top of page
  • Writer's pictureGina Scrofano

Deadly Poisons Used By USDA Wildlife Services

With human habitation and agriculture grazing areas encroaching on wildlife territory more and more by the day, wildlife/human and wildlife/livestock conflict have been a growing concern for years.

Rather than implement sensible solutions, Wildlife Services, an agency within the US Department of Agriculture, has been using taxpayer-funded agonizing, indiscriminate, and toxic killing methods to kill over tens of thousands of animals per year. These egregious practices pose a threat to endangered species, domestic pets, humans, and the environment.

Compound 1080

Compound 1080 is a poison, toxic to humans and animals, which Wildlife Services loads into the collars of livestock, such as sheep. When an animal attacks the sheep at the neck, it dispenses the poison, causing a slow and excruciating death by progressive cardiac failure or depression of the central nervous system, following severe convulsions.

M-44 / Bannock County Sheriff's Office, AP


M-44s are ‘bombs’ that spray sodium cyanide onto unsuspecting animals when pulling on the baited device. Wildlife Services places M-44s on private and public lands.

Although intended to protect livestock, M-44s cause torturous deaths, not only to predators such as coyotes and foxes, but also thousands of other animals per year, including domestic pets.

New Science Reveals Environmental Toxicity

Studies claiming compound 1080 is nontoxic to the environment are deeply flawed. Recent science shows that compound 1080 is chemically stable under many circumstances, which means that it can remain toxic in soil and water for extended periods of time.(1)

M-44s (sodium cyanide) is soluble in water and highly toxic to most aquatic organisms. Residues of sodium cyanide in the environment can be chronically toxic to plants and animals,(2) and may also produce adverse reproductive effects.(3)

Taxpayer Funded Death Tolls

Nationwide, Wildlife Services killed more than 2.7 million animals in 2014. In 2016, their M-44s killed 13,530 animals; 321 nontarget animals among them, including federally protected endangered species and family dogs.(4)

In Monterey County alone, Wildlife Services killed 3,000 bobcats, mountain lions, and other animals over the past six years and the agencies indiscriminate killing methods have also injured humans and killed more than 1,100 dogs since 2000.(5)

US counties, such as Monterey, have been spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer funds to contract with Wildlife Services to conduct these inhumane and dreadfully irresponsible killing methods for years.

Groundbreaking Lawsuit

When Monterey County renewed their Wildlife Services contract in 2016, animal and environmental welfare organizations refused to stand for it. A Monterey resident joined with Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with other conservation organizations and filed a lawsuit.

On August 9th, Superior Court Judge Lydia Villarreal ruled against Monterey County, stating that the contract renewal with the Wildlife Services violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Although the ruling does not ban the use of compound 1080 or M-44s, it acknowledges that the use of such poisons poses a potential threat to the conservation of wildlife and the ecosystem. It also reinforces that any California counties that choose to partake in toxic methods such as those conducted by Wildlife Services, they must first perform a proper environmental review; a judgment that could resonate with other US counties as well.

Taking A Legislative Stand

That lawsuit was not the only step that has been taken to combat such unnecessary cruelty and potential environmental toxicity. Banning such methods of the Dept. of Agriculture has been an ongoing mission of several organizations and legislators for years, and many have yet to give up the fight.

HR 1817 - Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017, was introduced into US Congress in March 2017, which would prohibit the use of sodium fluoroacetate (Compound 1080) and sodium cyanide (M-44s) for predator control.

-14 yr. old Canyon Mansfield, Idaho, after losing his family dog to an M-44

Citizens Rise And Join The Fight

Citizens are also starting to rise against the use of M-44’s. Among other citizens across the nation, 100 residents of Idaho protested M-44s in March following the death of a family dog after triggering an M-44 that was placed less than 300 yards away from their home.

Canyon Mansfield holds up the collar of his dog Casey that was killed by an M-44 / Jordon Beesley, Idaho State Journal

The family’s 14-year-old son, Canyon Mansfield who also suffered from exposure to the poison, watched in terror as his beloved dog died an agonizing death before his eyes.

The Idaho State Journal reported that Canyon had some words for legislators stating, “Don’t be afraid to lose a few votes just to do what’s right”...“Just think about the costs that could happen if you don’t support legislation permanently banning M-44s in Idaho.”

Petitioning Against Poison

On August 10th, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and several other wildlife conservation groups(6), petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to nationally outlaw M-44s. The petition cites their violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, its threat to humans, domestic pets, endangered species and the environment, and also requests the use of valuable livestock protection alternatives.

Paving The Way

After years of fighting for sensible, nontoxic alternatives and compassionate anti-egregious killing measures, we can only hope that the brave individuals such as Canyon Mansfield and Judge Lydia Villarreal, along with our conservation organizations, and the animals that have tragically lost their lives, have paved the way for a future without the use of compound 1080 and M-44s. Not only for the conservation of our wildlife but our environment and our families.

1. Contact your House Representative and kindly urge them to support HR 1817, Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017.

Find current list of HR 1817 co-sponsors here

Find your House Representative here

Example: “My name is (name) from (state), and I’m calling to urge Representative (Rep. name) to support HR 1817, Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017. This bill would contribute to wildlife and environmental conservation, as well as public safety, by prohibiting the tax-funded use of deadly poisons which inhumanely kill thousands of wild animals, as well as our domestic pets, and negatively impacts our ecosystem.”

2. Spread The Word

Share this post with family and friends to spread awareness of the Wildlife Services killing methods using Compound 1080 and M-44s.

In Memory of the Canine Family Members (starting top left in photo above),

Abby (with friend Vita in WY), Ruby (WA), Casey (ID), Bea (MT), Max (UT), Molly (WY),

along with the other domestic pets and the devastatingly high number of wild animals tragically and inhumanely lost to Compound 1080 and M-44s:

(2) 1993 Biological Opinion (released by US Fish and Wildlife Service), at II-73 (3)

(4) US Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, Program Data Report G 2016 Animals Dispersed/Killed or Euthanized/Removed or Destroyed/Freed, (as of June 5, 2017)

(6) WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity authored the petition and are joined by: Advocates for the West, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Born Free USA, the Endangered Species Coalition, the Humane Society of the United States, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Predator Defense, Project Coyote, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Sierra Club, the Southwest Environmental Center, Western Environmental Law Center, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Network and the Wolf Conservation Center.

Straight Twist, Logo, Animal Welfare


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page