A cyanide bomb planted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture accidentally detonated near an Idaho home March 16, injuring a teenage boy and killing his dog.
Canyon Mansfield, 14, says that he was walking his family's three-year-old yellow Labrador, Casey, on a hill behind their home when he came across a strange-looking device sticking out of the ground, according to East Idaho News.
"I see this little pipe that looked like a sprinkler sticking out of the ground," said the teen. "I go over and touch it. Then it makes a pop sound and it spews orange gas everywhere."
Canyon had inadvertently touched a cyanide bomb placed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to control predatory animals such as coyotes. The device, called an M-44, spews a burst of cyanide gas.
The gas got in Canyon's left eye and onto his clothing. The boy grabbed snow from the ground to wash out his eye, according to KTLA. When he could see again, he noticed that Casey, also covered in the substance, began seizing.
"I look over and see him having a seizure," said Canyon. "I ran over and he had these glassy eyes. He couldn’t see me, and he had this red stuff coming out of his mouth."
The teen ran home to ask his mother, Theresa, for help. When the two returned to the hill, the dog had already died. Theresa called the police and her husband, Mark, who is a medical doctor.
"I hurried home, and the first thing I did was try to resuscitate the dog," said Mark. "Unfortunately I exposed myself to cyanide and had no idea."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services, the bureau responsible for placing the M-44, released a statement confirming the incident.
"APHIS’ Wildlife Services confirms the unintentional lethal take of a dog in Idaho," the statement reads, in part, according to East Idaho News. "Wildlife Services has removed M-44s in that immediate area."
"The unintentional lethal take of a dog is a rare occurrence," the statement continued. "Wildlife Services policies and procedures are designed to minimize unintentional take or capture of domestic pets. It posts signs and issues other warnings to alert pet owners when wildlife traps or other devices are being used in an area for wildlife damage management ...These devices are only set at the request of and with permission from property owners or managers."
However, the Mansfields say that despite living in the area for 10 years, they have never seen an M-44. Theresa says that the bomb her son detonated was on the borderline of her property.
"We weren’t aware, and nobody told us," she said. "There was nothing posted up on the hill saying to beware or be careful."
Mark Mansfield said that his family members aren't the only ones left in the dark about the cyanide bombs.
"We didn’t know anything about it. No neighborhood notifications and our local authorities didn’t know anything about them," he says. "The sheriff deputies who went up there didn’t even know what a cyanide bomb was."
According to the Idaho State Journal, Canyon was taken to the local hospital where he was treated and released shortly thereafter, though he must make daily follow-up appointments to monitor his body's toxicity levels.
Canyon's sister, Madison, says that the government should stop usage of M-44s all together.
"Not only is cyanide unethical, the antidote is highly ineffective and can rarely be administered in time to treat it," Madison said. "My dog suffered as he struggled for breath while my brother stood helplessly nearby. This is not humane, and no animal, dog or coyote should ever be killed in such a gruesome manner."
In its statement, the APHIS maintains that M-44s are a necessary precaution to decrease the amount of predators in the area and balance the natural ecosystem.
"Wildlife Services provides expert federal leadership to responsibly manage one of our nation’s most precious resources -- our wildlife," the statement concludes. "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."