poisons are still legal in canada?
Strychnine, Sodium Cyanide and Compound 1080 are still registered in Canada for the purpose of killing wildlife, including wolves, coyotes, black bears, and skunks.
Poisoning continues despite the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association publicly condemning the use of inhumane pesticides in 2014, emphasizing that strychnine and Compound 1080 cause severe pain, uncontrollable seizures, and death by asphyxiation.
What are the risks?
Strychnine, sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 are among the most highly toxic poisons for all warm blooded animals.
As convulsants, even non-lethal doses can cause vomiting, dizziness, and seizures. Lethal doses result in heart attacks or suffocation during violent and prolonged seizures.
Each poison is hidden in baits designed to attract the target wildlife. Depending on dosage, these symptoms can begin within several minutes to several hours and can last for more than a day. Wolves and other wildlife are highly mobile animals, capable of travelling great distances in a short time, spreading these poisons far and wide before succumbing. Scavengers that feed on poisoned victims then become poisoned themselves.
Targeted Wildlife – Government programs provide these poisons to staff personell as well as farmers to kill what they call “nuisance” wildlife. The most targeted species are wolves, coyotes and rodents. Currently, the Government of Alberta is intentionally poisoning wolves with strychnine-laced elk and moose which they shoot and kill to leave out in woodland caribou habitat. This unethical form of wildlife management is justified by the government because dwindling herds of woodland caribou are threatened with extinction. However, habitat loss and fragmentation due to natural resource extraction are the ultimate cause of caribou declines, not predation by wildlife. No animal deserves the fate that these poisons deliver.
Pets – Compound 1080 is used to kill coyotes and wolves because it is known to be particularly toxic to canine species, including dogs. Over 100 dogs have been poisoned by strychnine in Canada since the 1990s. Cyanide recently killed a dog in Idaho who mistakenly bit into bait intended to kill coyotes while hiking. His owner, a young boy, was critically injured as well. This is but 1 known dog death of over 415 that have occurred in the United States since 2010.
People – These poisons are all considered potential weapons for chemical warfare; they are soluble in water and virtually impossible to detect. A single teaspoon of Compound 1080 could kill 100 people. Strychnine and cyanide have been used in human torture and genocides, including those taking place in Nazi Germany.
A recent report of non-target cyanide deaths over a 6 year period in the USA included 3623 grey foxes, and 129 swift foxes, both of which are endangered species in Canada.
Non-Target Wildlife – The highly toxic nature of these poisons results in the direct poisoning of non-target species, including species at risk. BC did not renew its permit to use Compound 1080 after discovering that over ¼ of baits set out to kill wolves were consumed by other species.
In addition to shooting wolves from aircraft each winter, bait stations laced with strychnine are placed within caribou ranges to attract wolves in in the Little Smoky caribou range near Hinton, Alberta. However, poisons do not discriminate. Strychnine is referred to as a “food chain killer” because the carcasses of victims, now toxic themselves, are often scavenged by other animals.
In Alberta’s wolf kill program for the Little Smoky caribou herd, which numbers at approximately 70 – 80 individuals, strychnine is used in addition to aerial shooting and trapping wolves. In the first 8 years of the program more than 100 non-target animals from 7 other wildlife species, aside from 154 wolves, suffered an excruciating death at the hands of this poison. The number of non-target mortalities outnumbered both the number of wolves killed and the number of at-risk caribou left on the impoverished Little Smoky habitat. If less animals are dying there today, it's only because there are less animals alive in the area today.
Species at Risk in Canadian wildlife poison use zones include:
American Badger (special concern in Canada)
Burrowing Owl (endangered in Alberta and Saskatchewan)
Fisher (sensitive in Alberta)
Golden Eagle (sensitive in Alberta)
Grizzly Bear (threatened in Alberta)
Long-Tailed Weasel (sensitive in Alberta)
Lynx (sensitive in Alberta)
Peregrine Falcon (sensitive in Alberta)
Sensitive Raptors (special concern in Canada)
Swift Fox (threatened in Canada; endangered in Alberta and Saskatchewan)
Wolverine (special concern in Canada)
According the Government of Canada, the purposes of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) are"to prevent wildlife species in Canada from disappearing, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated (no longer exist in the wild in Canada), endangered, or threatened as a result of human activity, and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened." And yet, pesticide use continues to be sanctioned, putting many species we seek to protect at further risk of extinction.
Where are they being used?
These poisons are showing up in places where they are not permitted, which reinforces concerns surrounding misuse of these highly dangerous toxins as long as they are available in the country.
Companies and agencies are required to apply to register products with Health Canada’s Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency when they want to include poison in their products.
Currently, Alberta is using all 3 poisons, Saskatchewan is using 2 (Compound 1080 and strychnine).
Compound 1080 is showing up in B.C., as detected by toxicology tests of dog victims in 2018 and 2020, despite the province not having a permit.
Find out if these poisons have been used near you. Ask your MP and look at the records from 2010-2016 on this map.
Why are they being used?
Alberta’s use of the inhumane poison Strychnine to kill wolves under the guise of caribou conservation remains highly controversial. Strychnine causes extreme suffering to wild wolves each year as well as many non-target animals. Concerns are mounting as this is not only a question of animal welfare, but also one of ecological integrity and safety.
In Alberta, the government is allowed to use poison in an attempt to boost prey populations such as moose, elk or caribou despite research indicating that killing predators to increase ungulate populations never works in the long-term.
Farmers are given these poisons to set baits with when they become concerned about losing livestock to wolves, coyotes or bears. Sometimes the wildlife manager will set the baits. This practice is outdated: scientific evidence supports the efficacy of non-lethal prevention-based measures over lethal removal of carnivores when it comes to reducing conflicts among livestock, people, and predators.
are these poisons necessary?
Inhumane actions are never necessary, despite shareholder demands. In this case, poisons can even lead to or exacerbate conflicts.
Killing wolves and coyotes disrupts their family-based social structure and can exacerbate livestock depredation. Non-lethal options can be more effective, and even more economical to farmers.
Chemical companies that profit from selling these poisons work hard to convince decision makers and farmers that their chemicals are necessary, when in fact there are better solutions for farmers and wildlife.
What regulations are in place to protect us?
Pesticides are subjected to a risk assessment and a brief public consultation period before being registered in Canada. They are re-assessed every 15 years to consider new science and low-risk alternatives.
In 2020 Health Canada cancelled the registration of strychnine, and all associated end-use products, used to control Richardson’s ground squirrels for sale and use in Canada. According to Health Canada:
"An evaluation of available scientific information has not shown that risks to the environment are acceptable when strychnine is used according to the current conditions of registration, or when additional mitigation is considered."
However, Health Canada has failed to recognize that these same risks apply to ALL strychnine products and uses.
Public engagement can help determine that this highly dangerous predicide not be renewed.
Re-evaluations of poisons used to target predators including strychnine, Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide will occur in 2021.