Few Americans probably know that their tax dollars paid to kill 76,859 coyotes in 2016. The responsible agency was Wildlife Services (WS), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its mission is to “resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.” This broad mandate includes everything from reducing bird strikes at airports to curbing the spread of rabies.
Controlling predators that attack livestock is one of the agency’s more controversial tasks. WS uses nonlethal techniques, such as livestock guard dogs and fladry – hanging strips of cloth from fences, where they flutter and deter predators. But every year it also kills tens of thousands of predators, including bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, hawks, cougars and wolves.
However, there is no clear evidence that lethal control works to reduce human-predator conflict. In fact, it can even make the problem worse. At the same time, research shows that predators play key roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems. As a conservation biologist specializing in human-wildlife conflicts, I see growing evidence that it is time to reconsider lethal control.
Warfare on the range
Coyotes have been a target ever since European explorers first arrived in their territory centuries ago. Nonetheless, their range has expanded from the western plains across most of the continent.
The most common reason for killing coyotes is to reduce predation of livestock, such as sheep and calves. In a 2015 USDA report on sheep losses, ranchers reported how many of their animals died in 2014 and how they died. Twenty-eight percent of adult sheep losses and 36 percent of lamb losses were attributed to predators. Of those animals, ranchers stated that 33,510 adult sheep (more than half of total predation losses) and 84,519 lambs (nearly two-thirds of all predation losses) were killed by coyotes.
According to the American Sheep Industry Association, about UD$20.5 million of ranchers’ losses in 2014 (roughly one-fifth of their total losses) were attributed to coyotes. Importantly, however, these numbers were based on self-reported data and were not verified by wildlife professionals. External review would be useful because even experienced ranchers may have trouble determining in some cases whether a sheep was killed by a coyote or a dog (dogs are second only to coyotes in reported predation on livestock), or died from other causes and later was scavenged by coyotes.
To keep coyotes in check, WS employees set neck snares and other traps, shoot coyotes on the ground and from planes and helicopters, arm sheep with collars containing liquid poison and distribute M-44 “bombs” that inject sodium cyanide into the mouths of animals that chew on them.
As in warfare, there is collateral damage. M-44s killed more than 1,100 domestic dogs between 2000 and 2012. Scientists have also criticized WS for unintentionally killing numerous animals and birds, including federally protected golden and bald eagles, while failing to do any studies of how its actions affected nontarget species. Early this year the American Society of Mammalogists called for more scientific scrutiny of the policy of killing large predators.
How effective is lethal control?
It is understandable for struggling ranchers to blame coyotes for economic losses, since kills leave tangible signs and killing predators seems like a logical solution. However, a widely cited 2006 study called coyotes scapegoats for factors that were more directly related to the decline of sheep ranching in the United States.
The author, Dr. Kim Murray Berger, who was then a research biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, built and tested a series of statistical models to explain the declining number of sheep being bred in the United States. She found that variables including the price of hay, wage rates and the price of lamb explained most of the decline, and that the amount of money spent on predator control had little effect.
Other research indicates that even if predation is one factor in ranchers’ economic losses, lethal control is not the best way to reduce it.
One 2016 analysis reviewed studies that compared lethal and nonlethal strategies for controlling livestock predation. Lethal methods ranged from civilian hunts to government culls. Nonlethal methods included fladry, guard animals, chemical repellents and livestock protection collars. The review found that nonlethal methods generally reduced livestock predation more effectively, and that predation actually temporarily increased after use of some lethal methods.
Why would predation increase after predators are killed? When pack animals such as coyotes, dingoes and wolves are killed, the social structure of their packs breaks down. Female coyotes become more likely to breed and their pups are more likely to survive, so their numbers may actually increase. Packs generally protect territories, so breaking up a pack allows new animals to come in, raising the population. In addition, some new arrivals may opportunistically prey on livestock, which can increase predation rates.
These findings extend beyond the United States. A three-year study in South Africa found that using nonlethal methods to protect livestock from jackals, caracals and leopards cost ranchers less than lethal methods, both because less predation occurred and because the nonlethal methods cost less.
In Australia dingoes occupy a similar ecological niche to coyotes and are similarly targeted. In a recent case study at a cattle station, researchers found that ceasing all lethal and nonlethal predator control reduced predation of cattle by dingoes as the social structure of the resident dingoes stabilized.
