While the inadvertent death of a pet dog in Idaho by a poison-shooting trap set by federal agents shocked many, it was not unprecedented.
Every year, federal agents kill millions of animals across the country, including 154,943 in Washington state alone last year.
The agency responsible is the little-known Wildlife Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which for public and private-sector clients kills animals all over the country, from ravens, swans and doves to wolves, that are deemed a “problem” by the client.
The agency made news March 17 when a 14-year old boy was injured and his 3- year-old yellow Labrador named Casey was killed by a cyanide trap set by Wildlife Services intended to kill coyotes near Pocatello, Idaho.
The device, called an M-44, is spring-activated and smeared with bait. The device shoots cyanide into an animal’s mouth when touched.
The trap was set to control predator populations in an effort to limit livestock losses, according to the agency.
In all, 15 pets were inadvertently killed by the agency in 2016, according to the agency’s annual report. It also intentionally targeted and killed dozens of species of wildlife, from bears to red foxes, sandhill cranes, a dozen species of doves and 415 gray wolves. The agency uses everything from neck snares and foothold traps to helicopters, firearms and even captures by hand.
In Washington, the agency in 2016 killed animals of many species both native and invasive, including 111 beavers, 334 marmots, 64 ravens, 158 cormorants, 21 flickers, 6 kestrels, 114 coyotes, 93 green winged teals, 224 mallards, and nearly 5,000 crows.
The agency reported no pets killed in Washington that year.
In Idaho, the boy was walking his dog on the hillside behind his home when the two encountered the device, which his mother reported knocked the boy down and killed the dog.
The agency confirmed the accidental killing and stated it had removed other M-44 devices in the immediate area.