USDA using poison explosives to kill wildlife and pets in the West

By on March 24, 2017 with 25 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

When young Canyon Mansfield and Casey, his three-year-old Lab, headed out together to play in the area behind their home in eastern Idaho, they hardly expected the walk to be their last together.

Without notifying a soul, and in violation of their agreement not to place sodium cyanide M-44s on federal public lands, agents with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program placed a deadly device near the Mansfield’s home, on Bureau of Land Management land.

Canyon saw what he thought was a sprinkler and touched the M-44 with his hand. It exploded, discharging an orange powder onto his clothes and into his eye and knocking him off his feet. He was hit squarely by the cyanide cloud that erupted, and he watched in horror as his dog convulsed and then died before his eyes. The Pocatello sheriff came to the scene as did the local bomb squad and fire department. One official was hospitalized until early morning hours because of the level of cyanide in his blood.

Later, a grieving Canyon would be treated at the hospital for exposure to cyanide.

Casey’s death happened just days after M-44s killed two dogs in Wyoming near the Powder River area when they were out on a hike with their family. In this instance, it appears that the M-44s were placed there by a trapper certified with Wyoming’s Department of Agriculture program. Earlier this month, an M-44 claimed the life of a protected Oregon gray wolf, sparking a different but equally intense form of outrage. The agency confirmed its field agents had hidden nearly 100 M-44s in the ground to kill coyotes. In each case, the secretly placed landmines put the public, family pets, and protected wildlife at risk.

While the individual stories are new, the narrative is a familiar one. This rogue agency of the federal government slaughters millions of wild animals each year, using an arsenal of M-44s, aerial gunning, traps, and firearms. It does so much of this work at the expense of taxpayers, and it collects plenty of unintended victims.

The USDA is often unapologetic about the collateral damage it inflicts. Whether the killing of a pet or an endangered species is done with an M-44, a leghold trap, or a strangling wire neck snare, the agency typically offers no apology and issues a bland statement that refers to the tragedy as an “unintentional lethal take.” Had Casey’s death not been witnessed by the boy who loved him, we might have never heard about it, since the agency is known to cover up these kinds of abuses.

In Oregon, which neighbors Idaho, one lawmaker in particular has long waged a battle to reform USDA Wildlife Services. Congressman Peter Defazio, who has taken the agency to task over the years for its lack of transparency and arrogant disregard of public accountability, has introduced a bill in Congress to ban the use of M-44 and poisonous Compound 1080 collars. DeFazio also issued a letter to Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown, thanking her for eliminating state contracts for USDA Wildlife Services from her proposed state budget – since the state pays a share of the annual budget for Wildlife Services. We admire Congressman DeFazio for his dedication to reform this agency and his effort to turn its management actions away from lethal and toward non-lethal methods. He’s been joined in the crusade by Congressman Earl Blumenauer, the co-chairman of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.

DeFazio and Blumenauer aren’t alone in demanding that M-44s be removed from the landscape. In response to the Mansfield family’s ordeal, the Bannock County Sheriff and other community leaders have called for a ban on M-44s in Bannock County. Even newspapers have joined in calling for reform, including the East Oregonian, which called for USDA’s Wildlife Services to remove all M-44s from Oregon. (California and Washington have banned M-44s after The HSUS conducted winning ballot measures to bar the use of poisons in the states for wildlife killing purposes nearly 20 years ago.)

Recently, President Trump submitted his budget for 2018, and it called for major cuts in domestic programs, including the USDA. Somehow, Wildlife Services wasn’t on the list.

But it’s not too late for President Trump to take a second look and see the waste, abuse, and inhumane practices by an agency that has somehow survived even while doing things to hurt so many animals and the people who care about them. And locally, Gov. Brown and other governors can tell Wildlife Services to take its killing game out of the western states.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. KW says:

    This cannot be, how can they legally do this? I am angry, aghast and wondering (distraught), at how this atrocity can be legal. This needs to get out nationally. If they are trying to kill wildlife, how can they blatantly not think this will kill innocent animals and humans? I see many law suits coming their way. It is so inconceivable the inhumanity of some humans, I am angry and ashamed to be one sometimes.