Even research by USDA supports this pattern. In a recent study, researchers from several universities, USDA’s National Wildlife Research Center and the nonprofit advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife analyzed wolf predation rates for sheep producers on public grazing lands in Idaho. Predation was 3.5 times higher in zones where lethal control was used than in adjacent areas where nonlethal methods were used.
A high-stakes placebo
Overuse of subsidized predator control is comparable to primary care doctors overprescribing antibiotics to human patients. Patients often demand antibiotics for common colds, although doctors understand that these infections are caused mainly by viruses, so antibiotics will be ineffective. But receiving a prescription makes patients feel that their concerns are being addressed. Lethal control is a high-stakes placebo for the problems that ail ranchers, and misusing it can increase problems for ranchers and the ecosystems around them.
Human-wildlife conflict is a complex issue. Often, as some colleagues and I showed in our recent book, “Human-Wildlife Conflict,” the real problem is confrontations between humans about how to deal with wildlife.
This means that we need to choose prevention and mitigation methods carefully. If cultural values and prevailing community attitudes are not taken into account, attempts to change ranching practices could increase hostility toward predators and make it harder for conservation groups to work with ranchers.
Federal employees at Wildlife Services are under tremendous pressure from the agricultural industry. And farmers and ranchers often act based on deeply rooted traditions and cultural attitudes. It rests with wildlife professionals to use current and well-grounded science to address human concerns without harming the environment.
The federal government has agreed to halt the use of M-44 cyanide “bombs” to control predatory animals in Idaho after a 14-year-boy was injured and his dog killed by the controversial device.
Canyon Mansfield, 14, was knocked to the ground last month when an M-44 predator control device spewed cyanide gas into his face and killed his dog. The family had no knowledge the device — set by the U.S. government some 350 yards from the Mansfields’ doorstep — was there.
Four conservation and animal-welfare groups also filed suit last week against the government over the M-44s after a gray wolf — a protected species — was accidentally killed by the device in Oregon.
In a letter Tuesday to conservation groups, the USDA’s Wildlife Services program – which kills thousands of predators across the country annually – said it was halting the use of M-44s on all private, state, and federal lands in Idaho.
“We take seriously the incident in Idaho,” the letter read.
“Currently, WS has ceased all use of M-44 devices on all land ownerships in the state of Idaho,” it said. “WS has also removed all M-44s currently deployed on all land ownerships in Idaho.”
It remains unknown whether Wildlife Services will decide to permanently halt the use of M44s. At least 19 conservation groups have filed a petition calling for the devices to be banned permanently.
In its letter, Wildlife Services informed the groups that “WS will notify you 30 days prior to placing any new M-44s in Idaho.”
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. The devices are placed on land by Wildlife Services — a little-known branch of the USDA tasked with destroying animals seen as threats to people, agriculture and the environment.
Over the years, thousands of non-target animals — wild and domestic — have been mistakenly killed by the lethal devices.
Canyon Mansfield stumbled upon the unmarked device March 16 while running up a hill behind his parents’ Pocatello, Idaho home with his 3-year-old golden Labrador, Casey.
When the M-44 detonated, the boy watched as his dog lay dying, suffocating from the orange-colored cyanide sprayed by the device. Since the incident, Canyon has experienced headaches, nausea and numbness and has visited a neurologist for testing, his mother, Theresa Mansfield, told Fox News.
The Mansfield dog’s death follows a string of other recent incidents in which family pets and endangered species were accidentally killed by M-44s.
The government, meanwhile, has 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.
On Tuesday, various conservation groups praised the decision to temorarily ban use of the devices in Idaho.
“This could well be the tipping point that leads to a nationwide ban of these extraordinarily dangerous devices via the legislation introduced in Congress last month,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of the national wildlife advocacy group, Predator Defense.
“As the recent cases in Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon amply demonstrate, M-44s endanger non-target wildlife, pets and children, no matter how they are used.”
Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “We’re glad to see these indiscriminate killing devices being pulled from Idaho – that’s an important step toward protecting wildlife, people and pets from these cyanide bombs.”
