Update: The story as told by the Associated Press. Dog died at cyanide trap set in an off-limits area
EPA: Coyote poison wrongly placed on public road in Utah. By Mike Stark. The AP fails to mention that the dogs’ owner was poisoned too.
Unfortunately too, so far he has failed to get compensation from USDA.
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News release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
Contact: Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337
EPA CITES USDA FOR WILDLIFE POISON VIOLATIONS — Wildlife Services’
Sodium Cyanide Device Killed Dog and Sickened Hunter
Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited a
federal wildlife eradication agency for violating safety rules
governing a highly lethal poison, according to records released today
by WildEarth Guardians and Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). EPA’s action was sparked by placement of a
deadly sodium cyanide device on federal public lands in Utah, causing
the death of a family’s dog and the illness of its owner.
The spring-loaded sodium cyanide ejecting device, called an M-44,
commonly used to kill coyotes, was deployed by Wildlife Services, an
arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The EPA’s March 20, 2008
notice found that Wildlife Services violated federal pesticide laws
by placing the M-44 in a public recreation area and within 50 feet of
a “public road or pathway.”
The triggering incident occurred on February 21, 2006, when Sam
Pollock, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, was injured and his dog
asphyxiated by sodium cyanide set out to kill coyotes in the Utah
desert. Pollock was rabbit hunting on Brough Reservoir, inside a
federal recreation area near Vernal, Utah. His two-year-old Labrador
retriever mix, Jenna, was trotting behind Pollock on a dirt road when
she tugged on and set off the M-44. Pollock heard a commotion, turned
and saw his dog frothing and vomiting but could do nothing as Jenna
died in his arms in 90 seconds. Pollock hoisted her body over his
shoulder and carried it two miles back to his truck. Soon after,
Pollock fell ill from even this indirect exposure.
“What happened to Sam Pollock and his dog is unfortunately all too
common,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians, noting that
Wildlife Services’ M-44s are used to kill nearly 14,000 animals a
year, according to agency figures. “Wildlife Services should not be
using a powerful poison like sodium cyanide anywhere.”
After the Pollock incident, Wildlife Services denied culpability and
even claimed that Pollock was not on a road, although photographs
taken by Utah officials clearly showed a dirt road. Ultimately, EPA
concluded that Wildlife Services was at fault for illegally putting
the devices where the public and pets would be at risk but only
issued a warning, leaving any corrective steps up to Wildlife
“Wildlife Services is an out-of-control extermination machine that
has no intention of policing itself no matter how serious its
offenses,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the
agency has been involved in so many accidents that it is undergoing a
national safety review. “Typical of Wildlife Services, its safety
review is being conducted in secret by unidentified agents.”
Meanwhile, opposition to Wildlife Services’ use of M-44s is growing.
EPA is now considering a petition filed by WildEarth Guardians, PEER,
and other groups to outright ban this poison due to the uncontrolled
threat it poses to people, pets and wildlife. Today, a supplement to
that petition was filed based on the Pollock case. In addition,
Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has introduced legislation to outlaw
sodium cyanide as a means for wildlife control.