Commentary: WASHINGTON— Conservation and animal-welfare groups today filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect imperiled mammals and birds from two deadly pesticides used to kill coyotes and other predators. The suit seeks common-sense mitigation measures to prevent exposure of the poisons to nontarget predatory and scavenging animals, including grizzly bears, Canada lynx, wolves and California condors.
“We hope our lawsuit spurs reform of these barbaric tactics used to poison wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center. “These dangerous pesticides need to be banned, but until then, they shouldn’t be used where they risk killing wolves and other endangered wildlife.”
The EPA has registered the pesticides at issue — sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 — for use by “Wildlife Services,” the predator-control arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as by state predator-control agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas.
M-44 devices propel lethal doses of sodium cyanide into the mouths of animals lured by bait, while Compound 1080 is used in “livestock protection collars” strapped onto the necks of sheep and goats that often graze on public lands. The collars contain bladders filled with liquid poison intended to kill coyotes.
“These indiscriminate poisons pose enormous risks to native wildlife, domestic dogs and all of us who use our public lands,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “It is long past time that we end both the misguided scapegoating of carnivores and the use of these deadly poisons.”
These pesticides pose the highest risk for endangered wildlife capable of triggering the devices, such as grizzly bears and wolves. Secondary exposure through Compound 1080-poisoned carcasses can also kill imperiled scavengers like California condors, bald eagles and spotted owls. According to data compiled by Wildlife Services, M-44 devices last year killed 13,860 native animals, mostly coyotes and foxes. In 2015 the devices poisoned nearly 385 nontarget animals, including a wolf, opossums, raccoons, skunks and family pets.
“The EPA considers both of these toxicants Category 1 poisons — the most deadly. The use of these horrific, indiscriminate pesticides by taxpayer-funded federal and state agencies must end immediately,” said Anna Frostic, senior wildlife attorney at The Humane Society of the United States. “These agencies cannot prioritize the mass slaughter of wildlife ahead of their legal obligation to protect endangered species — as they’ve done here.”
Impacts of these pesticides on endangered wildlife have not been analyzed since the Service prepared a “biological opinion” in 1993. The lawsuit, brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, The Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals, should spur the Service to recommend additional measures to protect endangered wildlife, such as restricting use of the pesticides where the endangered animals live.