The groups petitioning for the M-44 ban included Western Watersheds Project, Predator Defense, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Clearwater, Western Wildlife Conservancy and Nevada Wildlife Alliance.
[Consider the source]:
WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
If one follows the wolf issue long enough, occasionally a nugget of common sense appears.
Such is the case with a recent suggestion the folks at the Washington State Department of Fish and wildlife offered. Speaking during a conference call with the state Wolf Advisory Group, WDFW wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello offered this idea: that dead livestock be considered “qualifying” victims of wolves if the time, circumstance and location of their deaths parallel other confirmed depredations.
In other words, if a carcass is found near those of other wolf victims but scavengers have destroyed the evidence directly linking the attack to wolves, state wildlife managers could label it a “qualifying” attack.
Previously, such cases were considered “probable” attacks and were not counted against a wolfpack. Under the Washington wolf plan, managers can kill only wolves that are responsible for four confirmed depredations within a year.
While this may seem to be a bureaucratic splitting of hairs, it’s critically important for managing wolves. Under the new idea, if wolves are found to be responsible for four depredations, including any that are “qualifying,” managers could take steps to get rid of the wolves.
A study found wolfpacks that are thinned soon after attacking cattle or sheep get the message that attacking livestock is unacceptable. By including qualifying attacks, managers could act quicker to thin the ranks of wolves instead of waiting weeks or months for another confirmed depredation.
If managers thin a wolfpack after a long period of time, the wolves have no idea whether it is linked to a depredation, according to the study.
The idea is to manage wolves in a way that is both effective and assures ranchers and others that each step is effective.
That in itself is good reason for the department to adopt such a common sense rule.
It’s also something wolf managers in other states would do well to consider.
The state Wolf Advisory Group will discuss the idea during a March 29-30 meeting in Olympia. We urge the group to take a close look at it, as common sense can be a rare commodity when dealing with wolves.
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.”
WASHINGTON—Today Congressman Peter DeFazio introduced H.R. 1817, the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017, legislation that would ban the use of the lethal poisons Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide for predator control efforts.
The bill is supported by the national wildlife advocacy group Predator Defense, as well as the Humane Society.
“I have been trying to ban the indiscriminate use of lethal devices and poisons like Compound 1080 and the chemicals used in M-44 devices for decades, even as a Lane County Commissioner,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-OR). “The use of these deadly toxins by Wildlife Services has led to countless deaths of family pets and innocent animals and injuries to humans. It is only a matter of time before they kill someone. These extreme so-called ‘predator control’ methods have been proven no more effective than non-lethal methods—the only difference between the two is that the lethal methods supported by the ranching industry are subsidized by American tax dollars.”
“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, 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.”
“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, 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.”
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 6 adult humans.
Sodium cyanide is contained within M-44 devices, which are spring-activated ejectors that deliver a deadly dose of poison when pulled on. The top of the ejector is wrapped with an absorbent material that has been coated with a substance that attracts canines. When the device is activated, a spring ejects the poison. The force of the ejector can spray the cyanide granules up to five feet.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Wildlife Services Agency regularly uses both of these poisons in their predator control programs, which are subsidized by the taxpayer. States contract with federal predator control programs to keep so-called ‘predator’ populations down to help ranchers protect their livestock.
The use of these poisons has led to the deaths of endangered animals and domesticated dogs, and has injured multiple people in the past. Most recently, three domestic dogs were killed in Idaho and Wyoming and a teenage boy was nearly poisoned after he accidentally detonated an M-44 device.
“The federal government should not be using these extreme measures,” Rep. Defazio added. “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.”
Another View — Christine Schadler: The ugly sides of coyote hunting
There is no hunt involved, no fair chase and no biological justification for this — just killing a useful predator, sorely needed to control rodent and deer populations. Why is this allowed? Ask the wildlife managers at New Hampshire Fish and Game and you will learn that since the coyotes will quickly replace any members removed, they are infinitely replaceable and therefore are in no danger of becoming extinct.
This is hardly justification.
Resilience characterizes the coyote, a trait for which it should be admired. Instead, it is the trait that causes coyotes so much trouble. The coyote is the predator we cannot control. Decades of extermination effort has yielded only hundreds of thousands more coyotes and a remarkable expansion in their range. Biologists understand the power of unleashing this responsive reproduction characteristic but at Fish and Game agencies, unlimited killing of coyotes is tolerated to appease the hunters who wish to kill for the sake of killing.
