Family Pet Poisoned by USDA Coyote Control Program


14 year old Canyon Mansfield of Pocatello, Idaho went on a walk Thursday afternoon with his dog, Casey, behind his family’s home. While out on their walk he found what looked like a sprinkler sticking out of the ground. As he investigated it exploded and covered him and his dog with orange powder.

Some of the powder got in his eye which he quickly washed with snow. At this time he notices Casey was having a seizure. The dog’s eyes became glassy eyes and he had red stuff coming out of his mouth. Canyon ran and got his mom. When they returned Casey was dead.

What the boy and his dog had run into is called an M-44 also know as a coyote-getter. It is a spring-loaded metal cylinder that is baited with scent and fires sodium cyanide powder into the mouth of whatever tugs on it. M-44s are hollow metal tubes 5 to 7 inches long that are driven into the ground, loaded with 0.9 grams of sodium cyanide and coated with the smelliest bait possible.

The government has been using the M-44 to attempt control coyotes all over the west since it invention in the 1960’s. The predator control program goes as far back as the 1930’s. The program has been criticized in the past because of its killing of non target animals.

The Sacramento Bee investigated the program back in 2012. They state that Agency records show that more than 3,400 animals have been mistakenly killed by M-44s since 2006, including black bears, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, ravens, ringtails, red fox, gray fox, kit fox, swift fox, turkey vultures and dogs.

An agency fact sheet says that employees place the devices strategically “to minimize the risk of attracting non-target animals." It also says that M-44s – unlike leg-hold traps – kill rapidly.

“Unconsciousness, followed by death, is very quick, normally within one to five minutes after the device is triggered. Animals killed by sodium cyanide appear to show no overt signs of distress or pain.”

But Rex Shaddox, a former agency trapper who has watched dogs die from M-44 poisoning, disagreed. "It’s not a painless death," he said. “They start whining. They start hemorrhaging from their ears and nose and mouth. They get paralysis and fall over. Then they start convulsing and they’re gone. They are suffering endlessly until they die. It’ll make you literally want to puke.”

Just a few short months ago Texas decided to fight wild pigs with poison. The backlash from hunters and environmentalists was quick. A law suit was filed and the use of the poison was suspended.

I wonder if this incident will generate the same backlash. As a hunter I am against the use of poison to control wildlife. It is indiscriminate and runs the risk of ruining an ecosystem. I would prefer they use guns or traps. With a gun you can target specific animals or in the case of trapping release any non target animal unharmed.

To read the Story out of Idaho CLICK HERE

To read the Investigation by the Sacramento Bee CLICK HERE