Memo reportedly instructed wardens to kill orphaned wildlife

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July 1, 2002

Pennsylvania Game Commission under fire for memo on killing orphaned wildlife

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) -- The Pennsylvania Game Commission is drawing criticism over an internal memo reportedly advising wardens to kill orphaned wildlife they come across.

The memo said wildlife conservation officers should not send orphaned wildlife to rehabilitators, who care for animals and release them to the wild, unless authorized to do so.

"In cases where the mother of the animal is known to be dead, or if the animal has been raised in captivity for an extended period of time, acquire the animal and dispose of it discreetly and humanely," the memo by commission executive director Vernon Ross said, according to the Scranton Times.

"No one enjoys the thought of putting down healthy animals, especially young ones," Ross told wildlife conservation officers. "But our responsibility is to manage for the population's overall health and well being, rather than to manage for the individual's, except when dealing with threatened or endangered species."

Wildlife rehabilitators said they were concerned by the policy.

"It doesn't make sense to us to manage all wildlife issues by simply giving no animals a chance to survive when they have come in contact with society," David Young of the Animal Rescue League told the Pittsburgh TV station which first reported on the story. "That's what we are here for. We would like to give some of them a chance."

"They will all be shot," said Roz Wilson of the league's Wildlife Centre. "Our hands are tied. We can't do the type of rehab we would like to do because of what the Game Commission has currently done."

Ed Gross, director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Luzerne County, said he also does not agree with killing orphaned wildlife.

"The rehabilitators have a passion for healing and helping wildlife," he said. "If they can help, I'm all for that."

Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser said the memo was taken out of context. He told the station that no orphaned animal would be killed if it is left alone, only those disturbed in their natural settings by humans.

"Only as a last course of action would we consider putting wildlife down," he said. "As professional wildlife managers, it's not a task our people relish."
 

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