Animal Services – The County Scene by Susan Morgan

Wildlife Services is a program within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) division of the US Department of Agriculture. Wildlife Services has a presence in Douglas County, and I had an opportunity last week to meet with Mike Burrell, who oversees the program here.

The program that Mr. Burrell administers has two main goals. One is to deal with damage caused by wildlife that impacts agricultural and forestry producers. For example, APHIS will work with sheep ranchers to control the coyote population that preys on flocks, or deal with cougars and bears that prey on livestock.

The second goal is to protect human health and safety. This is a rapidly growing part of Wildlife Services’ work. As we are all becoming aware of their services, more folks are calling on Wildlife Services to assist them with predators, like cougars and bears, that show up around homes and schools; wild animals that are behaving strangely and may present a disease threat to other animals or people; and animals that are a threat to public safety like beavers that dam up drainages and cause roads to flood and wash out.

With the increase in bear and cougar populations that resulted from hound hunting being outlawed, many more of us are requesting Wildlife Services involvement. Mike has noted that his agency often responds to sightings and uses the opportunity to educate the public in bear and cougar behavior and how to minimize exposure to these predators.

Wildlife Services strives to keep a balance in wildlife populations, so that neither prey nor predators get the upper hand. Some wildlife species are prolific breeders, some animals become diseased, some are a threat to farmers and ranchers, and some are public safety hazards. In 2014, among the predators that Animal Services dealt with were 23 black bears, 32 beavers, 24 bobcats and cougars, 276 (wow!) coyotes; and 14 foxes.

Wildlife Services can be contacted in Roseburg at 541-679-1231. The USDA website for WS is at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/

Funding from state and federal tax dollars has been diminishing over the past years. To maintain these important services, Douglas County contributes just over $130,000 of reserve funds to partly cover the cost of on-the-ground activities. Discussion is currently underway in Salem around developing an alternate funding source to sustain predator control that will, if successful, remove that burden from the reserves. I will keep you posted.

Susan always welcomes your questions or comments. Please contact her by email at morgan@co.douglas.or.us; by mail at Douglas County Courthouse, Room 217, 1036 SE Douglas, Roseburg, 97470; or by phone at 440-4201.

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