Enviros ask feds to discontinue uses of livestock protection chemicals
A coalition of environmental groups sent a petition to the Agriculture Department and U.S. EPA last week requesting that the agencies discontinue the legal uses of two highly toxic pesticides used to protect livestock from predators in the wild.
Led by the Colorado-based carnivorous wildlife protection group Sinapu, the petition asks EPA to cancel and suspend all uses of M-44 sodium cyanide capsules and sodium fluoroacetate livestock protection collars, also known as Compound 1080. The uses of the “predator damage management” chemicals should be canceled because they do not yield a high enough number of predator kills per year to warrant the “risks and costs to people and wildlife” that the chemicals pose.
The sodium cyanide capsules are used by USDA and private landowners to protect livestock grazing areas. The capsules are placed in a trap that attracts predators such as wolves and coyotes with an attractive smell and then gases the predators once they spring the trap. The chemical is highly lethal and can kill an animal within moments and human — if ingested — over an hour or more.
Compound 1080 — which is banned in all but 11 states — is a World War II-era chemical that can easily kill a grown man. For livestock protection purposes, quantities of it can be placed in liquid form in a collar that goes around the neck of a cow or sheep. When a predator attempts to bite the neck of its victim, it is exposed to a quantity of 1080 that often results in a slow death brought on by cardiac arrest.
Uses not justified by economics
Sinapu Carnivore Protection Program director Wendy Keefover-Ring told Land Letter that EPA’s registration of the chemicals and USDA’s continued use of them on Bureau of Land Management land are not justified by economics.
According to USDA data compiled by the groups, of the 101,225 mammalian carnivores killed in 2004, 12 percent or 11,872 were killed with M-44s and 0.04 percent or 45 were killed with Compound 1080.
The petition also says that the dispersal and implementation of M-44 delivery devices by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Bureau of Land Management land in an effort to protect wild species believed to be in danger from predators has “resulted in the unintended deaths of numerous [other] species and domestic pets.”
Also, the petition alleges that USDA frequently places the delivery devices improperly so that they sit close to roadways, rivers, streams and park areas in violation of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act mandates.
“For example, according to recently reported incidents, it appears that [USDA APHIS] failed to follow FIFRA use guidelines for M-44s. As a result, two dogs were poisoned in Utah in Spring 2006 within close proximity of humans,” the petition says.
Keefover-Ring explained that USDA uses M-44 capsules under the auspices of the 1931 Animal Damage Control Act, which authorizes the agency to determine the best methods of eradication, suppression or control of various predatory animals such as mountain lions, wolves and coyotes that threaten livestock, fur-bearing animals and birds.
USDA’s Office of the Inspector General has twice audited APHIS’s use of the capsules and Compound 1080 and concludes that EPA should ban the manufacture and distribution of sodium cyanide for predator control and completely ban the manufacture and distribution of Compound 1080.
“There is a fundamental problem surrounding how these chemicals are used and why they are used,” Keefover-Ring said. “It’s all an extension of a 100-year culture of simply hating predators.”
She added that Sinapu and the other groups may discuss possible legal action against the government if it does not follow through with the petition’s requests.
EPA and USDA staff were unavailable for comment this week.
By Russell J. Dinnage, Land Letter reporter
February 1, 2007