The government killed more than 2.7 million animals considered public nuisances last year, including wild turkeys and chickens, black bears, coyotes and wolves.
Its primary targets, however, were starlings, troublemaking birds that destroy crops and contaminate livestock feed. The department said the animals chiefly were killed because they threatened livestock, crops or people in airplanes. The number of animals killed, an increase of 1 million over 2003, drew criticism from environmental groups. Wildlife Services, an Agriculture Department program, kills black bears that like to eat campers' food in public parks or birds that congregate near airports and could get sucked into aircraft engines. He described how the department helps landowners, airports and other government agencies cut tall grasses, build fences, drain standing water and take other measures to dampen creatures' enthusiasm for places where they're not wanted, AP reports.