Government-Planted Explosive Kills Pet Dog Instead of Coyotes

As Canyon Mansfield, 14, played with Casey, his 3-year-old yellow Lab, on a hill near his home in Pocatello, Idaho, on March 16, he came across what looked a lot like a sprinkler pipe sticking up from the ground.

Curious as to what a sprinkler was doing there, Mansfield reached down and touched it. It wasn’t a sprinkler. It was an M-44, a cyanide bomb planted by the government that’s intended to kill coyotes, foxes and feral dogs.

The device spewed sodium cyanide powder, spraying Mansfield and Casey in the face. The dog began convulsing and died a miserable death a few minutes later. Mansfield had to be treated at a hospital.

Wildlife Services (WS), a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is responsible for planting M-44 devices. It refers to them as “an effective and environmentally sound wildlife damage management tool.”

Here’s how these “effective” devices kill coyotes (and pet dogs and any other innocent animal unfortunate enough to come across them). Animals are lured to the M-44 by the fetid bait or other scent material attached to it. When an animal tugs on the spring-activated device, cyanide powder bursts out of a plastic capsule and into the animal’s mouth. When the powder makes contact with the animal’s saliva, it creates deadly hydrogen cyanide gas.

“Unconsciousness, followed by death, is very quick, normally within one to five minutes after the device is triggered,” WS claims on its website. “Animals killed by sodium cyanide appear to show no overt signs of distress or pain.”

Really? Mansfield would likely disagree, based on what he saw his poor dog go through. Cyanide poison kills by stopping cells from absorbing oxygen, suffocating its victims. One to five minutes is a horrifically long time to suffer this way.

Casey was not the only unintended victim of an M-44. The USDA only has data going back four years on the number of pets and domestic livestock killed by these devices. During that time, 22 of these animals have been killed, the Washington Post reports. Just a few days before Casey was killed, two dogs hiking with their family near the Powder River in Wyoming were killed by an M-44. In 2011, a pit bull was killed by one planted less than 1,000 feet from her Texas home. A German Shepherd was killed by one in Utah in 2006.

WS agents plant M-44 devices along game and livestock trails, ridges, fence lines, and seldom-used ranch roads, according to the WS website. Bilingual warning signs are supposed to be posted next to each device, but there wasn’t one in Mansfield’s case. The devices are not supposed to be placed on federal public lands, yet the one that killed Casey was on Bureau of Land Management land. Investigators later found another M-44 just 50 yards from the one that killed Casey.

“We didn’t know anything about it,” Mansfield’s dad told East Idaho News. “There were no neighborhood notifications. Our local authorities didn’t know about this.”

Wildlife Services ‘Destructive and Indefensible’

Why is Wildlife Services putting the safety of people and animals at risk in its attempt to control coyotes, when far less lethal alternatives are available?

In 2012, Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, called WS “one of the most destructive and indefensible government programs that causes untold suffering to animals.” On his blog this week, Pacelle said the program “slaughters millions of wild animals each year, using an arsenal of M-44s, aerial gunning, traps and firearms” — mostly at the expense of taxpayers.

Although Donald Trump called for budget cuts to the USDA, he didn’t include WS. This is probably because the program benefits trophy hunters, private ranchers and other special interests. Several bills have been introduced in Congress to ban M-44, most recently in 2012, but each one quickly died.

The day after Casey was killed, WS issued a statement.

“As a program made up of individual employees many of whom are pet owners, Wildlife Services understands the close bonds between people and their pets and sincerely regrets such losses,” it said. “We seek to resolve conflict between people and wildlife in the safest and most humane ways possible, with the least negative consequences to wildlife overall.”

M-44 devices are neither safe or humane. If WS is truly “passionate about their work to preserve the health and safety of people and wildlife,” as it also stated, it needs to stop using these cruel cyanide bombs.

Please join over 39,000 Care2 members who have signed and shared this petition urging the USDA to stop using M-44 devices.

Photo credit: YouTube


Sue H
Sue H2 months ago

Absolutely Unacceptable.

Margie F
Margie FOURIE1 years ago


Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Melania P
Melania P1 years ago

This should have never happened. Shame on these organizations and the government that allow these devices or whatever you call it; are they in the 16th century??

Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

"Wildlife Services sincerely regrets that we murdered your children and pets. We have the right to kill millions of wildlife including endangered species, just because we feel like it. Screw you if you don't like it". Wildlife Services is a terrorist organization. Anyone who works there should be charged with terrorism and given not life, since that means their existence would still poison the planet, but no less than the death penalty.

Maria P


Nick T

It's just an update version of the German S-mine from World War II, commonly known as the Bouncy Betty, and every bit as cruel and barbaric. Why do we have to have so much bureaucratic incompetence in areas that require specialized expertise?

Deborah W
Deborah W2 years ago

Is everyone in Idaho's Wildlife Services (WS), a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, dumber than a box of rocks? Is that a requirement ... sure seems like it.

Carl R
Carl R2 years ago


JD She
JD She2 years ago