Wildlife Services is the name. Some of you might have heard about them, but many of you haven’t. Despite the ambiguous name, they are not deployed to give service to wildlife, but to the farmers instead.
The United States’ agency is indeed operating in obscurity, and the mission is to protect farmers and ranchers from wild animals’ threats. In theory, the intention of protecting farmers and ranchers mean that we would have more foods and crops without having to worry about the threats from wild animals.
That might sound good for us, but in fact, that’s just a slogan used by the agency to kill animals. Especially after being reauthorized by Trump administration, the agency has killed so many wild animals that critics said they are ‘destroying’ the nature.
Here in this article we are going to talk about what have happened with the reauthorization of Wildlife Services’ most dangerous weapon.
Wildlife Services’ Bomb Reauthorization
Reauthorization means you are allowed to do what once was not authorized. In this case, we are talking about how Trump administration is allowing Wildlife Services to once again use a device called M-44 to “protect farmers”.
The device itself is a kind of chemical bomb that not only explodes when triggered, but also releases deadly chemical afterward. The deadly chemical consists of cyanide that’s not only able to harm wild animals, but also human.
At this point, you should have understood that M-44 device is more than just a mouse trap. In August 2019, EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) announced that the use of sodium cyanide in M-44 device is allowed across the country on an interim basis.
Nevertheless, EPA still approved the reauthorization of M-44 device in order to “protect crops and cattle” ignoring 99% of all comments directed to the announcement. The only safety measure that it took is to place it at least 100 feet away from public roads or trails.
Brooks Fahy, the executive director of the environmental group Predator Defense said that it is a complete disaster. He said that EPA has “ignored the facts and they ignored cases that, without a doubt, demonstrate that there is no way M-44s can be used safely”.
The M-44 Used By Wildlife Services
So, what is actually the M-44 device? This device is a kind of trap that is triggered when being pressured usually by bites. It contains a 0.88 grams capsule of sodium cyanide, and wrapped in cloth or other similar soft materials.
It has spring-powered ejector and installed in the ground. When triggered, the spring propels the sodium cyanide into the biting animal’s mouth, poisoning it directly after combining the poison with water in the animal’s mouth.
This is an effective device to ‘control’ (read: kill) wild coyotes. In 2016, out of almost 77,000 coyotes killed by Wildlife Services, about 12,500 of it were killed by the device. However, the victims are not always coyote.
In 2017, a tragedy hit fourteen-years-old Canyon Mansfield and his Labrador pet when they were playing outside in Pocatello, Idaho. Canyon found the metal piece of the bomb and took it off the ground. The bomb exploded and emitted powdery substance.
Within a minute, the substance poisoned the dog and killed it, while Canyon felt a pounding in his head and burning in his eyes. He is still feeling the pain up to nowadays. “The United States government put a cyanide bomb 350 feet from my house, and killed my dog and poisoned my child,” said Theresa Mansfield, his mother.
The agency is told to have killed (or controlled as they say) millions of animals. In 2018 alone, reports said that nearly 1.5 million native animals were exterminated by using any means. The methods used varied, starting from using the bomb, shooting from helicopters, even employing leg traps and snares.
All of those things were done secretively and silently. The question is, why should the agency be run so secretively? Their presence and mission are not even recognized by many people living in areas where they serve.
Even Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon said that they are more secretive than Department of Homeland Security. For a note, DeFazio had served for Homeland Security for ten years and has been familiar with ‘secrets’.
“I served on the homeland security committee for a decade, and Wildlife Services, so called, is more opaque than some of our intelligence agencies,” he said. “Basically, in some cases, it is rogue,” he added because the Wildlife Services agents are working with little transparency or accountability.
Lorin Nielsen, sheriff of Bannock county even didn’t realize that the agency even exists when the Mansfield tragedy happened. “I am telling you, I was in the total dark. I had no idea (Wildlife Services) existed and why they existed and it still boggles me,” he stated.
Growing Public Concern
Since the Mansfield tragedy, public concern about Wildlife Service and its jobs has been growing. Another reason why the public concern has been growing is the number of domestic pets has been killed accidentally by them.
Data found that about 40 domestic pets had been killed by M-44 device alone in recent decades. “M-44s are indiscriminate killers and a public safety menace,” said Brooks Fahy, the executive director of Predator Defense.
Reauthorization by Trump administration, to make the use of M-44 device nationwide is indeed too late be prevented. However, Fahy is optimist that growing public concern about the safety of their pets and native wild animals, it can be taken down once again.
Using the Mansfield incident as their main weapon, Fahy’s Predator Defense and the Mansfields are joining forces with conservationist groups to take down the reauthorization of M-44 cyanide bomb. They do it as far as flying lawsuit to the agency.
However, the only response they got from the agency was blaming the kid and the pet for the incident. Up until nowadays, the Mansfields and their allies are still fighting their war with Wildlife Services using growing public concern about the agency and the bomb as their main weapons.