USDA must rethink cyanide bombs that injured boy, killed pets, lawmaker says

This photo shows the M-44 that killed the Mansfield family's 3-year-old dog in Pocatello, Idaho.

This photo shows the M-44 that killed the Mansfield family’s 3-year-old dog in Pocatello, Idaho.  (The Bannock County Sheriff’s Office)

As was their routine, 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield and his dog raced through the backyard of his Idaho home and up the top of a nearby hill to play. Minutes later, Canyon was knocked to the ground after a cyanide bomb set by the U.S. government detonated some 350 yards from the family’s doorstep.

Canyon watched as his 3-year-old golden Labrador, Casey, lay dying, suffocating from orange-colored cyanide sprayed by an M-44 device no one had told Canyon’s family about.

“We are devastated,” the boy’s mother, Theresa Mansfield, of Pocatello, Idaho, told Fox News on Tuesday. “My dog died in less than 2 minutes. My son was rushed to the hospital covered in cyanide.”

“We had no idea they were there,” Mansfield said of the device, which she described as resembling a sprinkler head.

The dog’s death on Thursday follows a string of other recent incidents in which family pets were accidentally killed by M-44s, a controversial device used by Wildlife Services, a little-known branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture tasked with destroying animals seen as threats to people, agriculture and the environment.

Critics, including Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., say the government’s taxpayer-funded Predator Control program and its killing methods are random — and at times, illegal.

“The recent death of dogs in Idaho and Wyoming are the latest unnecessary tragedies of USDA’s Wildlife Services use of M-44 cyanide traps,” DeFazio told Fox News. “These deadly traps have killed scores of domestic animals, and sooner or later, they will kill a human.”

“It’s time to stop subsidizing ranchers’ livestock protection efforts with taxpayer dollars and end the unchecked authority of Wildlife Services once and for all,” he said.

DeFazio’s office said the lawmaker plans to reintroduce a House bill this week that, if passed into law, would ban the use of the devices for predator control.

“These deadly traps have killed scores of domestic animals, and sooner or later, they will kill a human.”

– Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

The Bannock County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Mansfield’s home on Thursday with a bomb squad to investigate the incident. The family was immediately sent to a local emergency room to be screened for cyanide exposure.

The government claims the devices are not capable of killing a child. But Idaho authorities do not agree in the case of Canyon Mansfield, who weighs only 20 pounds more than his 80-pound dog.

“He’s very lucky to be alive,” Capt. Dan Argyle of the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office said of Canyon, whose blood is still being checked for levels of cyanide.

“We’re still trying to figure out how he wasn’t affected,” Argyle told Fox News. “We think a strong wind blew it [the cyanide] downhill when the device went off — right in the dog’s direction.”

Argyle said Wildlife Services is required by law to post warning signs around the devices but said, “We did not observe any signs at the location.” Upon further inspection, authorities found a second device within yards of the Mansfield home. Both devices were planted in the ground on Feb. 25 without the family’s knowledge or consent.

Days earlier, a family walking in an area 52 miles northwest of Casper, Wyo., lost two dogs from an M-44 that detonated near a hiking trail they have walked for 20 years.

Amy Helfrieck said she heard her husband yelling on March 12 as she was antler hunting with her 8-year-old daughter, sister and brother-in-law in a prairie filled with cedar trees and rock outcroppings.

When she turned her head, Helfrieck saw her husband carrying the couple’s dog, Abby, a 15-year-old Drahthaar — a breed similar to a German wire-haired dog — down a hill.

Helfrieck, a nurse, tried to pry open the dog’s mouth.

“She was having a lot of difficulty breathing and I knew at that time she was dying,” she said.

“What I didn’t realize was that we were exposing ourselves to a very deady poison,” Helfrieck said.

Her sister’s 7-year-old Weimaraner, Molly, also was killed by the sodium cyanide trap.

In this case, Helfrieck said there were markers at the site but they were placed only 5 feet from the actual trap.

The M-44s, also known as “coyote-getters,” are designed to lure animals with a smelly bait. When an animal tugs on the device, a spring-loaded metal cylinder fires sodium cyanide powder into its mouth.

