Shortfalls in the federal budget will likely have an impact on animal damage control programs throughout the United States. According to an article in Minnesota’s Duluth News Tribune, the USDA Wildlife Services program that hired government trappers to capture and remove problem wolves will go away due to budget cuts.

The wolves were targeted near where livestock and pets had been killed. And almost everyone who knew about the program — farmers, conservation leaders, wolf lovers, state natural resource officials, Republican and Democratic politicians — liked it.

But with a moratorium on earmarks in Washington, there’s no money assigned to the program after fiscal 2011 ends Friday, when wolf trappers will cease operations. In past years, Minnesota and Wisconsin Congress members routinely used earmarks to preserve the program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division.

The animal damage control program wasn’t just popular in Minnesota. Throughout the U.S., the program aided farmers, ranchers and landowners who had problems with animals ranging from coyotes and wolves to beavers and geese.

“We’re losing one of the best wolf conservation tools we’ve had. It was so effective at solving the problem without randomly harming wolves,” said Nancy Gibson, a board member of the Minnesota-based International Wolf Center. “And there was such an educational element. The trappers had so much expertise, I think they really helped the farmers avoid problems.”

Unless the program is funded, the responsibility will rely on states, local communities and private landowners to deal with the problem animals. On the bright side, the absence of the government programs may provide an opportunity for skilled trappers to market their services and take care of animal damage control problems on a local level.

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