In March, an Idaho family had their lives upended when their son was injured and their beloved dog was killed by a device that is used to kill “nuisance” predators with cyanide poison.
Fourteen-year-old Canyon Mansfield—the youngest of the three children—was walking his dog, Casey, outside of their Idaho home, enjoying a crisp afternoon with his loyal companion. In the blink of an eye, Canyon was calling to his family for help as Casey cried, convulsed and died right in front of Canyon. His mother ran to help the dog, but was powerless to save her pet or stop her son’s heartbreak. Canyon soon learned that his best friend had been poisoned.
It turned out that Canyon and Casey had stumbled upon an M-44 cyanide bomb (a sodium cyanide poison ejector) set by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (WS) program as part of an unscientific “nuisance” wildlife killing program. That’s right—this device was set by the federal government on the taxpayers’ dime.
This isn’t the first time. Wildlife Services’ poisons have killed family pets across the US and have poisoned multiple people. To the agency—which refers to these personal, heartbreaking losses as a “non-target take”—such casualties are just a cost of doing business as usual…where “usual” means the better part of a century. In the past decades, countless families have been devastated by Wildlife Services’ M-44s, left without so much as an apology.
After the Mansfields’ horrific experience received media attention, Wildlife Services temporarily halted the use of M-44s in Idaho. Then, following the family’s June visit to Washington, D.C.—where they joined the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in supporting Canyon’s Law, a federal ban on M-44s (H.R. 2471/S 1301)—WS announced an expanded review of M-44s (a lazy attempt to appease critics).
To add insult to injury, Wildlife Services is now returning to the Mansfields’ hometown—not to apologize, but to explain to Idahoans why they shouldn’t be outraged about this ongoing threat to their safety. The agency is holding public meetings about M-44s in three Idaho cities “to explain the M-44 sodium cyanide device and its use in controlling livestock depredation” because “WS understands the public’s concern regarding the use of M-44s.”
When Wildlife Services predictably restarts M-44 usage in Idaho, they will surely point to these public meetings to highlight their commitment to transparency, public participation and a number of other buzzwords with no real relevance to their operations. They’ll offer attendees platitudes, tell them that few pets and people have been poisoned by M-44s (just a few hundred) and claim that the livestock industry absolutely needs M-44s—ignoring the fact that M-44s are used in fewer than a third of the states and the others are just fine.
It’s time to take a stand—for Canyon, for Casey, and for the countless people and pets who are at risk of exposure to sodium cyanide. Tell Congress to ban M-44s. Wildlife Services has made clear that it will not voluntarily end its use of M-44 cyanide bombs, so it’s time for our elected officials to step in and protect Americans from these deadly, indiscriminate poisonings.
-- Carson Barylak
*(7/10/20) This blog has been updated with a newer bill number. Previous bill was H.R. 1817.