Over the years, thousands of non-target animals — wild and domestic — have been mistakenly killed by the lethal devices.

On Saturday, The Oregonian reported that a gray wolf was accidentally killed by an M-44 on private land in Oregon’s Wallowa County. The wolf death was the first documented “incidental take” of its kind in the state involving a protected animal and an M-44, fish and wildlife officials told the newspaper.

Wildlife Services said it first learned of the Wyoming incident on Monday and denied any involvement in the deaths.

Lyndsay Cole, a spokeswoman for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told Fox News the agency does not conduct predator control using those devices in Natrona County, where the incident occurred.

Cole, however, did confirm the “unintentional lethal take” of the Mansfield family dog in Idaho.

“As a program made up of individual employees, many of whom are pet owners, Wildlife Services understands the close bonds between people and their pets and sincerely regrets such losses,” she said, noting that the agency was “very concerned” about any human exposure to the sodium cyanide.

“Wildlife Services has removed M-44s from that area, and is completing a thorough review of the circumstances of this incident,” she said.

Cole called the accidental death of family pets from M-44s a “rare occurrence,” and said Wildlife Services posts signs and issues other warnings to alert pet owners when traps are placed near their homes. She also said these devices “are only set at the request of and with permission from property owners or managers.”

The Mansfields and other familes, however, said they had no knowledge the devices were anywhere near their homes and were not familiar with how they work.

Brooks Fahy, executive director of the national wildlife advocacy organization Predator Defense, has been working for decades to ban M-44s, calling them “nothing more than land mines waiting to go off, no matter if their victim is a child, a dog or a wolf.”

“Much of the public remains totally in the dark about the fact that these deadly devices are placed on private and public lands nationwide,” Fahy told Fox News. “M-44s are totally indiscriminate. Worse yet, they are unnecessary, as the majority of the animals killed have never preyed on livestock.”

Wildlife Services says it’s working to avoid future wolf harm

Activists are harshly critical of the M-44 cyanide devices, which they say are extremely dangerous and kill indiscriminately.
by Eric MortensonCapital Press

Published on March 15, 2017 11:07AM

The state director for USDA Wildlife Services in Oregon said the agency has removed M-44 cyanide poison traps from “areas of immediate concern” following the unintended poisoning of a wolf in Wallowa County in February.

Director Dave Williams said Wildlife Services has reviewed what happened and shared that information with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages wolves in the state. The two agencies are in ongoing discussions about how to prevent another wolf death, Williams said.

“We don’t feel good about that,” he said.

Williams said Wildlife Services has removed M-44s from areas identified by ODFW as places wolves are present. ODFW officials confirmed that took place.

“We appreciate that Wildlife Services has voluntarily removed M-44s,” ODFW Wildlife Division Administrator Doug Cottam said in a prepared statement.

“We also recognize we want to increase our communication between our agencies,” he said. “We want to develop a more effective system to ensure that Wildlife Services’ staff working in areas with wolves know what ODFW knows about wolf activity.”

OR-48, a 100-pound male from the Shamrock Pack, died Feb. 26 after it bit an M-44 device, which fires cyanide powder into a predator’s mouth when it tugs on a baited or scented capsule holder. Wildlife Services set the trap on private land in an attempt to kill coyotes.

The federal agency kills predators or other wildlife that damage or pose a threat to property, livestock or humans. The agency describes M-44s as an “effective and environmentally sound wildlife damage management tool,” but the wildlife activist group Predator Defense calls them notoriously dangerous.

The devices are designed to kill canids such as coyotes and foxes. The cyanide powder reacts with saliva in an animal’s mouth, forming a poisonous gas that kills the animal within one to five minutes. Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, said M-44s indiscriminately kill dogs attracted by the scent and are a hazard to children or others who might come across them in rural areas.

The Wallowa County incident is complicated by Oregon’s management and protection of gray wolves over the past decade as they entered the state from Idaho, formed packs, quickly grew in population and spread geographically.

Previously, Wildlife Services did not use M-44s in what the state designated as Areas of Known Wolf Activity. After wolves were taken off the state endangered species list in 2015, it was ODFW’s understanding that Wildlife Services would continue to avoid using M-44s in such areas.

