The government planted the poisonous tool and then didn’t tell anyone.
Just one week ago, 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield from Idaho was taking a walk with his dog, Casey, just past the perimeter of his backyard when he happened upon something peculiar. A strange device was sticking out of the ground, something that Canyon had never seen before, and he reached down for it out of curiosity.
In a matter of seconds, everything changed. As soon as he touched the device, he heard a pop and a hissing noise as orange powder exploded from it, causing him to jump back in shock. He immediately realized that his face and clothes were covered in the powder and ran to a nearby patch of snow to wash it off since he didn’t know what it was. As he called around for Casey, his best friend didn’t respond but he tried to assume the best.
“He just stayed on the ground mumbling,” Canyon told the Idaho State Journal. “I thought he was playing with his toy, but I saw the toy a couple yards away from him. … So, I called him again and got really scared. I sprinted toward him and landed on my knees and saw this red froth coming from his mouth and his eyes turning glassy and he was having a seizure.”
Canyon held 3-year-old Casey in his arms but then scrambled away to get help. When he and his parents ran back a few minutes later, poor Casey was already dead. Canyon’s family didn’t have time to even mourn the loss of their beloved young family member and best friend; once they realized that the orange powder was lethal, they rushed Canyon to the emergency room to make sure that he wasn’t poisoned and in danger. Thankfully, Canyon’s life was spared, likely because he was upwind, but the family is devastated from the death of Casey.
It was their grief and anger that motivated them to look into what the device was. They soon learned that it was a M44 cyanide trap planted by the USDA to lure and kill coyotes, wolves, and other wild animals. The traps are loaded with a scent that specifically lures them to that spot and encourages them to put their mouth or nose to it, causing it to go off. The devices are usually used outside of areas that contain livestock to prevent deaths to the domestic animals, but many wonder if the cost of wildlife is worth protecting them. M44 cyanide is a horrible poison that strangles a living beings cells, quickly suffocating them to death.
This isn’t the first time that these traps have killed family pets, either. Over 3,400 unintended animal deaths occurred between 2006 and 2012, and the USDA branch that installed them is single-handedly responsible for the death of millions of wildlife every single year.
“My son Canyon, who witnessed it all, is really struggling with what happened,” Theresa Mansfield told The Dodo. “It was above our house. It makes me not feel safe. I feel like I had terrorism in my own backyard, with my own government.”
The Mansfield family has a right to feel unsafe, not just because the device was only about 350 yards from their house but also because there were no warning signs nor were they notified prior to the installation last month. When they notified law enforcement, their local department had no idea the traps were there either. After news of the incident came out, the USDA responded by offering their condolences for their loss and they removed that device and another that they had in the same vicinity.
Theresa has said that they hope their story will encourage others to advocate for the removal of these devices everywhere. Wild or domestic, no animal (or human) deserves to die in this way.
“It’s something so close to my house, and it took my dog’s life,” Theresa said. “And it could have taken my son’s. It’s a brutal way of killing something.”