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USDA holds public meeting to discuss M-44 devices

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Division held a public information meeting at Idaho State University in Pocatello on Thursday.

The goal of the meeting was to educate the public about their programs, and explain the use of M-44s for predator control. They were there to answer questions from the public as well.

Before the meeting got underway, people turned up early to protest the use of cyanide devices on Idaho lands. They held signs on Cesar Chavez road and called for the permanent ban of the devices.

The protest was initiated by Mark Mansfield and his family. Mark’s 14-year-old son, Canyon, was nearly killed when an M-44 went off behind the family’s home. The family’s dog was walking with Canyon and was killed. That was in March of this year. Since then, the family has been working to introduce legislation to ban the use of M-44s in the state. Wildlife Services did issue a moratorium on the use of M-44s after the incident in Pocatello but protestors fear the use of them will come back and they want to stop that from happening.

Once in the meeting, USDA let Mark Mansfield open the meeting with a statement. The USDA said it had a presentation and then would take questions after. But the audience almost immediately started firing off questions and rebutting some of what the USDA said. Many people were frustrated or angry that M-44s are being used. Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad did stand up at one point and ask the audience to let the USDA finish their presentation and then they could all have a discussion.

Some concerns the audience brought up were that they first wanted the USDA to comment on the Mansfield M-44 case from back in March. The USDA representatives said because there is an on-going investigation of the incident, they couldn’t talk about it, but did apologize to the family and said it regrets what happened and what the family had gone through. At one point in the meeting, the USDA also acknowledged that the employee who had place the M-44 device near the Mansfield home had made a mistake and it should not have been place on BLM land, which it was.

The audience also asked if the investigation results would be available for the public when it wrapped up, some felt that citizens should have more a say of whether or not M-44s are placed in their areas. Some also felt that the devices are just inhumane, no matter what.

There were a few in favor of M-44s who believe they do help with predator control to save livestock. The majority who came were against the use of M-44s in Idaho.

Debate filled both sides of the issue. The USDA talked about how effective the devices are in predator control. It said M-44s are only placed when asked and are done when other methods aren’t working.

“M-44s are registered to use for coyotes, foxes and feral dogs for protection of livestock and poultry,” said Todd Grimm, state director for the USDA. “We don’t use them a whole lot in the state of Idaho but we use them when other methods that are available are not necessarily useful.”

Grimm said that before the Mansfield family’s accident in March, there were 108 M-44s in use in Idaho. After that incident, all were removed and no longer in use. He said there are still no cyanide devices currently in use in Idaho and he doesn’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Mark Mansfield said the family is still working hard to pass Canyon’s Law, which is a legislative bill that would ban the use of M-44s in Idaho. He said the bill has gained a lot of support, but not from Idaho legislators yet.

Those at the meeting against the use of cyanide devices argued that the way they kill animals are inhumane, regardless of whether it’s a pet or a predator. Another argument is that they don’t discriminate. People do get hurt, pets get injured or killed and a lot of unintended wildlife are killed. Many don’t feel they are necessary and that there are better methods of predator control that could be used.

Mark Mansfield said what started out as just about Canyon and their dog Casey has now become a whole lot bigger. The family has done a lot of research and feels strongly about ridding the state of cyanide devices. The Mansfield family said they just don’t want to see something like what happened to them happen to someone else. They want to do all they can to prevent it.

The public meeting lasted from 7 p.m. until around 9:15 p.m. The USDA held two other public meetings in Idaho this week. On Tuesday, they were in Lewiston and on Wednesday, in Boise.

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