“We discussed our concerns specifically regarding M-44s,” ODFW spokesman Rick Hargrave said last week. “We didn’t want those devices in those areas.

“We believed it was clear what our concerns were,” Hargrave said.

Williams, the Wildlife Services state director, said he wants to focus on preventing another wolf death rather than “who messed up here.”

He said the Wallowa County case was the first time the agency has killed a wolf in Oregon. Overall, the agency has recorded “lethal take” of “non-targeted” animals — ones it didn’t intend to kill — in 1.3 percent of cases, he said. He said the agency twice unintentionally caught Oregon wolves in foothold traps, which nonetheless allowed ODFW to put tracking collars on them before releasing them unharmed.

“Some of our tools are more forgiving than others,” Williams said.

He said Wildlife Services puts on workshops to help ranchers protect livestock with non-lethal methods. In one case two summers ago, agency personnel spent 260 hours over four weeks helping protect a sheep flock from Umatilla Pack wolves, he said. The work allowed ODFW to avoid having to kill wolves due to depredations, he said.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association views the Wallowa County incident as a matter of agency to agency interaction and is “staying on the sidelines” in the investigation, said Todd Nash, a Wallowa County rancher who is the group’s wolf policy chair. Livestock producers, of course, have a keen interest in the state’s wolf management policies and outcomes.

“It’s never a good time politically to have a dead wolf,” Nash said.

Labrador killed by cyanide device in Idaho, boy knocked to the ground

M-44 device
A federal M-44 cyanide device exploded Thursday, March 16, 2017, killing a dog in Pocatello Idaho. (Bannock County Sheriff’s Office)
By Andrew Theen | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on March 18, 2017 at 7:30 AM, updated March 18, 2017 at 8:26 AM

A three-year-old Labrador retriever died and a 14-year boy was knocked to the ground when a cyanide device deployed by the federal government exploded in Pocatello, Idaho.

The Idaho State Journal reported the boy, who had been on a walk with his dog Thursday on a ridge near their home, watched his dog die. According to the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office, the boy was also “covered in an unknown substance” when the device known as an M-44 detonated. He was evaluated at a hospital and released.

“That little boy is lucky,” Sheriff Lorin Nielsen told the Pocatello newspaper. “His guardian angel was protecting him.”

The Idaho incident comes a few weeks after a gray wolf was accidentally killed by an M-44 on private land in Oregon’s Wallowa County. The controversial type of trap is used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services crews around the country primarily to kill coyotes and other predators.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced legislation as recently as 2012 to ban the trap.

DeFazio has said he would reintroduce a similar bill in Congress.

The wolf death was the first documented “incidental take” of its kind in Oregon involving the protected animal and the M-44, fish and wildlife officials said.

Federal Wildlife Services officials said there were 96 M-44 devices dispersed across Oregon as of last week and the agency was looking to remove devices that were near known wolf habitat. Oregon fish and wildlife officials have said the devices were not allowed in areas of known wolf activity.

Feds kill wolf in Wallowa County on private land with cyanide trap

Feds kill wolf in Wallowa County on private land with cyanide trap

A gray wolf was killed on private land in Wallowa County by a controversial cyanide device used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Oregon has long paid Wildlife Services to kill invasive species and specific predators. But Gov. Kate Brown’s’ recommended budget doesn’t include $460,000 typically set aside to pay the federal agency to kill animals in Oregon.

Bannock County officials described the device as “extremely dangerous to animals and humans.”

The department circulated photos of the trap. “If a device such as this is ever located please do not touch or go near the device and contact your local law enforcement agency,” officials said.

Government officials have said the number of deaths of domestic animals and non-target animals each year is low, and officials say they are conducting an “internal review” of the wolf death.

Wildlife Services killed 121 coyotes in Oregon in 2016 with M-44 devices, along with three red foxes, according to the government’s figures. No gray wolf was killed in the U.S. last year with the cyanide capsules, according to the government.

A Eugene nonprofit says the government isn’t being truthful about the number of pets and non-target animals – such as wolves – killed each year.

“Yesterday’s Idaho poisoning of a dog and the near poisoning of a child is yet another example of what we’ve been saying for decades:  M-44s are really nothing more than land mines waiting to go off, no matter if it’s a child, a dog, or a wolf,” Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, said in a statement.

