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Fire USDA Wildlife Services Employee for Animal Cruelty, Demand Wildlife Advocates

Public outraged over photographs showing hunting dogs mauling leghold-trapped coyotes, raccoons, and other wild animals

Graphic images of wild animals trapped and tortured by a federal government employee went viral in late October, raising public outrage. The photographs – showing hunting dogs mauling leghold-trapped coyotes, raccoons, and other wild animals were posted on the personal Facebook and Twitter pages of Jamie P. Olson, an employee of the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and a coyote hunting tournament coordinator.

dogs shredding a trapped coyote

Olson’s job is to trap, poison, and shoot wildlife, largely at the behest of ranchers as part of the agency’s predator control program. However, intentional animal torture is not part of the job description, say wildlife advocates who are calling for an immediate termination of Olson’s service and an investigation into other reports of intentional cruelty by USDA employees.

In their joint letter to USDA Wildlife Services, the Animal Welfare Institute and Project Coyote (PC) wrote:

“On Tuesday, October 30, 2012, AWI and PC received the attached photographs, which were published on Mr. Olson’s Facebook,, and Twitter pages as well as a Strongbow Airedales website. The photographs, which are described as ‘work’ photographs on one or more of these pages, depict trapped raccoons, bobcats, and coyotes in steel-jaw leghold traps. We were further alarmed that instead of immediately killing the trapped animals, this WS employee inflicted even greater fear and pain on already-suffering animals caught in these brutal traps by allowing dogs to torment or attack the trapped animals as is depicted in several of the photographs. This is unacceptable behavior for any trapper, but such wanton cruelty and callous disregard for the welfare of these animals is particularly egregious when done by a government employee and must not be tolerated.”

Wildlife advocates shared the photographs with media, which were published by news outlets across the country. Gary Strader, a former Wildlife Services trapper in Nevada, reported in the Sacramento Bee that such abuse is very common. "It always was and always will be controversial. It has never been addressed by the higher-ups. They know it happens on a regular basis," Strader wrote.

After the photos went viral, Olsen told the Missoula Independent that he had made a “big-ass mistake” by making the photos, which were a few years old, publicly accessible. "Shit’s hitting the fan and I'm having to explain things," he said. Olsen has since deactivated his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

This culture of cruelty and indiscriminate killing within Wildlife Services was highlighted in a four-part investigative story about the agency in The Sacramento Bee earlier this year. Among other things, the Bee found:

• With steel traps, wire snares and poison, agency employees have accidentally killed more than 50,000 animals since 2000 that were not problems, including federally protected golden and bald eagles; more than 1,100 dogs, including family pets;and several species considered rare or imperiled bywildlife biologists.

• Since 1987, at least 18 employees and several members of the public have been exposed to cyanide when they triggered spring-loaded cartridges laced with poison meant to kill coyotes. They survived – but 10 people have died and many others have been injured in crashes during agency aerial gunning operations since 1979.

The story led to a Congressional request for a federal investigation and oversight hearings into Wildlife Services.*

In their letter to Representatives Darrell Issa and Elijah Cummings of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, several members of Congress wrote:

These photographs were posted on the personal Facebook and Twitter pages of Jamie P. Olson, an employee of the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services
coyote and dog

“We write today to request that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform perform a thorough investigation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) Wildlife Services program. We are concerned that Wildlife Services is failing to efficiently or effectively use the resources provided to it by American taxpayers and that it is not adequately transparent or accountable to the public.

Information recently brought to light in The Sacramento Bee by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom Knudson’s year-long investigation documents many serious problems that reinforce our existing concerns about Wildlife Service’s operations, especially its lethal predator control activities. As you can see from the enclosed copy, the series highlights a number of glaring problems, noting that: employees routinely hide non-target animals killed, encouraged by supervisors and the agency’s culture; some of Wildlife Services' lethal control practices are indiscriminate; and at times lethal control is motivated by the need to keep "hunters busy during the slow winter months" rather than to protect livestock. In addition, Knudson points out that while even the military allows the media into the field, Wildlife Services does not. The Sacramento Bee’s request to observe Wildlife Services' hunters and trappers in action was turned down by the director of Wildlife Services in Nevada.

We ask you to conduct a full and thorough investigation of Wildlife Services. Your Committee has stated its commitment to transparency and government responsibility. It is essential that you investigate USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services on their lack of transparency and their waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

In addition to his job with Wildlife Services, Olson is also the director of and the Coyote Hunter Tournament Series. The tournaments award prizes (most often guns) to the contestant who kills the most and largest coyotes in a given time period.

Olson had planned to host the Montana Coyote Classic Nov. 8-10 in Billings – the first Coyote Hunter Tournament Series event in Montana – but canceled it, claiming a lack of registrants. He is a lead organizer for another coyote killing contest hunt scheduled for January 2013 in Dickson, North Dakota.

