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‘We didn’t know anything about it’: Gas Bomb Planted By Wildlife Officials Leads to Tragedy

A 14-year-old boy was seriously injured and his dog killed on March 16 when the boy picked up a “cyanide bomb” U.S. predator control agents had planted near a hiking trail, intended to thin coyote populations near Pocatello, Idaho.

According to Reuters, Canyon Mansfield was playing near his West Buckskin Road home with his Labrador retriever, Casey, when he grabbed what he thought was a sprinkler head. The device was rigged to spray the area with cyanide gas, and exploded when the boy pulled on it.

“I see this little pipe that looked like a sprinkler sticking out of the ground,” Canyon told East Idaho News. “I go over and touch it. Then it makes a pop sound and it spews orange gas everywhere.”


Some Cyanide-laced dust landed in Canyon’s left eye and clouded his vision. It wasn’t until he washed it out with handfuls of snow that he noticed Casey.

“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 Mansfield and Casey.

Canyon Mansfield and Casey.

The boy’s mother, Theresa Mansfield, said Casey was “writhing in pain on the ground before he died right in front of Canyon.”

Canyon’s father, Mark Mansfield, a local doctor, tried unsuccessfully to revive the dog, while first-responders tested Canyon for cyanide poisoning and attempted to dilute the poison.

Canyon Mansfield

Canyon Mansfield

“We didn’t know anything about it. No neighborhood notifications, and our local authorities didn’t know anything about them,” Mark said. “The sheriff’s deputies who went up there didn’t even know what a cyanide bomb was.”

Several similar explosive devices, called M-44s, were deployed around the Salmon, Idaho, wilderness to curtail predatory animals from disturbing humans and livestock on nearby farms.

The device used by Wildlife Services to deploy cyanide gas.

The device used by Wildlife Services to deploy cyanide gas.

The cyanide bombs have been sharply criticized by animal rights and conservation groups who claim such methods are in direct violation of federal environmental and wildlife protection laws. According to a statement released by R. Andre Bell, a spokesman for the US Department of Agriculture, the remaining M-44s have been removed from the area.

“Wildlife Services understands the close bonds between people and their pets and sincerely regrets such losses,” Bell wrote. “Wildlife Services has removed M-44s in that immediate area. Wildlife Services is completing a thorough review of the circumstances of this incident, and will work to review our operating procedures to determine whether improvements can be made to reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences happening in the future.”

Casey

Casey

Bell indicated that the devices are only ever used when requested by property owners, and that signs and other warnings are posted by Wildlife Services to warn pet owners of potential dangers. But the warnings were simply not enough to prevent tragedy, and the terms used by the USDA in describing the incident, an “unintentional lethal take of a dog,” express a latent callousness, according to Madison Mansfield, Canyon’s sister.

“The USDA’s statement regarding the horrific incident that happened to my family yesterday is both disrespectful and inaccurate,” she told the Idaho State Journal. “The USDA intentionally refers to the brutal killing of our dog as a ‘take’ to render his death trivial and insignificant. They also claim that the killing of an unintended victim is a rare occurrence, but this is entirely untrue. In fact, this issue is nationally recognized due to the lack of selectivity of cyanide bombs, and there have been many reported incidents in which unintended animals and people have been targeted.”

Mark Mansfield and Casey.

Mark Mansfield and Casey.

The Mansfield family are not the only ones who may have missed the USDA’s warnings, either. Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said local law enforcement wasn’t notified of the cyanide bombs, nor were they familiar with their usage.

“I’ve been a sheriff here for 20 years and worked for the office for 39 years, and I’ve never heard of leaving around a device that emits poisonous gas,” Nielsen said.

The Animal Rescue Site wishes the best to the Mansfield family during this tragic time. There is little that can be done to bring back their Labrador Casey, but governmental responsibility and oversight can go a long way towards the protection of many other animals in the United States. Actions are currently being taken to restore animal welfare data to the USDA website, data that animal protection agents and activists rely on to make sure our nations pets and livestock are safe. Click the button below to add your voice and make a difference!

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee. Find more about Matthew on his personal website.