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Investigation Shows Colorado Wolf Killed by Illegal Poisoning

January 10, 2011
Wendy Keefover-Ring (303) 573-4898 x1162
In This Release
#DefendCarnivores, #EndTheWarOnWildlife

Monday, January 10, 2011
Investigation Shows Colorado Wolf Killed by Illegal Poisoning

Backcountry a Minefield of Perils for Endangered Carnivore
Contact: Wendy Keefover-Ring (303) 573-4898 x1162

Denver, CO. An investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) concluded that a female wolf, 341F, died in Colorado in April 2009 after she was illegally poisoned by Compound 1080 (a/k/a sodium monofluoroacetate) by an unknown individual or individuals. Compound 1080 is permitted for use in a handful of states, but not in Colorado.

Compound 1080, used as chemical weapon, was banned in 1972 by President Richard Nixon for wildlife-killing purposes. Nixon’s 1972 Executive Order was part of a forward-thinking effort to end indiscriminate, widespread wildlife killing. Unfortunately, Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide came back into usage after a round of litigation and permissive regimes—especially under Ronald Reagan and his Secretary of Interior, James Watt.

“Death by Compound 1080 is prolonged, painful, and excruciating,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians. “It takes a patient from 3 to 15 hours to die in this horrific way. Yet, Colorado’s wild country is apparently mined with Compound 1080, along with it commonly placed cousin, sodium cyanide, another deadly toxicant, which is put out in wild places in baited M-44 traps.”

The only legal way for Compound 1080 to be used is in so-called “livestock protection collars,” which strap rubber bladders of poison onto the necks of sheep or goats. The only states to permit Compound 1080 for usage are South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico – under a state permitting system. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services also has permits to use it in other states including West Virginia and Texas. Compound 1080 is permitted for use in only a handful of states, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Compound 1080, considered a deadly chemical weapon, is banned in most countries and in California and Oregon, and was used in 2009 only in three states, New Mexico, Texas, and West Virginia – to kill 25 animals, according to Wildlife Services’ records. Reportedly, one teaspoon can kill 100 adults, and no known antidote exists.

Conservation groups have pressed the federal government to prohibit its use nationwide, due to its acute toxicity and extreme hazards. WildEarth Guardians and colleagues petitioned to have Compound 1080 banned in 2007 along with other Congressional efforts that followed in the years after.

While the Environmental Protection Agency denied WildEarth Guardians’ et al. (2007) petition, it is currently determining whether the substance should be banned under a new review process pursuant to the Federal Insecticide, Rodenticide and Fungicide Act.

Wolves are fully protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act within Colorado.

Wolf 341F captured headlines after trekking 1,000 miles from Montana to Colorado. She was found dead in early April 2009 in northwest Colorado. She was 18-months old when she died, having been born into a pack that resided near northern Yellowstone. She was collared as part of a University of Montana research project and left her Montana range in September 2008 in search of a mate. According to her radio collar, she stopped moving at the end of March 2009.

On March 2, 2009, a Colorado Division of Wildlife employee expressed concern about dangers to Wolf 341F from predator control devices in northern Colorado.

By March 31, her radio collar indicated the worst. According to documents WildEarth Guardians received as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, one wildlife official wrote: “It doesn’t look good . . . I think she may be dead. She is ~6 miles north of Rio Blanco, Colorado… Her locations show that she has been in the same spot since noon on 3/31 and the locations are within 0.04 miles of the road on the north side. My fingers are crossed that she is feeding on roadkill but it just doesn’t seem likely since her locations are all extremely clustered and so close to the road.”

Her death was confirmed the next week and has been under investigation by the Service until the end of December 2010.

“Wolf 314F met a tragic end. Her premature death from deadly poison illustrates that the West presents a dangerous minefield to wide-ranging native carnivores such as wolves, wolverines, and bears. We think it’s time that officials that regulate these pesticides make the West safe for wolves and other wildlife by eliminating them entirely,” said Keefover-Ring.

“Wolves are critical and necessary animals for healthy ecosystems,” stated Gary Wockner, PhD, DOW Wolf Working Group member and editor of Comeback Wolves. “The entire Wolf Working Group including ranchers, hunters, and conservationists agreed that wolves could migrate into Colorado. We absolutely did not agree that Colorado’s wolves could be illegally poisoned,” added Wockner.

Colorado’s native wolf population was eliminated by the 1930s. WildEarth Guardians has promoted active efforts to restore wolves to Colorado, through making the landscape safer for naturally returning wolves, or through active reintroduction effort. The organization is currently in court, challenging Rocky Mountain National Park’s refusal to consider wolf restoration as a natural, effective solution to elk degradation of vegetation in the park.