Environmentalists Call for end to Aerial Gunning Program

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Denver (AP) Nearly 30 conservation groups want the federal government to stop its aerial gunning program targeting coyotes and other animals that prey on livestock.

Federal officials are investigating the cause of a June 1st crash in South-Central Utah of a single-engine plane carrying two federal Wildlife Services employees who were hunting down coyotes.

Conservation groups have sent a petition to wildlife services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking that aerial gunning be stopped. They say it's dangerous and ineffective.

Wildlife Services Spokeswoman Carol Bannerman says that aerial predator control has been halted in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Washington and Utah as the agency assesses the use of fixed-wing aircraft. She said aerial gunning was due to stop this week in those states anyway because the livestock birthing seasons are finished.

Three accidents that killed four people in the late 1990s prompted an investigation by USDA employees and outside specialists. Bannerman says a report was issued in 1998 and improvements were made, including more rigorous training for pilots and shooters and more stringent aircraft maintenance standards.

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