“It’s time to ban these notoriously dangerous devices on all lands across the United States.”

— Andrew Theen

Wyoming Families Grieving Two Dogs Killed by Unmarked M-44 “Cyanide Bomb”

Out for a walk on public land, they lost their beloved dogs from an unmarked wildlife poison ejector while an 8-year-old girl watched

Amy's dogs Abby and VitaAmy’s dog Abby (right) died a
horrific death while her extended
family tried to save her.


WARNING: The story below is tragic and deeply disturing. We share it because we firmly believe wildlife poisons like the sodium cyanide in M-44s must be banned. We have been working since 1990 to do just that, and are optimistic that new legislation we’ve been working on will soon be introduced in Congress.


— On March 11, 2017, a Wyoming nurse named Amy went out for a day trip with her family to enjoy a walk on the Wyoming prairie about 50 miles northwest of Casper. They had been to the particular spot many times before to antler hunt, let their dogs get exercise, climb on the beautiful asymmetric sandstone rock outcroppings, and have lunch together.

Amy’s companions on this beautiful pre-spring morning included her husband, her 8-year old daughter, and their two Drahthaar dogs—Abby and Vita. Amy’s sister and brother-in-law also came along for the adventure and brought their two Weimaraners—Molly and Stella. Molly was a rescue dog from Colorado, the third rescue Amy’s sister had the privilege of adding to their family. She and her husband had not had children, and had dedicated their lives to their dogs.

Their destination was public land. They were aware of private land in the area and very much respected landowners rights, but they had studied the map and were not worried about entering private land because it was further than they planned on going. After leaving the highway, they crossed many cattle guards. Towards the end they drove through a closed gate, which they reclosed to keep any potential livestock contained. They then drove approximately 1/4 of a mile to where they had parked many times before. They paid careful attention for cyanide trap signs because they had their beloved dogs with them, and Amy’s young daughter, Roxy Marie.

They walked for a few hours, looking for antlers, climbing on the rocks, and taking pictures. Then they headed back to the truck to have lunch while the dogs stayed close exploring the prairie. After lunch they decided to walk a different way, returning after about an hour and a half to where they had stopped before lunch. At one point Amy’s husband was a little ways away and she thought she heard him hollering at the dogs to come closer.

That’s when the horror began. She looked up saw him running down a hill holding their 15-year-old dog Abby. Abby had cataracts and Amy assumed she had fallen off of an edge or large rock and hurt her legs. She asked what happened and her husband yelled in a loud panicked voice that the dogs had gotten into a cyanide trap. Amy could not believe what was happening. They ran to a nearby creek to try and help Abby by washing her face and mouth out. Amy tried to pry Abby’s mouth open but her jaw was clenched too tightly.

They were unaware of the magnitude of what just happened. They could hear she was having difficulty breathing and was unable to stand and her eyes were fixed looking straight ahead.

Before they got to the water Amy looked up the hill and saw her brother-in-law carrying his 7-year-old Weimaraner Molly. She said she felt like they were in a war zone. Her husband yelled for her to get the other two dogs and to keep them close.

By the time they got Abby to the creek they knew that trying to wash the cyanide out of her body was not working and she was dying. Amy glanced up towards the bank of the creek and saw her sister and brother-in-law carrying Molly by her feet, upside-down. No one could believe this was happening to them.

Abby’s breathing continued to get worse. Amy’s family petted Abby and kissed her face while telling her they loved her, wanting to show her as much love as they could to ease her dying. In retrospect they realized they were exposing themselves to the cyanide that had sprayed on Abby’s face and was going to be the cause of her death.

Amy walked a few steps over to her sister and brother-in-law where they had Molly lying. Amy’s brother-in-law was on his knees with his forehead resting close to Molly’s face and he was sobbing. Molly was not breathing, she was gone. They all kissed her and told her how much they loved her, again exposing themselves to the deadly cyanide.

Amy walked back over to Abby. Her husband was holding her and they hear the last few gasping breaths of their sweet dog, Abby was now gone. They were all crying, Roxie Marie was sobbing, and the two dogs that were still alive kept coming over and smelling their companions. This was the worst, saddest, and most traumatic day they had ever been through. They sat there holding their dead dogs for some time in disbelief. Amy said she remembers thinking “This is complete, unnecessary horror.”

