the agency for the use of M-44 Sodium Cyanide Device, which was banned in Oregon.

“(Should) anyone be putting poison bombs on the landscape?” Smith asked.

“We’re talking about taking away tools,” Graves told commissioners. “A mechanic needs tools for his job, a chef needs tools for his job, a mother needs certain tools for her job. Wildlife Services needs certain tools to do their job.”

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