GOLDEN, BRITISH COLUMBIA—Wolf Awareness and Animal Justice are calling on Health Canada to ban three poisons used to kill wildlife including wolves, coyotes, skunks, and black bears. The groups have filed three requests under the Pest Control Products Act asking that Health Canada conduct a “special review” of pest control products containing the poisons strychnine, Compound 1080, and sodium cyanide and cancel their registration for use in Canada. The move is made with strong support from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Animal Alliance of Canada, the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Born Free USA, Cochrane Ecological Institute, Coyote Watch Canada, the Fur-Bearers, Predator Defense, Zoocheck, World Animal Protection, Ecojustice, the David Suzuki Foundation, and Humane Society International Canada.
Animals that ingest these poisons suffer excruciating deaths. Strychnine and Compound 1080 in particular cause such significant pain and distress that they have been deemed inhumane and inappropriate by expert bodies including the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Society of Mammalogists. Because it can take hours, or even days, for an animal to die after ingesting baits containing strychnine or Compound 1080, the bodies of poisoned animals can be scattered across great distances. They are then scavenged by other animals, including endangered species, who then suffer the same gruesome death due to secondary poisoning.
According to a national Environics poll commissioned by Wolf Awareness and Animal Justice, 69% of Canadians say that the risks posed by strychnine, Compound 1080, and sodium cyanide used in Canadian wildlife management programs are unacceptable.
“Animals such as wolves, coyotes, and black bears are not ‘pests,’” said Sadie Parr, executive director of Wolf Awareness. “Aside from their intrinsic value, these animals contribute important benefits to nature. Not only wild animals suffer. Every year in Canada, people watch their dogs experience agony after ingesting one of these poisons. Sadly, they have no antidote.”
Strychnine, Compound 1080, and sodium cyanide are used in Alberta and Saskatchewan to kill natural predators in an effort to prevent conflict with livestock, and to protect at-risk caribou herds. But scientific experts agree that there are other more effective ways to prevent conflict between livestock and predators. In order to truly protect endangered caribou herds, governments should tackle habitat loss—the most pressing threat to these species—rather than scapegoating wolves and coyotes and placing indiscriminate and deadly poisons into the environment.
“Under federal law, Health Canada is required to ensure that pest control products do not pose unacceptable risks to the environment and human health,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, staff lawyer with Animal Justice. “We believe that these products fail on both accounts and should be banned immediately. They are also cruel and unnecessary, causing unimaginable pain and suffering to animals. They cause widespread damage across ecosystems, killing even more non-target animals than intended victims, both through primary and secondary poisoning.”
“Records we obtained from the Government of Alberta show that hundreds of strychnine baits go missing each year after they lay them out,” said Hannah Barron, conservation director at Wolf Awareness. “This is because government employees fail to recover wildlife that consumes baits, both on farms and in caribou ranges. If Health Canada is responsible for regulating poisons and ensuring they don’t pose serious risks, why didn’t they know about this? Why aren’t they monitoring the impacts of the deadly poisons that they dole out permits for?”
The risk of non-target poisoning resulting from the use of strychnine to kill Richardson’s ground squirrels led Health Canada to cancel the registration of these products in March of 2020. Despite these risks, Health Canada continues to allow strychnine, as well as Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide, to be used to kill other wildlife, including wolves, coyotes, skunks, and black bears in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
A summary of the requests for special review is available here.
For more information contact:
Executive Director, Wolf Awareness
Staff Lawyer, Animal Justice
Conservation Director, Wolf Awareness