The group needed to get the dogs that were still alive back to the truck immediately to keep them safe and alive. Amy took Vita by the collar and began walking back to the truck with Roxy Marie and her husband. Her sister took Stella by the collar and followed. Before putting the dogs in the back, Amy’s husband went to his tool box and got two shovels. She realized at that time that they were going home with only two of their beloved dogs. Amy’s husband walked back over to where the dogs had died, where her brother-in-law had stayed.

“We decided to bury our beloved dogs together because in their world they are cousins,” Amy said. “We couldn’t take them home with us for cremation because we did not want to harm the dogs that we still had alive.”

We will let Amy tell the rest of the story in her own words:

“Some time passed…it seemed like an eternity,” Amy said. “Then we saw the two of them walking on top of the cedar ridge. They each had a shovel in their hands resting on their shoulders. My sister and I broke down. I guess we were still in disbelief and hoping to see two dogs following behind them. We stayed by the truck for a while all facing back where the dogs had been buried, crying and hugging. Then we all slowly got into the truck and drove out. This day has been hell.”

“Not a word was spoken on the long 50-mile drive home. All you could hear in the cab of the truck was crying and sniffling. I looked into the back of the truck through the window and saw Vita and Stella setting under the shell of the truck looking at us and I am sure wondering where their sister dogs were.”

“This is my story, and no matter how horrible it is for me to tell it I must do it. I don’t want anyone else to go through such horror. We love you and will miss you desperately Abby and Molly!”



EDITOR’S NOTE: Amy wanted us to add that at no time while being in the area did they see “private property” or “no trespassing” signs. After the tragedy they did more research and discovered there was a 10-15 acre section of private land in the area that is land-locked by public land. Using their GPS they found they had unknowingly entered that small section of private property by approximately 100 yards when their dogs found the cyanide traps.

EPA investigates Utahn’s poisoning – 4 years after device shot cyanide in his face

This is an archived article that was published on in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Published January 18, 2008

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun an investigation into the poisoning four years ago of a Vernal man who touched what he thought was a survey stake, only to get a blast of sodium cyanide to his face and chest.

The cyanide device, called an M-44, is used by the federal government to kill predators. The poisoning has left Dennis Slaugh with severe health problems, his wife, Dorothy Slaugh, said Thursday.

And it has reignited a campaign to ban all predator poisoning on federal lands.

EPA investigator Michael Burgin visited the Slaugh home Monday for a two-hour meeting, which Slaugh said she taped with Burgin’s knowledge. The special investigator was looking into why federal agencies did not follow up on the Slaughs’ original reports, she said.

Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon pushed for the investigation at the request of Predator Defense, a national wildlife advocacy group based in Eugene, Ore.

“He has been a really good ally trying to get these weapons banned permanently so no one will have to suffer the way my husband has suffered,” Slaugh said of DeFazio.

Dennis Slaugh and his brother were riding all-terrain vehicles on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land in Cowboy Canyon near Bonanza in 2003 when Slaugh noticed what he thought was a survey stake. He reached to brush it off and it fell over. When he picked it up, it exploded, sending a cloud ofgranules into his nose, mouth and eyes.

The M-44 device was spring-loaded to shoot poison into a predator’s mouth. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Program is the only agency allowed to use the M-44 to poison coyotes and dogs to prevent livestock loss.

But when the Slaughs told the USDA and the BLM about their experience, the agencies denied responsibility and eventually informed them the statute of limitations on the family’s claims had run out.

“We were just asking for compensation. We’ve got medical bills. They just flat denied everything,” Dorothy Slaugh said.

On Monday, she said, Burgin told her that time on the claim would run out in May.

Cyanide clings to iron in the blood system and slowly depletes the heart and other muscles of oxygen.

Dennis Slaugh, 65, has extremely high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, vomits almost daily and can no longer work as a Caterpillar D8 driver for Uintah County because he is too weak to climb up into the machine’s rungs.

