Federal Cyanide Trap Meant For Coyotes Kills Family Dog, Injures Boy

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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A cyanide trap administered by the federal government killed a 3-year-old Labrador Thursday and injured a 14-year-old boy in eastern Idaho.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture admitted Friday that workers for one of its divisions–the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Wildlife Services–positioned a device called M-44, which is used to exterminate coyotes, foxes and wild dogs.

“APHIS’ Wildlife Services confirms the unintentional lethal take of a dog in Idaho,” the agency told The Associated Press. “Wildlife Services has removed M-44s in that immediate area.”

The boy’s father reported to police that his dog had died and that he found his son covered in an unknown substance. The mother said her son was knocked down when the device automatically activated, and was forced to watch his dog die in what was supposed to be a leisurely walk through the foothills.

“Initially, we were just trying to determine what it even was; that was our biggest concern,” Capt. Dan Argyle, who responded to the incident, said Thursday. “We have never dealt with these before.”

The boy was sent to the emergency room in order to be tested for cyanide poisoning, but was eventually released with no serious injuries.

“It’s a miracle the child wasn’t seriously injured or even killed,” Argyle told The AP.

The rest of the family was also examined out of a precautionary measure.

M-44 devices have been a point of contention before.

A 2000 report from High Country News details a spate of unintended dog deaths from the poison traps. In one incident, a government trapper was accused of illegally trespassing and breaking federal rules regulating the use of M-44s after he planted two cyanide traps on a family property that ultimately killed their dog.

But according to the APHIS’s Wildlife Services, the devices are important for curtailing the population of predatory animals.

“The M-44 ejector device is an effective and environmentally sound wildlife damage management tool,” the Wildlife Services May 2010 Factsheet reads. “The spring-activated device delivers a dose of cyanide powder to targeted animals. It uses a cyanide capsule that is registered as a restricted-use pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The device can be used only by trained certified applicators.”

The Wildlife Services stresses that not only are authorized personnel the only ones allowed to manage and place the devices, officials always make sure to get the consent of the “land’s owner or manager.”

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