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Commentary: USDA Wildlife Services poisoned my son

July 27, 2017

On March 16, my family lived a nightmare. My son Canyon watched as his dog Casey died right before his eyes just outside our home when the pair encountered an M-44 Cyanide Bomb, which was set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services.

The Cyanide Bomb sprayed deadly cyanide in their faces, killing Casey and poisoning Canyon. In a matter of seconds, Wildlife Services stole a member of my family, a piece of my son’s innocence forever and my community’s sense of security when venturing outdoors.

We never did need an apology from Wildlife Services — that would be insulting. However, we did want Wildlife Services to at least acknowledge us and their actions rather than go straight to the media and their “PR” person. To Wildlife Services, my dog was just a “non-target take,” and my family is just a public relations problem.

Sadly, I have come to learn that for decades this is how they operate; they immediately go into PR campaign mode rather than attempt to do right where they have done wrong. Your government agency called Wildlife Services spends a lot of energy on their public relations campaigns rather than having a relationship with the public. There was absolutely no concern about Canyon’s health.

Because we were scared for our child, we did not share much about the toxic exposure that Canyon experienced at the deadly hand of Wildlife Services. Nevertheless, Canyon experienced the worst headaches of his life for a month straight without reprieve; they did not go away day or night. At 14 years of age, he came to our room many nights where he “attempted” to sleep but the headaches were too grueling. He did not sleep much for a month because of pain. He had nausea and vomiting and numb hands. We talked with a regional toxicologist, and he had to see a neurologist.

He underwent a brain MRI and multiple blood tests; we were all exhausted. This does not even begin to address the emotional burden that being sick weighs on a boy, the psychological trauma of seeing the shadows form in Casey’s eyes as his life left him. Meanwhile, the only peep anyone ever heard from Wildlife Services was their POLITICAL RELATIONS person commenting to various news organizations across the nation (oh, my mistake, “public relations person”).

Wildlife Services used to be called Animal Damage Control but this federal agency had so many mishaps that instead of changing their behavior they chose to do the political thing, they changed their name. Now, Wildlife Services is on a self-promotional tour across Idaho, assuring the public that Cyanide Bombs are somehow safe and necessary.

This series of public meetings is a thinly veiled attempt to justify going back to business as usual. They will tell you they have increased the rules and policies which they have to follow. Let there be no doubt, many of these rules that they did not follow were already in place, and they often do not follow their own rules.

The bombs that were by my home were unmarked, with no flags and no one was notified of their placement. Do you really think that people are going to believe you that you will suddenly start following more rules when it is well documented that you don’t follow your own rules in the first place? Cyanide bombs are coming back to Idaho!

They hurt my son badly and they want to keep hurting people as demonstrated by their desire to keep using M-44 Cyanide Bombs — no matter what has happened, over and over.

How many pets have to die and people have to get hurt to make them feel any sense of caution or remorse? How many human injuries or “non-target takes” is too many for the numbers of livestock taken in Idaho by predators? This is a public safety issue but Wildlife Services wants to make it a monetary one.

When someone gets hurt, they quote the 3,700 head of livestock lost to predators in Idaho in 2015 and how much money was lost. Firstly, there are more effective methods of predator control studied and published by their own Wildlife Services biologists yet they ignore such science and opt to put our lives at risk using the archaic M-44 Cyanide Bomb.

Non-lethal predator control actually decreases predation on livestock more than what WS accomplishes currently rendering the M-44 Cyanide Bomb not only indiscriminate but less effective than better methods.

Secondly, every time they quote how much money is lost to predators I think, “Do they even care about the lives of those they have injured? Does Wildlife Services care about the death toll of our pets? Do they even think that my son Canyon Mansfield was just inches from death and that they nearly murdered him? How many head of livestock is worth a child’s life? Will they change their behavior when there is a dead body?”

Wildlife Services claims that their Cyanide Bombs are critical to protecting livestock from “nuisance” animals like coyotes; that our community’s ranchers want the agency to use these deadly devices. This is not only an attempt to pass off blame, but also an insult to Idaho’s agricultural businesses.

Ranchers did not kill my dog, and they did not poison my son — Wildlife Services did. This is not an ideological fight with the agriculture industry. Ranchers want predator control and do not want to endanger the public. Ranchers have pets, grandchildren and children. They do not want innocent people to continue getting hurt. They just want predator control; it’s that simple.

Most of the dogs killed by Wildlife Services are never mentioned but just thrown away and buried, and most of those dogs are hunting dogs, all of them are family dogs and many people are hurt badly like my son. In true fashion, Wildlife Services recently started a public relations campaign talking about the second most common predator to sheep as being a “feral dog.”

All of a sudden, there is a campaign against dogs. Nice political move, attack those who are after you, and their dogs you killed. Again, public relations rather than relationships with the public. We see right through you Wildlife Services.

These are not feral dogs; my dog was not feral, my child is not feral, the little girl in Wyoming who you exposed to cyanide and who saw her hunting dogs die was not feral, the man in Utah who saw his hunting dog die and was permanently disabled by a Cyanide Bomb was not feral. None of these people named will ever be the same.

Let us not be tricked, this is an announcement that they do not care about you citizens and they are bringing the indiscriminate, kill-everything-around-you chemical used in the holocaust back! Wildlife Services is the feral branch of the USDA.

My son will always carry with him the deep pain of losing his best friend far too early, and the trauma of having to watch his loyal pet suffocate from the inside out. I fear the devastating memories will far outlast his migraines and other physiological symptoms.

I would do anything for my son, but I’m powerless to change what happened to him — what Wildlife Services did to him and to my family. We are determined to make sure that no other family has to endure what we did. I want Wildlife Services to know that our community stands by us.

As an Idahoan, I’m insulted. As a physician, I’m worried. As a taxpayer, I’m angry. As a father, I’m empowered. By the grace of God Canyon was saved. We believe that when you are blessed in such a way then you must stand up fight for what is right, it is a calling.

My family and I never wanted to be “activists”; we have busy lives and are fulfilled by our wonderful children and our community—church, school, friends and neighbors that have made Pocatello our home.

USDA Wildlife Services is having an “informational” meeting on the M-44 Cyanide Bomb on Thursday night, July 27, at the Idaho State University Pond Student Union Building from 7-9 p.m.

This is no educational seminar, it is a disguise, it is an announcement that they are going to restart the placing of the cyanide bombs back onto our lands! This is another assault on our community. Please join me at this meeting and be sure your voice is heard. Please meet with us before the meeting at 6 p.m.

Dr. Mark Mansfield is a family physician at Primary Care Specialists in Pocatello and is very active in the community coaching soccer and wrestling.