The couple, avid ATV riders and campers, have owned Mountain High Power Sports in Vernal for 35 years. “We’re fine, we’re OK. It’s just taken a lot out of him,” Dorothy Slaugh said.

Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, said his organization started the push to ban all predator poisoning on federal lands in 1994, when a woman was poisoned while trying to resuscitate her dog after the animal bit an M-44 a USDA employee had set on her private property at the request of a tenant farmer.

DeFazio has been an ally since then, Fahy said.

In late November, DeFazio prodded the EPA with a letter that Fahy said was “instrumental” in finally getting federal action on the Slaughs’ claim.

The congressman is sponsoring a bill in the House to ban all predator poisons.

Bald eagle poisonings bewilder investigators

From Predator Defense: “We’ve been working this case since 2003. This article was published in 2004. Raptors and mammals continue to be poisoned with 1080 and fenthion. Just another example of the ranching industry in the American West. For the most part poisoning of wildlife goes unreported because carcasses are usually so degraded when found that it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of death.”

A judge's ruling keeps federal agencies from cooperating to find who is
killing the birds with tainted sheep meat

Monday, May 10, 2004

For more than a decade, someone has been poisoning bald eagles in the
mid-Willamette Valley.Since 1991, 18 bald eagles -- including three this
year -- have been
found dead in a 25-mile radius of Linn, Benton and Lane county farmland.

Fifteen had the same poison and sheep meat in their bellies.

"It's a fact that somebody is putting out dead sheep and putting
thispesticide on them to kill bald eagles," said Chris Brong, who heads the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's law enforcement office in Wilsonville.
"I firmly believe it's a sheep rancher."

Despite that assertion, wildlife agents have no idea who's doing it.They
hypothesize that it's someone upset with losing lambs.

>>>Such tensions between ranchers and wildlife have gone on for
>>>generations in the West. On the Willamette Valley's fertile grasslands,
>>>ranchers and natural predators such as cougars, bears, coyotes and
>>>eagles are in an ever-shifting battle over dominion.
>>>Exacerbating the problem is that bald eagles love Oregon. Wildlife
>>>experts counted 416 nesting pairs last year as the eagles flock to
theNorthwest in winter looking for food.

They scavenge on road kill and prey on small animals and fish. Theywill take
advantage of the easiest food source, be it ground squirrelsor newborn

Federal wildlife agents say the poisonings are more than a simplecrime.

The bald eagle, the national symbol, was listed as endangered in 1978after
shootings, pesticides, habitat destruction and pollution caused its numbers
to dwindle to fewer than 500 nesting pairs in the Lower 48.

The protections worked, and there are now more than 6,000 nesting pairs and
more than 20,000 individual birds in the Lower 48. Considered a rare success
in the struggle for recovery, the bald eagle came off the endangered species
list in 1995 but still has protections under a federal designation of

The poisonings have pitted one federal agency against another. Theyhave
galvanized wildlife advocates against a well-entrenched,taxpayer-funded
system for controlling predators. And the situation has ranchers and farming
advocates walking a razor's edge between outrage
and explanation -- one in which they say they abhor what's being done while
explaining that unchecked predators can devastate a farmer's income.

One pin, one dead eagle

Brong's team of three wildlife investigators works from a
nondescriptindustrial park in Wilsonville. It's there that he points to
aposter-board map of Oregon sheep country dotted with colored pins and case
numbers. Some show where a dead bald eagle was found. Others mark
the nearby Cascade foothills where eagles roost.

Brong, who has been with the agency since 1993, was a U.S. Bureau of Land
Management law enforcement officer for 10 years before that and has worked
for the federal government since he was a 19-year-old forest
ranger. He came to Oregon last year, looked at case trends, and found the
eagle poisonings unsolved.

Fifteen of the 18 dead eagles were poisoned with fenthion, a heavily
regulated poison used to control parasites on cattle and pigs, he
said.Oregon banned its use in 2002, and Brong notes it was never allowed for

Because investigators figured a rancher was targeting eagles, they turned to
the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help. The agency's Wildlife Services
program keeps animals out of airport lands, prevents beavers from doing work
that floods roads and deals with problem animals, such as a cougar close to
a schoolyard.

