Killing with no accountability and no common sense

Cyanide and death traps in our backyards: Sounds like a plot line for a fictional horror movie, right? Wrong. Sodium cyanide, Compound 1080 and body gripping “kill” traps are used in backyards around the country, within mere feet of residential homes. These traps and poisons are utilized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Damage Management, formerly known as Wildlife Services, and are intended for permanent removal of “harmful” invasive species, as well as predators perceived to be problematic by special interest groups.

However, these traps often end up with unintended victims. Bella, a 2 year old dog, was less than 1,000 feet from her family’s Texas home when she was poisoned and killed by an M-44 device. M-44 devices, also called “cyanide guns” lure predators with an attractive smell, often from a small piece of bait, and then use a spring to propel a dosage of sodium cyanide into the predator's mouth. Another beloved pet, Maggie, a 7 year old border collie, had her neck broken and windpipe crushed by a kill trap in front of her family, less than 50 feet from their backyard. Wildlife Services had set the traps at the request of the neighborhood association to target nutria, an invasive semi-aquatic rodent. These “kill” traps close with more than 90 pounds of pressure slamming the trap's jaws shut around the animal’s neck when they go for the bait. Compound 1080 is even worse; a chemical poison commonly used by the government, just one teaspoon of it could kill 100 people. With no known antidote, this is a serious threat for humans and animals alike.

Needless to say, neither Bella nor Maggie died quick and painless deaths—they struggled and suffered before succumbing to these cruel government traps. The close proximity to residences, lack of instructions or phone numbers on the device, and lack of warning signs are clear violations of the guidelines that the USDA Wildlife Services must follow. Although the above incidents were reported to the Agency, no action was taken for the violations and additional traps were even found close-by after the reports.

For fiscal year 2010, $77.78 million was provided by Congress for Wildlife Service operations, which funded among other things killing and euthanizing over 5 million animals. This is our tax money at work.

The current practices that Wildlife Damage Services uses are a threat to humans, our pets, and unintended wildlife species.  If we allow Wildlife Services to continue, we can expect more heart-breaking stories. And even more frightening, who will be the next victim of these poisons and traps? 

The methods used by Wildlife Services put the public and unintended animals at risk.  They are out-dated and cruel, and need to be stopped.  The government should end all funding of these practices today, and continue to withhold funding until Wildlife Services can prove that they are only using safe and humane methods for their work.  Deaths of beloved pets like Bella and Maggie should not be allowed to continue.

-- JF

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