Groups try to ban poisons used on predators

GRANTS PASS — Wildlife advocates are hoping that the third time is the charm for legislation to outlaw deadly poisons used by government hunters to kill thousands of coyotes each year.

This time the U.S. House bill has bipartisan support, and it is not routed through the Agriculture Committee, where it has died in the past.

The one-page bill would completely ban the manufacture and use of Compound 1080, which is used in poison collars put on sheep. And it bans sodium cyanide in spring-loaded devices known as M-44s, which spray the poison into the snout of an animal that trips it.

Brooks Fahy of the Predator Defense Institute in Eugene said besides the harm to wildlife, the poisons have killed untold numbers of dogs and even harmed some people.

The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif.

"Everyone has said Saddam Hussein had poison gas," DeFazio said from his office in Eugene. "The only thing they found that came close was they found a bunker with a bunch of 1080 in it, which had been purchased. So there are concerns, among those who are knowledgeable about terrorism security concerns, that this would be available to anybody because of the fact it is odorless, colorless and there is no antidote. And you die horribly.

"We see no reason why it should be produced at all, and it certainly shouldn't be distributed by Wildlife Services."

Campbell has long supported the humane treatment of wild and domesticated animals, said spokesman Brent Hall.

"Compound 1080 and Sodium Cyanide (have) demonstrated their lethality and unfortunately that lethality has not been limited solely towards their intended targets," spokesman Brent Hall said in an e-mail. "These two compounds have inadvertently killed numerous household pets along with various other forms of wildlife. This bill is intended to alleviate the use of these shockingly toxic compounds in favor of more human approaches towards predator control."

Compound 1080 and cyanide-loaded M-44s are just two ways that Wildlife Services kills coyotes to protect livestock, said spokeswoman Carol Bannerman. Both are only used in limited circumstances, where other methods, such as shooting and leg-hold traps, are not appropriate or effective.

The bill would limit the agency's predator control efforts by reducing the methods available to them, she said.

Bannerman said reviews of the poisons by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded they do not pose a significant danger to other animals, people or the environment.

Dennis Slaugh, 67, of Vernal, Utah, would disagree. In 2004 he was riding his ATV on federal land when he came across what he thought was a survey marker. When he touched it, it sprayed something in his face. He said he soon became very sick and continues to suffer health problems.

"It's just like leaving a loaded pistol somewhere," he said. "And that's what they're doing. They are leaving it scattered all over the country."

Bannerman said the agency never received a complaint from Slaugh, and had not put out M-44s in the area he found one.

Jess Peterson, executive vice president of the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, said they have opposed past bills and would oppose this one, too. Taking these predator control methods away from Wildlife Services without any viable alternatives is "unacceptable," he said.

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