A little-known federal agency is leaving a trail of death in San Diego County, exacting a body count large enough to stock the San Diego Zoo five times over.
In the last seven years, trappers working for an obscure arm of the U.S. Agriculture Department called Wildlife Services have killed 18,700 animals here, including some of the county’s most iconic creatures: Bobcats, foxes, mountain lions, coyotes, songbirds and ducks.
Hundreds of animals killed here were common urban pests: feral pigeons, skunks, raccoons, opossums, rats. Some, including dozens of great blue herons, hawks and long-tailed weasels, posed threats to endangered species. But federal agents also shot, poisoned and snared thousands of other animals, some whose only mistake appears to have been eating livestock left inadequately protected.