Legislation introduced to ban toxic predator control poisons

  • By Shelbie Harris
  • Mar 31, 2017 

The exposure of toxic, cyanide poisoning to Canyon Mansfield, a 14-year-old Pocatello boy who triggered an M-44 predator control device, and subsequent petitions calling for a permanent ban has recaptured the attention of U.S. lawmakers.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, has been trying to ban the indiscriminate use of lethal devices like Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide containing M-44 devices for decades. He recently introduced H.R. 1817, the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017, which seeks to permanently ban the two deadly poisons for predator control throughout the United States.

“Look, it’s indiscriminate, and there have been numerous instances of domestic dogs being killed, and I’ve said for a number of years that it’s only a matter of time until a kid is killed,” DeFazio said. “And this recent incident in Idaho where the child watched the dog die a horrible death and he was slightly exposed is a sterling example.”

These two poisons are currently used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services predator control program, which according to its own report, killed more than 1.6 million native U.S. animals in 2016.

The device that detonated in Mansfield’s face, sent him to the hospital and, ultimately, killed his dog on March 16 was an M-44. Often known as a “cyanide bomb,” it’s a device used by the USDA to prevent predators such as coyotes from harming livestock on farm and ranch lands. When triggered, the M-44 spews a potentially lethal dose of sodium cyanide powder into whoever or whatever tugs on it.

Compound 1080 is a tasteless, odorless and colorless poison with no antidote. Although the EPA banned Compound 1080 in 1972, after intense lobbying from the livestock industry, it was re-approved for use in the “Livestock Protection Collar” (collars containing the poison that are placed around the necks of sheep and burst when punctured by a predator, barbed wire, or other sharp object) in 1985. Each of these collars contains enough poison to kill six adult humans.

“Even if a sheep is predated on with a 1080 collar, subsequently any carrion-eater that feeds on that is likely to die, that means bald eagles, golden eagles or vultures,” DeFazio said. “This kind of indiscriminate killing just has no place in Wildlife Services or controlling predators that have killed livestock.”

He continued, “They kill domestic animals who are totally innocent and they kill many predators who are innocent of depredation. It’s something that should not be out there for public land, and I don’t think they should be on private land either. If private land owners want to put them out by themselves, not subsidized by the taxpayers, OK, but these devices just need to go.”

The national wildlife advocacy group Predator Defense, as well as the Humane Society, supports the new bill.

“The fact that Wildlife Services continues to state that incidents of M-44s killing domestic dogs and exposing people to poison are ‘rare’ is an outrage,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “Those of us involved with this issue know these incidents are common-place and that countless more will never be known because of Wildlife Services’ repeated cover-ups. We applaud this legislation and thank Congressman DeFazio for his unfailing support on this issue.”

The USDA’s Wildlife Services Agency regularly uses both sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 their predator control programs, which are subsidized by taxpayers. States contract with federal predator control programs to keep so-called “predator” populations down to help ranchers protect their livestock.

“It’s high time for our own federal government to stop using sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 on our public lands,” said Wayne Pacelle, executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “These two poisons are highly lethal but completely indiscriminate. They endanger children, beloved family pets, grizzly bears, wolves and bald eagles alike. And the deaths they cause are violent and inhumane.”

The use of these poisons has led to the deaths of endangered animals and domesticated dogs and has injured multiple people in the past.

Since triggering the M-44 device, Mansfield has experienced headaches, nausea and numbness, the family said Tuesday.

Several formal petitions also surfaced Tuesday, calling for the immediate termination and removal of all devices installed in Idaho by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency. Mark Mansfield, the boy’s father and a local physician, filed one of the petitions directly to the White House.

Backed by a coalition of conservation and wildlife organizations, the Western Watersheds Project also spearheaded a direct formal petition addressed to Jason Suckow, western region director for USDA-Wildlife Services.

An additional petition filed on the website Care2 reached more than 48,000 signatures Friday evening.

“This is something that should end,” DeFazio said. “There is no central control (for Wildlife Services). Each of the state agencies are basically an entity under themselves. Some of them are totally out of control, entering into agreements that they shouldn’t and not following the rules. It’s an agency that is out of control and very dispersed.”

Mark said that although he is new to the political process of implementing new legislation, he is hopeful for change and urges people who come across the petitions to not only sign it, but also share the information on social media as much as possible.

“I’m excited, because the bill is clean, short and precise,” Mansfield said. “There is nothing extra tied to the legislation and in my mind no reasonable human being would be against it.”

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