By Melissa Waage
As reported in the Idaho Falls Post Register (subscription required):
Compound 1080, a pesticide that is highly toxic to humans and animals and has no known antidote, is the poisoning agent in a rash of dog deaths in a two-block area in [Salmon, Idaho's] main residential section, authorities said Friday. The discovery of the type of poison, coming months after the first of 13 dogs died since January, is the first major breakthrough in a case that has alarmed residents and spread an air of suspicion through the community. Investigators say the chemical, which has been banned by the federal government for most uses, is difficult to detect because such small amounts can prove fatal.
Once used to kill everything from rodents to predators, the poison Compound 1080 (sodium fluroacetate) is now only legally used by USDA’s Wildlife Services program to kill native carnivores. Wildlife Services says it's blameless in this case: its inventories are intact and the program hasn't used 1080 in Idaho for five years. And it’s quite possible that the Compound 1080 used to kill those dogs was purchased and stockpiled decades ago, before its use was restricted. Nonetheless, the dog deaths in Idaho this year are a stark reminder of why Compound 1080 shouldn't be used anywhere. Wildlife Services needs to end the use of Compound 1080 for good--making this kind of tragic, sadistic attack increasingly difficult to pull off.
There’s a reason that two states and many countries have banned Compound 1080 and why its use in the U.S. has been progressively restricted. Odorless and tasteless, the substance has no antidote and can take as long as 2 to 15 agonizing hours to kill its victims through cardiac failure, progressive failure of the central nervous system, or respiratory arrest following severe, prolonged convulsions. U.S. Air Force analysts, citing numerous other national security experts, have identified Compound 1080 as a potential threat to drinking water supplies if used as a chemical weapon because it “can cause incapacitation or death in humans at very small doses.”
How likely is this scenario? For what it’s worth, U.S.-made containers of Compound 1080 were found among Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons stockpiles in 2003.
How simple it was for some sick person to kill a significant number of pets and terrify a community in Idaho, with the poison identified only months later. Do we really want or need Compound 1080 in circulation in the U.S.? As mentioned earlier, the poison used in Idaho probably did not come from Wildlife Services. But I leave it to the reader to decide how difficult it would be for a determined individual to obtain legally applied Compound 1080 that is strapped to the necks of free-ranging goats and sheep.
Wildlife Services has relentlessly defended its use of what is essentially a chemical weapon to kill a few dozen coyotes and other wild carnivores per year (that we know of). Even if you actually believe that the U.S. government should be horrifically killing wild carnivores at the behest of private ranching interests, and at taxpayer expense, there’s a word for this: overkill.
Wildlife Services dismissed the concerns of 57,000 NRDC members who petitioned USDA to end the use of Compound 1080 and another nasty predator poison, sodium cyanide. But we’re not letting up. Go here to add your voice to our continued call on Wildlife Services to end predator poisoning now.
Published on NRDC's Switchboard.