Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad and the Center of Biological Diversity recently joined the fight in pushing back against the manufacture, storage and use of M-44s — also known as cyanide bombs.
Blad wrote a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Young on March 31 requesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) immediately cease the storage and manufacturing of M-44 “cyanide bombs” in Pocatello.
Plus, four conservation and animal-welfare groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, sued the Trump administration Tuesday for failing to protect endangered species from two deadly pesticides used to kill coyotes and other native carnivores.
“Safety is always a concern,” Blad said, adding that he was unaware of the use, manufacture and storage of M-44s in Pocatello prior to Canyon Mansfield, 14, watching his dog die after the boy triggered a device about 300 yards from his home on Buckskin Road in Pocatello.
“We’ve asked (the USDA) to stop storing (M-44s) here and to stop manufacturing them here,” Blad said. “If the USDA is going to continue to use them, at least let’s move them outside of the city limits so that we don’t have to worry about the neighborhood and that kind of an issue.”
Pocatello Supply Depot on Second Street in Pocatello manufactures some of the cyanide devices used to control predator populations and stores them at the facility, including sodium cyanide and Compound 1080.
In July 2014, Pocatello Supply Depot transitioned from being a private company and became a fully federalized facility operated exclusively by Wildlife Services, according to documents posted to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.
The Environmental Protection Agency has registered the pesticides at issue — sodium cyanide, the poison in M-44s and Compound 1080 — for use by Wildlife Services, a division of the USDA’s Plant Health Inspection Service. And also, for use by certain state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas, according to a statement from the Center for Biological Diversity.
In 2011 the EPA began, but never finished, an analysis of how the poisons could affect threatened and endangered species. The lawsuit seeks to compel completion of that stalled process, which should lead to mitigation measures to protect imperiled wildlife.
“Cyanide bombs are indiscriminate killers,” said Collette Adkins, attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “In just the past several weeks they’ve injured a child and killed an endangered wolf and several family dogs. These dangerous pesticides need to be banned. But until then, they shouldn’t be used where they can hurt people or kill family pets and endangered wildlife.”
The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, the Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals, seeks common-sense measures to prevent unintended deaths from Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide used in M-44s.
These were behind the death of an endangered Oregon wolf in February, and temporarily blinded a child and killed three family dogs in two separate incidents in Idaho and Wyoming in March alone.
“The recent tragedies prove current restrictions are failing to ensure people, domestic animals and imperiled wildlife are not at risk from these dangerous and outdated tools,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “With the wide array of nonlethal, effective wildlife conflict management tools available, and the unacceptable threats these poisons pose, it is past time we end the use of cyanide M-44s and Compound 1080.”
Blad said he is requesting the USDA stop storing cyanide bombs and other toxic chemicals in Pocatello, but he is not asking them to stop their operations altogether.
“(The USDA) is an important part of our community and they’re a good neighbor quite frankly,” Blad said. “They have allowed our first responders in to do different things and different drills. I’m not interested in them leaving by any means, but I am interested in them having the cyanide bombs be removed from our community.”
Since Canyon Mansfield triggered an M-44 predator control device that spewed poison into his face and killed his dog on March 16, the child has experienced headaches, nausea and numbness, the family said last week.
“It was awfully close to city limits is what our concern is,” Blad said. “My main concern is that we have a citizen that has been affected by them and I don’t want that to happen to any other citizens. If removing them and having a different way of approaching a coyote problem is there then let’s look at that before we hurt another citizen in this way.”
In addition to the recent lawsuit, several formal petitions also surfaced last week, calling for the immediate termination and removal of all devices installed in Idaho. Mark Mansfield, the boy’s father and a local physician, filed one of the petitions directly to the White House.
And backed by a coalition of conservation and wildlife organizations, the Western Watersheds Project also spearheaded a direct formal petition addressed to Jason Suckow, western region director for USDA-Wildlife Services.
“(The USDA facility has) been here for decades, we haven’t had any issues there and I don’t have any reason to believe that we will have, but we have had one dog that has stepped on one and we have a citizen that has some effects even today from this event,” Blad said. “If we can prevent that from happening again, that’s important. We are more than welcome to have them stay and continue the work that they are doing, just remove the bombs would be appreciated.”