    • RowenaRSuarez says:

      What happened in the Planet of the Apes,Rocardo Montalban telling Caesar that some catastrophic plague/disease process wiped out all the cats and dogs.this inhumane settim off cyanide booby traps/landmines is barbaric.

  2. Kathy gallant says:

    This is awful who are we to say what wildlife lives or dies and you take innocent lives too how very terrible

    • Kathy gallant says:

      This is horrible who are we to say what wildlife lives or dies this is just to beyond disquesting please make it stop I truly do not understand why this is being done

  3. Kathy gallant says:

    I said it all above but will add there is a reason and a rhyme for all life all is precious

  4. Martha Turlington says:

    This has got to stop. It’s like trying to control a ant with a grenade. Horrible, unimaginable. You people are dumb asses.

  5. Debaera Bisceglia says:


  6. Todd Hollis says:

    If you want to regulate a species from over population, I can understand that. But why not employ RESPONSIBLE hunters? Focus on the “threat” and eliminate senseless death. This isn’t rocket science.

  7. Isobel Palasits says:

    Got to STOP this now……….

  8. Karen Ricks says:

    Not a day goes by that I am not brought to tears from learning of yet another horrible atrocity against animals in the United States. Can someone please explain why the media, in every form, will not continually expose these stories?

  9. Sandie Rosales says:

    Absolutely inhumane 😢

  10. Brenda Mulkey says:

    Lethal poisons like this are a danger to every living thing and since you cannot predict who or what will be hurt or killed there is no way this method should be used.

  11. Barry Frederick Baudains says:

    Barbarism is a common act these days, very very sad and cruel so please stop.

  12. Vicki ward says:

    Stop this barbaric pratice its tottaly unecetable may even be a child nxt time!😡

  13. Dorothy McKown says:

    This is inhumane, insane and TOTALY heartless?!!

  14. Harriet Horwath says:

    This, of course, appeals to humanity’s worst instincts. Thank you for exposing it, Wayne. I think I need to increase my monthly contribution to HSUS.

  15. Nicola Gordon Bowe (Dr.) says:

    What on earth can I do now,
    having signed everything and given what I can manage financially
    to try and prevent the outrageously inhuman, cruel and vicious legal
    reversal which can only lead to the slaughter of innocent, hitherto
    protected animal?
    Nicola Gordon Bowe

  16. Harriet Forman, EdD, RN says:

    I hesitate to request comments because they break my heart! I have spent my entire life providing care to humans and animals – I am a nurse, a healthcare administrator and educator. I have cared for and been cared for by dogs of many breeds and temperaments and have seen animals care for and nurture their humans throughout my life- when I witness cruelty as described above I often wonder to whom the word “animal” should be ascribed. We must do whatever it takes to legislate constraints and appropriate punishment where they are needed!

  17. Ms. T May says:

    How many characters is this? To send an email to the White House, it says max 2500 characters and is not sending it. I am working on a smart phone.

  18. Jan says:

    Please stop all the slaughtering.

  19. Chris Raine says:

    stop randomly killing animals this way, will it stop if the next victim is human?

  20. Doris Muller says:

    This just boils my blood! The United States Department of A Wildlife Killers are the equivalent of ISIS against animals. If the members of this vicious dept. want to see the true dangerous predators, all they have to do is look in the mirror. Even their title is meant to deceive the public. A more accurate descriptive title would be USDA Wildlife Terminators.

    I would like to know why this dangerous, ignorant department exists within the government, at tax payer’s expense. And, I would like to see the employment application for hiring joy-killers.

  21. felicia gonzales says:

    I agree with you whole heartedly!

  22. RowenaRSuarez says:

    What evil is done to these precious animals will come back to the inhumane barbarians

  23. Alana says:

    Going vegan is the best way to help wolves and other wildlife. Cattle Ranchers are the wolves greatest enemy.

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