Monthly Archives: November 2007


Federal Register Notice Asks for Public Comments on Revoking Registration

Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is calling for public comment on banning two of the most deadly poisons used to kill wild mammals. The Federal Register notice comes as a result of a petition filed earlier this year by a coalition of conservation and public health organizations coordinated by Sinapu and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The two poisons are sodium cyanide (used in M-44 ejectors) and sodium fluoroacetate, commonly called Compound 1080, a toxicant used in “livestock protection collars” strapped onto the heads of sheep and goats. Both agents are classified by EPA as having the highest degree of “acute toxicity.” The poisons are distributed by Wildlife Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which used these two agents during 2006 to kill an average of 1.6 animals every hour.

Even as EPA moves forward, legislation is being prepared in Congress to ban the two chemicals from production and use. That emerging legislation is being spearheaded by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

“While I am happy that EPA has acted on our petition, the threat to people, pets and wildlife will remain until these poisons are outlawed,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, citing persistent reports of accidental poisonings of what Wildlife Services calls “non-target” animals. “These toxicants are outmoded, dangerous and inhumane means of wildlife management.”

Each year, M-44s account for the deaths of approximately 13,000 mammalian carnivores, out of a total of more than 1.6 million birds, coyotes and other wildlife killed last year by Wildlife Services, at an annual cost to taxpayers of $108.6 million.

Compound 1080, a colorless, odorless, tasteless, water soluble toxin, is classified as a chemical weapon by several countries for its potential threat to water supplies. Government audits have repeatedly faulted sloppy inventory control by Wildlife Services that could lead to theft or black market sales. Adding to the dangers, Wildlife Services’ own records show that livestock protection collars routinely go missing and that their poison-containing pouches easily get punctured on sharp objects like brush, rocks, or barbed wire, creating an uncontrolled biohazard.

The groups note that relatively few livestock are killed by predators, making the use of these highly toxic agents unwarranted. USDA figures show that in 2005, more than 20 times as many cattle were killed by weather, rustlers and other causes than by predators, which accounted for an infinitesimal 0.18% of losses.

Compound 1080 is already banned in California and Oregon and is explicitly allowed for use in only eleven states. EPA had also previously banned Compound 1080, but during the Reagan administration, the agency reversed itself and allowed re-introduction of the poison in livestock protection collars.

Via a Federal Register notice dated November 16, 2007, EPA is soliciting public comment over the next 30 days on whether the pesticide registration for these two agents should be revoked, thus removing them from use.

“EPA is supposed to weigh the risks to public health and the environment against the commercial benefit of these products, a balance that we feel is heavily weighted toward a ban” commented PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein. “In all likelihood, the final decision on whether to take these commercial poisons off the market will be made by the next administration.”

Wendy Keefover-Ring ||Sinapu|| (303) 447.8655, Ext. 1#
Carol Goldberg || PEER|| (202) 265-7337


See the Federal Register notice


Read the petition


Look at the growing bio-terrorist peril from poor inventory control of these poisons


View the annual breakdown of mortalities caused by M-44


See the latest figures on federal wildlife eradication by state, species and method of dispatch


Compare the small impact that wildlife has on livestock losses


Learn more about the petitioner groups



Air Crashes, Bio-Agent Security Lapses and Mega-Poison Misuse Beset Feds

Washington, DC — Due to a rash of accidents, mishaps and security breaches, the federal agency which conducts mass wildlife extermination will undertake a nationwide safety review, according an agency circular released today by Sinapu and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The groups are calling on the agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture called Wildlife Services, to open this safety examination to public scrutiny.

The scope and severity of the security, safety and bio-hazard issues confronting Wildlife Services (WS) is staggering. In a November 5, 2007 “stakeholders” memo, WS Deputy Administrator William Clay writes that:

“In the wake of several accidents in WS’ programs, WS is conducting a nationwide safety review focusing on aviation and aerial operations, explosives and pyrotechnics, firearms, hazardous chemicals, immobilization and euthanasia, pesticides, vehicles, watercraft, and wildlife disease activities. The review will be conducted by subject matter experts from WS, federal and state government, and private industry. We expect the review to be completed in the next year.”

“Wildlife Services has identified so many safety problems, it is a wonder that it can focus on any one of them,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The extraordinary thing is that all of these risks are self-imposed as a direct function of agency mishandling, misapplication and mission creep.”

The groups have been calling for action against three of the greatest dangers from WS operations –

Aerial Crashes. Recent crashes in “aerial gunning” accidents – principally pursuit of coyotes via aircraft – have brought the death toll to 10 with more than 30 injuries. This summer, South Dakota grounded its personnel from aerial hunts after its fourth accident in less than ten years;

Stores of Dangerous Biological Agents. Two recent USDA Office of Inspector General audits faulted Wildlife services for inaccurate inventories, lack of controls against theft and unauthorized sales and violations of bioterrorism regulations; and

Highly Lethal Pesticides. Wildlife Services traps and techniques have been linked to inadvertent deaths of large numbers of wild and domestic animals as well as other environmental harms.

“Following every accident, Wildlife Services promises a review but then goes out and commits the same mistakes over and over,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu. “There needs to be an outside review because safety is certainly not the strong suit at Wildlife Services.”

The groups have petitioned USDA to end aerial gunning and have asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to suspend registration for two of the most abused wildlife poisons employed by Wildlife Services. They are also calling upon Congress to redirect the more than $100 million annual WS budget which accounted for more than 1.6 million animals killed in 2006.


Wendy Keefover-Ring || Sinapu || 303.447.8655, Ext. 1#

Carol Goldberg ||PEER || 202.265.7337


See the Wildlife Services announcement of a national safety review

Read the Sinapu/PEER letter calling upon USDA to open the safety review to public scrutiny


Look at the growing toll from aerial gunning



View the failing grades Wildlife Services gets for mishandling potential bio-terror agents

Revisit efforts to ban abused wildlife poisons


Track the annual animal carnage claimed by Wildlife Services

In the Valley of the Wolves

Friend and filmmaker Bob Landis has a new special airing on the PBS series Nature this Sunday called In the Valley of the Wolves. The eight minute promo piece below should be enough to get you to watch the special, but if you need more prodding, consider this: Bob Landis gives selflessly of his time, chronicling on film the remarkable comeback of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. He does it because he is called to do it. He does it because he believes that it is both honorable and important for the world to get a more intimate glimpse of these incredibly important carnivores.

On any given day, one can find Bob Landis at the roadside somewhere in Yellowstone. For this film, Bob spent months following the Druid Peak pack as they went about their business, fought with their rivals, played, hunted and howled. Don’t miss this rare and compelling look into the lives of wolves. You’ll be glad you did.