Over the years, government wildlife agencies have found themselves in the difficult situation of dealing with encroaching predators. Environmental changes to habitat or food supply or urban development have often pushed predators like coyotes into greater proximity with other animals and humans. It's not the predator's fault, but what to do when a coyote is feeding on local pets or commercial livestock?
Catching the animals in traps or hunting them to anesthetize and then relocate them can be logistically complex and sometimes meets with limited success as the predator often returns because the conditions that brought about the encroachment have not changed.
Poison has been a measure of last resort, but it brings with it tremendous risk to other unintended victims including endangered species like wolves and condors, not to mention domesticated pets and even humans. The Defenders of Wildlife is bringing the issue to the EPA as the poisons that have been used are extremely toxic and there is a question as to how well the placement and management of bait traps has been handled. The non-profit group - which focuses primarily on wolves, bears, and other threatened predatory mammals - has initiated a campaign to get the EPA to halt the use of two of the most common toxic compounds used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services: sodium cyanide and sodium monofluoroacetate (known as Compound 1080).
Here is an excerpt from their write-in campaign:
"As someone who is concerned about the safety of people, pets and wildlife, I strongly urge your agency to ban sodium cyanide and sodium monofluoroacetate (commonly called Compound 1080).
Sodium cyanide and sodium monofluoroacetate are considered to be some of the deadliest toxins known to humanity. Yet, Wildlife Services, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), regularly uses these two poisons to kill coyotes and other predators. In 2009, the two poisons killed an average of 1.5 animals every hour. In many instances, these deadly poisons are deployed on public lands.
But these poisons don't just threaten their intended targets. They can also poison any threatened or endangered species, people or pets that happen to come into contact with them.
Sodium cyanide is used in M-44 trigger traps, which kill more than 10,000 animals each year, including domesticated dogs and a whole host of other non-target species including kit foxes, ringtails, javelinas, and swift foxes. M-44s have also killed California condors and wolves.
Compound 1080 is classified as a chemical weapon in several countries. It is deployed in poison collars placed on sheep and goats and is highly toxic to birds and mammals. Carcasses with Compound 1080 must be handled as hazardous waste and, if ingested, can kill wolves and other animals. Compound 1080 has even been used to illegally kill wolves and people's pets.
The continued availability of these poisons poses a threat to people, pets and homeland security. Government reports have concluded that Wildlife Services has been unable to account for stockpiles of the toxins, which leaves the hazardous materials vulnerable to undetected theft and unauthorized use.
There are effective alternatives to these poisons, including a wide range of proactive, nonlethal methods for protecting livestock such as fencing, guard animals, fladry, non-lethal ammunition and improved animal husbandry.
For the safety of our people, our pets and our wildlife, I strongly urge you to ban the use of sodium cyanide and Compound 1080."
You can visit the Defenders of Wildlife website to learn more about this situation and how you can participate in voicing concern of the use of these poisons.