Ask one of these hunters why they kill coyotes and they will quickly respond, as did Mr. Toomey, the baiter, that coyotes have no predators and would get out of control if they weren’t constantly taken.
Of course, in nature, everything has predators and in the case of coyotes, it is disease. Mange, distemper, rabies, Parvo virus, tularemia, canine hepatitis and even porcupines all take their toll on coyotes. Meanwhile coyotes, a major predator of rodents (which make up 62 percent of their diet,) help to control the spread of Lyme disease.
As New Hampshire Fish and Game turns a blind eye to the reality of coyote killing, as discovered by the young man in Plaistow, they allow cruelty to pups, orphaned when their parents are killed, to a slow death by starvation. Yes, coyotes can be killed during their breeding and denning season, day and night in this state. Ask a wildlife manager at Fish and Game about this and you will be told that there aren’t that many taken to really make a dent in the population, but this is not the point.
First, no one is keeping track of the numbers of coyotes killed by hunting, baiting and denning (killing pups while in their den), and hunters are not required to report what they have killed. Secondly, the ethics of killing coyotes 365 days a year and at night from January through March are not part of the management decision-making.
The eastern coyote, like predators in general, regulates its own population naturally in several ways. When pack structure, crucial to self-regulation, is impacted by hunting, the young breed. Normally two thirds of all females never breed due to brief estrus cycles (just one week per year.) Also, vigilant parents do not tolerate their young breeding on their territory. Only the breeding pair breeds, period.
As long as no one asks too many questions, irresponsible hunters will continue to kill, kill, kill coyotes. Now that New Hampshire Fish and Game needs $1.5 million from the General Fund, our voice must be heard in defense of wildlife. The hunter, giving fair chase, holding ethical standards and using that animal for food, has every right to continue.
Christine Schadler is the Vermont and New Hampshire representative for Project Coyote.
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.”
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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.
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
In a surprising turn, a state panel in Olympia discussing studies of lethal means to control wolves preying on farm animals and invading humans’ territory, found that non-lethal control is a more effective option.
Wildlife experts and members of the public came together at a Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Feb. 10 to discuss wolf removal.
According to the panel, most of the state’s wolf packs are in northeastern Washington, with some in the North Cascades region. The panel was made up of Department of Wildlife experts specializing in wolves, wildlife conflict and carnivores.
Wolves present a challenge for livestock owners. Wolves are reestablishing themselves after being nearly eradicated in the early 1900s, but ranchers and others face the problem of protecting their livestock from wolf predation.
“We need to hone in on our objective. Is it tolerance? Is it to stop depredations forever?” said Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for the state agency.
The panel went over studies about the culling of wolf populations.
Four of the five non-lethal tests reviewed had preventive effects, while only two of the seven lethal tests had preventive effects. Two of the lethal tests increased predation.
Non-lethal methods include fladry, which involves hanging flags that flap in the breeze and scare wolves, as well as using guard dogs for livestock.
In some areas the desired effect of culling wolf populations occurred.
“Less livestock were killed. In some areas it did not work,” Martorello said. “It drives home the message that there is no perfect solution.”
The department suspended the controversial killing of Profanity Peak wolves in October. That program, aimed at killing a pack of 11 wolves, resulted in the deaths of seven and cost $135,000 before being suspended. The wolves had attacked or killed about 15 cattle.
“Wolves are one of the most studied animals on the planet,” said Scott Becker, state wolf specialist.
The panelists also examined public opinion of wolves and what studies say about perception.
“If one has a positive valuation of wolves, they generally like to focus on the benefits,” Becker said. “If one has a negative value of wolves, they generally focus on those costs.”
Only 61 of 358 Northern Rocky Mountain region wolf packs in the United States — or about 17 percent — were involved in at least one confirmed livestock killing, according to Becker. People are willing to accept some level of conflict with wolves, but 50 to 70 percent of that conflict occurs on private property, which could affect public perceptions.
The department’s Wolf Advisory Group will use the meeting’s findings to inform future recommendations. Advisory group members are landowners, conservationists, hunters and other interests who work together to recommend strategies for reducing conflict with wolves.
This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.