Every year the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program spends millions of taxpayer dollars on lethal predator control. A portion of the program’s substantial expenditures is dedicated to poisoning wildlife with two extremely dangerous and indiscriminate poisons: sodium fluoroacetate (Compound 1080) and sodium cyanide (M-44 devices). The Chemical Poisons Reduction Act would ban the use of Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide in federal predator control programs.
Compound 1080 Livestock Protection Collars
Compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) is an extremely dangerous poison used in livestock protection collars (LPCs). Placed around the necks of sheep or goats, these devices are intended to poison coyotes and other predators who may puncture a collar while attempting to prey on livestock.
Compound 1080 LPCs are dangerous, inhumane devices that do the following:
Cause extraordinary suffering. Once exposed to Compound 1080, an animal will experience a slow, excruciating death. Typically drawn out over several hours—sometimes days—death “may result from: (a) gradual cardiac failure or ventricular fibrillation; or (b) progressive depression of the central nervous system with either cardiac or respiratory failure as the terminal event; or (c) respiratory arrest following severe convulsions.”1
Harm nontarget species. Compound 1080 can leak from LPCs and directly contaminate the environment, exposing nontarget species to its harmful effects. Studies have shown that wire, vegetation, or other objects are responsible for more LPC punctures than are coyotes, and collars are often reported as missing.2 Because carcasses of animals poisoned with Compound 1080 are typically not recovered, there is a substantial risk of secondary poisoning of wildlife.
Endanger pets. Domestic animals are at risk, too, as even Wildlife Services has acknowledged: “Compound 1080 is hazardous to domestic animals including livestock and pets. Dogs are particularly susceptible. ... As little as 0.1 ml of an LPC’s contents may be fatal to a 25 pound dog. Dogs could be poisoned by scavenging the carcasses of collared livestock.”3
Threaten public safety and national security. In addition to its environmental and animal welfare impacts, Compound 1080 poses significant threats to humans. This “very highly toxic”4 chemical is colorless, tasteless, odorless, and water-soluble. The poison is so dangerous that the FBI has identified it as a potential weapon of terrorism, and Wildlife Services itself has stated that “Compound 1080 is highly toxic to warm blooded animals, including man, when taken internally. ... [O]ne LP collar contains approximately 2 to 6 lethal doses for a 150 pound man.”5 As with animals, anyone exposed to the substance will experience a great deal of pain and ultimately death, as—alarmingly—there is no known antidote to Compound 1080 poisoning.
Sodium Cyanide M-44 Devices
M-44s are baited, spring-activated devices that contain deadly sodium cyanide. When an animal, attracted by the bait, pulls on the poisoned trap, the M-44 propels sodium cyanide into his or her mouth, thereby poisoning and killing the animal.
M-44 devices have the following brutal effects:
- Cause severe, unnecessary pain and suffering. When an animal triggers an M-44, the sodium cyanide reacts with the moisture in the animal’s mouth or nostrils to produce toxic fumes, exposure to which causes substantial suffering (including convulsions, foaming at the mouth, pulmonary edema, paralysis) and, ultimately, death.6
- Kill indiscriminately. M-44s are nonselective, and often kill nontarget wildlife, including protected species such as wolves, grizzly bears, swift foxes, lynxes, raptors, and black-footed ferrets. The USDA acknowledges that there are hundreds of unintended wildlife deaths every year as a result of these devices, and these numbers are likely gross underestimates.7
- Threaten humans and pets. M-44s have killed family pets across the country and have caused severe, irreparable harm to people who have been exposed. In the spring of 2017 alone, three family dogs are confirmed to have died from these devices. An Idaho boy was exposed to cyanide and watched his dog die after they inadvertently tripped a capsule planted by Wildlife Services only a few hundred yards from their home. Two dogs in Wyoming died similarly brutal, unnecessary deaths. And these are not isolated incidents. In 2011, a Texas family lost its beloved dog to an M-44 set by Wildlife Services just 918 feet from the family’s home. In addition, families in West Virginia and Nebraska each lost pets to the same fate the previous year, and similar incidents have been reported across the United States. Humans who have been exposed to sodium cyanide released by M-44s, either while trying to rescue pets or through other inadvertent contact, have experienced debilitating health effects and suffered chronic maladies.
1. Atzert, S.P. 1971. A Review of Sodium Monofluoroacetate (Compound 1080): Its Properties, Toxicology, and Use in Predator and Rodent Control. US Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.
2. See, for example, Watson, M. 1990. Rancher Use of Livestock Protection Collars in Texas. Proceedings of the Fourteenth Vertebrate Pest Conference 277–280.
3. US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. 1998. Technical Bulletin: Compound 1080 Livestock Protection Collar.
4. US Environmental Protection Agency. 1995. Registration Eligibility Decision (RED): Sodium Fluoroacetate, EPA 738-R-95-025.
5. US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. 1998. Technical Bulletin: Compound 1080 Livestock Protection Collar.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sodium Cyanide: Systemic Agent, available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/EmergencyResponseCard_29750036.html.
7. See Predator Defense. 2012. Federal Statistics: Animal Deaths from M-44s and Compound 1080 in 2010.