The program also teaches farmers husbandry and helps them apply a variety of
"hazing" methods to deter predators from damaging crops and herds. Livestock
lost to predators, mostly coyotes, reaches a value of about $71 million a
year nationally, according to the USDA.

The agency also traps, shoots and poisons predators. In fiscal 2002, the
agency killed 5,689 coyotes in Oregon, most by shooting them from the air.
It cannot kill eagles.

The USDA, citing a federal judge's order, has said it cannot cooperatewith
investigators looking into the eagle deaths.

In 2003, the judge ordered the USDA to keep quiet about its clients after it
was sued by the Texas Farm Bureau and three farmers. An environmental group
sought the names through the Freedom of Information Act. Farmers said their
privacy would be invaded if the USDA revealed who was using government

Brong said the lack of cooperation from a sister agency is frustrating."They
know that there are certain ranchers that want to kill eagles,and they won't
tell us," he said. "Their function is to go out and kill wildlife, and my
function is to protect the wildlife, so we're kind of in conflict."

Dave Williams, who heads the USDA's Wildlife Services in Oregon, saidUSDA
employees are wildlife people who think the poisonings are deplorable. He
said it's frustrating for him, but he must follow the court order.

"Prior to this injunction, we could have said that this is the area that
eagles have been hard on livestock this year," he said. "If we were asked in
years past who might be doing this, we would tell them the areas and it
would be very focused, because it would be with individuals who had
contacted us."

While the Texas ruling is under appeal, the U.S. Justice Department is
seeking clarification on how far the ruling should go. A Justice official in
Washington, D.C., said privately that he would be surprised if the judge
meant to hinder criminal investigations.

No conclusive proof

There is no conclusive proof that eagles are taking sheep in great numbers,
let alone putting a dent in business. Williams said his agency had had no
complaints this year. In the past, he said individual ranchers have been
greatly affected by bald eagles. But no one interviewed for this story had
actually seen an eagle kill a lamb.

Cleve Dumdi, 70, of Junction City is one of the largest sheep ranchersin the
Willamette Valley, with more than 8,000 animals. He's been ranching for 35
years and has two sons in the business. Dumdi said it is a common belief
among farmers that eagles will "swoop down" and take a
newborn lamb, although he's never seen it.

"I hope I'm not the one who finds out who's doing this," Dumdi said."It's
throwing a black eye on the industry, and I don't like that."

Frank Isaacs, a senior faculty research assistant at Oregon State
University, has conducted the state's annual eagles' nest survey since1979.
He said eagles mostly feed on fish, waterfowl, dead livestock and
afterbirth, a conclusion supported by federal scientists who studied the
feeding pattern of Willamette Valley eagles in the late 1980s.

"The (sheep) either die naturally, or the coyote's killing them in thenight,
and at dawn, the eagle's standing out there and the eagle gets accused,"
Isaacs said. "There's no doubt that an eagle can kill a lamb,but I don't
think they have to, because there's so much food available."

Isaacs noted that one reason the eagle has come so far is because ranchers
have given them the room and respect they needed to prosper.

"There's a certain amount of damage that comes with the territory,"said Greg
Addington of the Oregon Farm Bureau. "Most guys enjoy wildlife until it
becomes a significant problem. There's a certain amount of
pride in having wildlife at your place."

Addington said it's frustrating to hear law enforcement making premature
conclusions. "It may very well be that it's a rancher involved in this, but
they should hold their tongue until they know for sure," he said.

Looking for carcasses

The wind is whipping south, pushing knee-high rye grass in waves,driving
rain deep into the soil with percussive bursts.At a crossroads west of
Harrisburg, Brooks Fahy jumps a roadside ditch to tack a sheet of paper to a
telephone pole.

"Who's poisoning our pets and wildlife?" asks the flier, which includes the
telephone number for Predator Defense, the nonprofit he directs.

Fahy and other wildlife advocates rail against the practice of trapping and
poisoning. He said the dead eagles are proof that government predator
control perpetuates an outdated attitude -- that man is king and wildlife
cutting into profit should be stopped.

He crisscrosses the vast valley, "establishing a presence," hoping to find a
poisoned lamb carcass or meet someone who could help break the bald eagle
case. "People reluctant to call in a tip to law enforcement might be willing
to call us," he said.

