A lone female gray wolf from the Mill Creek pack in Montana made an epic 1000 mile trek through five states to Colorado, only to meet a horrific end.
Wearing a GPS collar identifying her as wolf 341F, or more popularly known as 314F, she was tracked through Yellowstone National Park, western Wyoming, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, southeastern Idaho, northeastern Utah, finally arriving in Eagle County, Colorado. Some suspect she was on a quest for love and new pack mates.
“Basically, what she’s doing is, she’s wandering around looking to see if there’s other wolves around,” said Carolyn Sime, wolf program coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The last confirmed wolf in Colorado, a young female, also came from Yellowstone. She was killed by a vehicle on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs in 2004.
What might have been a tale reminiscent of The Incredible Journey ending in a new family of wolves for 341F ended sadly when her body was discovered in April 2009. Wildlife officials wouldn’t comment about her death at the time, which lead some to suspect she had not died of natural causes. Two years after her death, it was finally announced that she was poisoned by Compound 1080, otherwise known as sodium fluoroacetate, which is illegal in Colorado.
Deadly Poisons On Our Lands
Compound 1080 is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, water-soluble poison that is used by the USDA’s Wildlife Services as part of their lethal predator control program to kill animals that pose a threat to livestock. It is so toxic it is classified as a chemical weapon in several countries, but is still used in nine states to control coyotes, along with sodium cyanide found in M-44s, or spring loaded traps. Both of these poisons are rated by the EPA at Level 1, the highest degree of acute toxicity. Compound 1080 has no antidote.
Due to its properties, the FBI listed Compound 1080 as “a highly toxic pesticide judged most likely to be used by terrorists or for malicious intent.”
Wildlife Services began as Animal Damage Control, which started killing predators in 1914 and has continued killing hundreds of thousands of native animals every year under the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). By 1921 labs were creating poisons for wildlife, coyotes and wolves.
In 2006 a USDA audit found biological agents and toxins used by APHIS to kill wildlife were not safeguarded, inventories were not accurate, access was not restricted and did not comply with security regulations. Wildlife Services failed four recent audits by the Office of the Inspector General.
Compound 1080 is still used in Livestock Protection Collars for sheep and goats that release poison when punctured. However, these collars can be punctured by other means than attack from getting snagged on fencing to rubbing on rocks.
Once these poisons are in the environment, they’re essentially unrestricted and can end up killing non-target animals and endangered species as well. Compound 1080 is chemically stable. It stays in the bodies of victims, who often wander from the trap site to die and end up as a meal for other carnivores and scavengers making its way through the food chain.
Death by Compound 1080 can leave animals suffering for as long as 15 hours. During the time it takes to die, they suffer from “cardiac failure, progressive failure of the central nervous system, or respiratory arrest following severe prolonged convulsions.”
“It is obvious from victims’ positions and conditions, including vomited lungs, distended veins, and evacuated bowels and bladders, that animals poisoned by Compound 1080 die a horrible, agonizingly painful death. Deer who have accidentally ingested Compound 1080 have been observed in their agony trying to rip open their own bellies and dogs are driven insane by the excruciating pain inflicted upon them before they succumb to death,” according to Predator Defense.
Risks to Pets and Humans
Imagine 341F’s last agonizing minutes of life in confusion, pain and suffering. If you don’t care much for wolves or predators, put your dog in her place.
Not only do Compound 1080 and M-44s kill predators, they indiscriminantly kill other animals through direct contact and secondary poisoning, Numerous cases of dogs being poisoned and meeting horrible deaths have been reported. Bea was a young American Brittany who was enjoying a vacation with her family when she became a victim of Compound 1080. Read her heartbreaking story here. Sadly, Bea and her family not alone.
What if it was you? What if you had been Dennis Slaugh, who stopped to examine what he thought was a surveyors marker in Northeastern Utah , only to set off an M-44, which blew up in his face. He’s alive, but he’s still suffering from the effects of the poison. (See video below)
Slaugh likens leaving these poisons out unrestricted to “loading a pistol, leaving it out and hoping that the bad guy comes by and shoots himself.”
It doesn’t make much sense, does it?
There are Alternatives
Studies have found that a combination of herders and guard dogs is the most effective means of controlling predation of livestock. Other methods include confining livestock at night and while they’re young, using electric and sound devices, promptly removing carcasses and using fencing. Even doing something as simple as keeping a few donkeys in the mix has been proven to deter predators.
It would seem apparent that any time we put poisons into other living beings or the environment, the poison eventually finds its way into us. If the cruelty inherent in this method of predator control is not enough of a reason to stop its use, perhaps thinking of what it will be like when it comes into our world will give the Wildlife Services and the EPA pause enough to consider the choices.
The EPA is currently deciding whether or not to continue to allow Wildlife Services to use Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide to kill wildlife.