Both Project Coyote and Animal Welfare Institute have started an online petition targeting Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack demanding Olsen be fired and an investigation into the circumstances under which the photographs were taken as well as into other reports of animal cruelty by USDA employees.

* Representatives Issa and Cummings have yet to respond to the request and of this writing, neither Project Coyote nor AWI had received a response from Wildlife Services to their letter calling for Olson’s termination though as reported in the Missoula Independent (11.5.12) “Krischke, the director of Wyoming Wildlife Services, said on Nov. 5 that Olson is under investigation. He declined to comment further.”

Camilla Fox
Camilla Fox is Executive Director of Project Coyote, an Earth Island Project, and a Wildlife Consultant for the Animal Welfare Institute. She is co-author of Coyotes in Our Midst and co-editor and lead author of Cull of the Wild ~ A Contemporary Analysis of Trapping in the United States.

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USDA-Cruel & Corrupt to Wildlife & Women employees.,      &

By shari welsh on Thu, February 11, 2016 at 8:45 am

I am a hunter and seeing this really makes me sick.
Any person caught doing this should be sent to jail for a minimum of 5 years.

By Mike on Tue, February 10, 2015 at 11:02 am

Unbelievable that someone could operate without a shred of human decency and empathy.
He would be on his feet if the positions were reversed and those were his dogs being eviscerated while bound.

What he fails to recognize is that his dogs share most of their DNA with that creature.

This man needs to be removed from his position entirely, and the practice must end.

This is not a blood sport, and it is not the humane   way to kill an animal.

By Alyssa L Mohino on Tue, April 23, 2013 at 9:28 am

Honestly, he needs a promotion.  Coyotes are a problem, least of which is rabies.  They’re not cute ... they’re not cuddly ... they’re a nuisance animal and a pest.

By A Concerned Citizen on Thu, March 07, 2013 at 5:41 am

Jamie Oson is one of the worst criminals possible. He is a threat to society. Wyoming wildlife “services” and others like should be declared for what they are.. domestic terrorist organizations

By Mark on Sun, December 30, 2012 at 11:36 am

Absolutely egregious, horrible and over the top. Don’t just fire the perpetrator - FIRE the entire agency, ‘Wildlife Services’, and end this taxpayer boondoggle.

By Hildegard Adams on Fri, December 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Hi AC,

I just wanted to clarify something about why they call it “Wildlife Services”. The idea has never been to provide services to wildlife—the name is a euphemism. The agency’s entire purpose is to provide services that involve eradicating wildlife, often at the behest of ranchers, landowners, and anyone else who wants to see problem animals “removed”. Actually, back when the agency was called Animal Damage Control, or ADC, it was derisively nicknamed “Aid to Dependent Cowboys.” It was first set up during World War I, when over $100,000 were allocated to exterminate wolves from Western ranchlands in order to increase beef production for the war. Cleveland Amory wrote extensively of the trail of destruction Wildlife Services left in his 1974 book “Man Kind”—if you can get a copy at your local library, I highly recommend it!

Anyway, I hope that’s cleared a few things up. I wish EIJ would tell us whom we could write to and what we can do to help stop funding to Wildlife Services and expose what they do. I read the newspaper articles they linked to here, and unlike the military, Wildlife Services won’t even allow reporters into the field! When enough people are this passionate about stopping this cruelty, there must be something that can be done.

By GDiFonzo on Sat, November 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I am so disgusted and also terribly saddened to read this news.  It makes me sick to my stomach to think that people working in the name of wildlife are actually causing these animals such harm. A very thorough investigation needs to follow this story, not just of Olson but clearly of all USDA wildlife services employees. This cannot continue! Couldn’t agree more with above comments…the people doing this should be sentenced to death. It is astonishing that an individual can watch these animals suffer like this and then post photos of the act online like some kid of trophy. USDA, you disgust me right now. We need to be doing more to help these animals, they can feel pain just like we can.

By A.C. on Fri, November 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Whoever is doing these atrocious acts, should themselves be put in those traps for a few days and see if they can endure the pain and suffering these wild animals are going through.  Such SICK people!  It’s hard to believe this is happening and harder to believe it’s allowed.  Jail time wouldn’t hurt either (after they were let out of the traps).

By C. Jennings on Fri, November 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Thank you for the links to the Sacramento Bee’s excellent investigation into Wildlife Services. Readers should also be aware of the use of equally horrifying methods that Wildlife Services uses to kill coyotes, including poisons such as sodium cyanide, Compound 1080, and ketamine/xylazene solution, which causes muscle tightening and violent seizures before death. Please keep us posted as to what we can do about the problem of Wildlife Services.

By GDiFonzo on Wed, November 14, 2012 at 9:33 pm

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