County Kills Coyote Contract

Will enter into new deal with City of Austin in January

Travis County will soon enter into a new era of coyote management. Commissioners decided on Tuesday, Dec. 5, to stop contracting with Texas Wildlife Services, opting instead to use the city of Austin's Animal Services Office to respond to wildlife issues countywide.

The majority vote by commissioners Brigid Shea, Jeff Travillion, and Margaret Gómez is a departure for the county, which for the last 12 years contracted with TWS, an office of the federal government's controversial Wildlife Services program that kills millions of animals every year. It's believed to mark the first time a Texas county has stopped using Wildlife Services due to non-budgetary concerns. Travillion explained that TWS hadn't provided adequate information on its activities and effectiveness, while Shea said she had received "increasingly disturbing reports" about the agency's practices.

At $41,500, the new city agreement will cost $3,500 less than the TWS contract. Early next year Austin's Animal Services will hire a full-time employee for the county, who will respond using guidelines that focus on education and hazing, and only allow the killing of animals deemed a threat to humans.

TWS, whose employee did not work exclusively within the county, likewise provided education, and also killed beavers, ducks, foxes, and feral pigs, as well as coyotes seen as threatening to humans, pets, and livestock. Using looser behavior metrics than the city, TWS trapped, snared, poisoned, and shot an average of 57 coyotes in Travis County each year.

County staff, Judge Sarah Eckhardt, and Commissioner Gerald Daugherty supported contracting with both TWS and the city for a total of $87,000. Eckhardt said she was worried that residents in outlying parts of the county would start shooting wildlife themselves, and also said she isn't satisfied with the city's countywide response to dangerous dogs, a comment that blindsided Animal Services and the Animal Advisory Commis­sion, which said it has never previously heard such complaints.

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Texas Wildlife Services, Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County, coyotes

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