I Never Met a Coyote I Didn’t Like…

Recently a long-time friend who also happens to be a chemist and environmental scientist, Christopher Parker of Lander, Wyoming sent me a link to the story of Dennis Slaugh. Slaugh, in 2003, had a federally manufactured M-44 predator control device release a cloud of sodium cyanide powder in his face. Slaugh immediately became ill, and has suffered from the encounter ever since. The federal government has said they were not responsible for the event, and has refused to help Slaugh or even communicate with him. The M-44 is designed to release its charge into the mouth of the predator that attempts to eat the baited device. Unfortunately, it has no way to discern between species.

These devices are manufactured for and by the federal government, and set by officers of the innocuous-sounding federal agency called Wildlife Services, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to an article in the January, 2008 issue of Men’s Journal, the agency “shoots, traps, or poisons” 1.7 million animals annually. The same article states that this happens at a cost to taxpayers of 100 million dollars a year.

I have been aware for much of my life of the killing of animals by the federal government as part of the federally subsidised predator eradication program. I knew a number of people in the small Nevada town where I grew up who were in the business of hunting “dogs”, as they referred to coyotes. These hunters and trappers would boast large numbers of coyote kills each year. Until now I have paid little attention to the federal programs, and federal dollars, that subsidize the large-scale killing of part of the food chain of the western U.S. Yes, your tax dollars are killing coyotes, mountain lions, bears, foxes, bobcats, skunks, pet dogs, and have come close to killing humans. Slaugh is not the only person injured by the devices. It is only matter of time before someone is killed.

Poisoned Bobcat found on BLM land near Carizozo, New Mexico

And therein lies my worry. My three year old son and I spend a lot of time in the wilds of Utah. As he gets older, we plan to spend more time, as much time as we can, exploring the deserts and canyons and rivers of the southwest. That is why we live in the West. Until recently, until I learned of the M-44 devices that are used for killing predators, my primary worry in the wilderness with my son was the Midget Faded Rattlesnake, Crotalus viridis concolor, and cougars to a lesser degree. Now added to these is the possibility that he may find one of the M-44 devices. The government requires that a sign be posted warning of the nearby danger, within 25 feet of the device, according to an online post. This requirement is ridiculous in many ways. In the case of my son, who cannot read yet, it is utterly useless.

There is just too much for me to cover regarding this subject at the moment. I will follow up on this post, continue researching, and add more links to stories as I find them. Some of the topics I plan to research include ranching subsidies, the actual threat of predators as opposed to what might be the perceived threat, the actual loss by ranchers each year due to predators, the possible environmental damage caused by the release of sodium cyanide, the threat of coyotes to people in both wilderness and urban/suburban settings, and the position of my Colorado representatives on these issues.

This brings me to the bill introduced in the House in December of last year. The comment period ends on 05 March, 2008. The bill is titled the Compound 1080 and M-44 Elimination Act. It can be read by clicking here and typing “HR 4775”, the bill number, in the search field. It is simple and straightforward- ban cyanide and the devices. Read it and send an email, a fax, or make a phone call.

The website Trap Free Oregon has more information on the action that needs to be taken, on the proposed ban, the devices and poison. It also has a sample letter to help you draft your own.

The organisation called Sinapu is one of the groups responsible for the petition to the EPA. More info on the subject can be found at their website.

This post and my further research will be available at www.DesertExplorer.us.

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One Response to I Never Met a Coyote I Didn’t Like…

  1. Wendy says:

    Our organization, Sinapu (n/k/a WildEarth Guardians), and several more have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency and asked that it ban M-44s and another predator poison called Compound 1080. The EPA is taking public comments on the issue until March 5th. To learn more, go to http://www.sinapu.org, and click on the action alert that’s located on the home page. This administrative action is in addition to Rep. Peter DeFazio’s Congressional work.

    In 2006, two people in Utah were injured by M-44s that had been placed in an unlawful manner. Sam Pollock was secondarily poisoned when he held his dog, Jenna, in his arms as she violently expired. He carried her corpse two miles back to his truck. Sharyn Aguiar lost her German Shepard while working in a rock quarry. Both these 2006 incidents occurred on BLM lands, and in both instances, Wildlife Services denied culpability and were not held accountable by the investigating agencies.

    Sodium cyanide is usually a quick-acting, lethal poison. Death comes at ~ two minutes – leaving people with little time to get help should they be exposed as Dennis Slaugh experienced. Cyanide and Compound 1080 are bioterrorism weapons, and the USDA Wildlife Services has been horribly negligent in their use, storage, and inventory control. In fact, Wildlife Services has failed several federal audits for maintaining control over its toxicants inventory under the Bioterrorism Act. Moreover, in November 2007, Wildlife Services admitted that it was experiencing a “wake of accidents” and that it was conducting a national safety review. Part of that safety review will inevitably involve the investigation of a June 2007 airplane crashed in Utah. Two federal agents died while aerial hunting coyotes. To learn more, go to http://www.goAGRO.org and click on “federal accidents”.

    The economics of livestock growing do not justify lethal controls the federal government uses. Less than 1% of the U.S. cattle production in 2005 were killed by predators, and 3% of the 2004 sheep production were killed by predators (see “livestock losses” on the AGRO site). It hardly merits Wildlife Services’ wildlife-killing budget of $100 million annually. This money kills between two and three million animals per year, including about 100,000 mammalian carnivores. It is time for livestock growers to use the non-lethal protection measures to protect their livestock.

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