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.
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.