Pocatello area resident Mark Mansfield, whose son Canyon triggered an M-44 “cyanide bomb” in March, killing their dog and exposing the boy to toxic chemicals, believes planned meetings to educate Idahoans on the use of such devices are merely a public relations campaign to protect what he calls an “indiscriminate killer.”

Wildlife Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, released on Wednesday a statement saying the division will host several sessions throughout Idaho next week to provide information about how the USDA complies with the restrictions on M-44 devices set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It sounds like they know they have a public relations issue so they are doing a public relations campaign, which is a very political thing to do,” Mark Mansfield said about the sessions during a Wednesday phone interview.

“In fact, when I talk about any hesitancies from our legislators their thoughts are that their constituents feel like it’s a useful tool in the management of predators.”

The sessions, which are free and open to the public will take place from 7-9 p.m. in the following locations: Tuesday, July 25, at the Lewiston Community Center located at 1424 Main Street in Lewiston; Wednesday, July 26, at the Holiday Inn Boise, located at 2970 West Elder Street in Boise; and Thursday, July 27, at the Idaho State University Pond Student Union Building, which is located at 1065 Cesar Chavez Avenue in Pocatello.

Mansfield said he found these discussions interesting because legislators are using the exact same language to defend the use of these devices throughout Idaho that public relations officials for the USDA use to support the devices.

Coyotes, foxes, and feral dogs cause substantial damage to livestock producers, particularly those with sheep and goats, according to the statement released by USDA.

“In a 2015 survey of producers, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) found that coyotes nationwide killed an estimated 118,032 sheep and lambs, including almost 3,700 head in Idaho,” the release noted. “Sheep and lamb lost to predators is valued nationally at an estimated $32.5 million.”

Despite the statistics, Mansfield claims Wildlife Services as well as legislators are not actually speaking to ranching or agricultural constituents regarding the use of M-44 devices. In his personal conversations with members within those communities, he said a majority don’t support M-44s and would prefer safer alternatives for cattle and livestock conservation.

“Wildlife Services wants to keep using (M-44s),” Mansfield said. “They really don’t care what the people want so they have decided to launch a public relations campaign to convince people that they aren’t dangerous.”

But in all reality, how can you convince a person that cyanide isn’t dangerous, Mansfield added.

“People aren’t stupid,” he said.

According to the USDA’s Wednesday statement, “M-44s are an important tool in reducing the loss of livestock due to predators, which is a significant and costly problem for producers. Wildlife Services is committed to the safe and responsible use of these devices, and the guidance and policies are intended to reduce risks when using the M-44 device.”

Mansfield said that Wildlife Services is focused on incorporating additional guidelines and restrictions about the use and placement of M-44 devices, which is something he said would be ineffective considering the M-44 that his son triggered was placed near his property in violation of the existing rules and conditions.

“Wildlife Services wants to increases the rules or the 26 standards when it comes to placing these bombs,” Mansfield said. “But if they don’t follow the rules in the first place they aren’t going to follow more rules.”

In April, Wildlife Services issued a temporarily ban on the use of M-44 sodium cyanide devices and in June ordered a comprehensive review of the use and placement of devices.

Erik Molvar, the executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, received a letter from the Wildlife Services in April which stated the division would notify Western Watersheds Project, as well as other conservational groups, 30 days prior to the use of M-44 devices in Idaho.

Molvar, during a Wednesday phone interview, said he has not received any communication from Wildlife Services regarding the use of M-44s. But Mansfield believes these educational sessions are the first step in the process of putting sodium cyanide devices back on the lands in Idaho.

“Wildlife Services has spent more time on public relations campaigns than relationships with the public,” Mansfield said. “This is no educational seminar — it’s a disguise. It’s an announcement they are going to restart the placing of cyanide bombs in our lands. It’s another assault on our community.”