He scans fields with binoculars, looking for the fluttering brown and white
plumage of a dead eagle. He said he realizes he's chasing a ghost,but
worries that more eagles have been killed than have been discovered.

"An eagle ends up dead in the sagebrush, and you're not going to find it,"
he said.

Bob Sallinger of the Portland Audubon Society said he thinks Fahy's efforts
will pay off.

"This is a species we've almost lost," he said. "I do have sympathy for
folks because a lot of them are struggling, but killing eagles is just way
over the line."

Mark Larabee: 503-294-7664; marklarabee at


Two Bald Eagles Killed by Poisoned Meat Apparently Meant for Coyotes

May. 28, 2015 8:41pm           

Image source:

The two bald eagles — along with four coyotes, one opossum and three black vultures — were found dead in a field in Plaquemine, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A pile of baited meat and bones with black granule spread across the top was also found in the field near the dead animals on April 9. Officials believe the poison was meant for coyotes, a press release about the incident said.

“Poison is an indiscriminate killer,” Sidney Charbonnet, Special Agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. “It is extremely poor practice for nuisance animal reduction, as it doesn’t just kill the target species, it can take out whole segments of the food chain with secondary poisonings, as well as potentially killing pet dogs or cats who may consume the bait or the poisoned wildlife.”

While the bald eagle is no longer considered an endangered species, it’s still federally protected.

D-CON: the Poison that Keeps on Killing

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson

Earlier this month, my wife and I tried out a job as caretakers of a river front lodge in the heart of the Oregon Coast Range. It sounded idyllic, but on closer examination we found that the whole place was overrun by rats and mice. They had made themselves at home in the “trophy lodge’s” basement, attic, and furnace room and even throughout the heat ducting system (which—judging by the smell—they must have considered their own private out house).

Had the lodge owner even hinted at the “rodent situation” (as he later put it) ahead of time, we would never have moved our cats and dog in without first asking if there had been any poisons used around there. Well, it turns out there had—someone put fresh d-CON in all the heating vents, and who knows where else around the “estate.”

Among the sinister side effects of d-CON is that it kills slowly and stays in the victim’s body, allowing them to wander far from the source before a predator or scavenger consumes them, spreading the poison to an entire food chain. Needless to say, we gathered up our companion animals and got the hell out of there.

But about a week after we got back home, our worst fears were realized. One of our adopted cats, Caine, a gray tabby in the prime of his life with a black belt in the art of mousing, started showing the tell-tale symptoms of d-CON poisoning. He refused to eat or drink and slept round the clock. His lethargy grew more pronounced until he eventually tuned everyone else out, as though preparing to pass on. If we hadn’t rushed him to the vet, where he received IV fluids and an emergency injection of vitamin K to counter-act the lethal anti-coagulant agent in the poison, he would have died like so many other wild and domestic animals (including people) before him.

The problem is so extensive that the manufacturers of d-CON recently agreed to stop production of this particular rodenticide.  Though it’s now banned in California, stockpiles still exist in stores throughout the rest of the country. And this insidious gold-standard—this household name in “pest control”—has surely found its way to all corners of the globe by now and will keep doing its damage for years to come. How many cats, bobcats and cougars, dogs, coyotes, mink, ermine, opossum, raccoons, owls, hawks and eagles will suffer a drawn-out death from this pervasive poison before the sale of d-CON is completely discontinued?

In a way, Caine was one of the lucky few. Most rodent-eaters don’t have companion humans who care about them enough to nurse them back to health.


Maker of powerful rat poison will cease production in July

Good News From Project Coyote:

The maker of the household rodenticide d-CON, Reckitt Benckiser Group, has agreed to stop producing the toxic product for the consumer market. d-CON contains second generation anticoagulants responsible for killing countless non-target animals, including mountain lions, coyotes, endangered San Joaquin kit foxes, raptors, and companion animals. This action comes after the state of la-me-rat-poison-20140418

California took a crucial step toward protecting wildlife and banned the residential consumer purchase of rat poisons. While these are significant victories, the fight isn’t over until all deadly rodenticides are off the market, replaced with more humane alternatives.