Read the open letter to the Minister of Health and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency regarding the use of strychnine, sodium monofluoroacetate (Compound 1080), and sodium cyanide to kill wildlife in Canada.
Signed by more than 50 leading experts.
Dr. Judith Samson-French, DVM MSc.
Banded Peak Veterinary Hospital
Bragg Creek, Alberta
Dear Ginette Petitpas Taylor - Health Minister of Canada, Members of Parliament, and other interested parties,
As humans, it is our shared responsibility to ensure that whenever an animal’s life is taken, it is done with as little fear, pain, and distress as possible.
To achieve this, there must be a rapid loss of consciousness followed by cardiac and respiratory arrest, and thus brain function. Unconsciousness, i.e. a loss of awareness, happens when the brain is so disrupted that it can no longer integrate information. Pain can be perceived while not yet unconscious.
Thus, the use of the toxicants strychnine, Compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate), and sodium cyanide, is extremely problematic and unacceptable as a killing method because each fail to induce rapid loss of consciousness and each produces a great amount of fear, pain, and distress.
As an emergency veterinarian, I have witnessed several cases of strychnine poisoning in dogs. The clinical signs and suffering would be no different in wolves. To this day, I am haunted by the early signs of poisoning I have witnessed: twitching which was aggravated by mild external stimuli such as the mere noise of a door closing, to more advanced signs such as severe convulsions with the body arching backwards so violently I thought the animal’s spine would snap. I then could not reach for the euthanizing solution fast enough to put them out of their misery. Independent laboratory examination of stomach content always confirmed diagnosis.
In the case of using these toxicants in nature, it is equally distressing to know that the kill may not always come from a high enough dose of the poison itself. Instead, causative physiological impairments affecting hunting, predator evasion and
ambulatory behaviours become compromised, lasting for days, and further contributing to animals’ misery and demise.
In addition, the indiscriminate use of toxicants to kill wolves or other targeted species results in vast ecological carnage, affecting non-target species, both domestic and wild.
Such situations fail to demonstrate:
The ability to produce an unconscious state and death with a minimum of fear, pain, and distress in amphibians, avians and a whole array of mammals.
The length of time to produce an unconscious state, which will vary.
ANY kind of safety for predators and scavengers feeding on a poisoned animal’s remains.
As a veterinarian committed to animal health and welfare and a former Alberta Fish & Wildlife biologist, I vehemently oppose the use of these toxicants as a method of responsible wildlife management since poison has not been scientifically proven to achieve sustainable population control, its use is not socially acceptable, and the fact remains that under ANY circumstances the use of these poisons cannot be justified as
I hope you also believe that the truest and highest expression of ourselves is not achieved by cruelly poisoning animals.
Judith Samson-French DVM MSc
September 17, 2017
Re: Use of poisons strychnine, sodium fluoroacetate, and sodium cyanide to kill wildlife.
Dr. Judit Smits
DVM, MVetSc, PhD, Professor
Ecotoxicology & Wildlife Health
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary
Re: the indiscriminant nature of strychnine, sodium fluoroacetate (compound 1080) and sodium cyanide as wildlife killing agents as predator-control poisons in current (legal) use in AB:
In efforts to control predation by carnivores, which are perceived to be largely responsible for declines in endangered and threatened species such as the woodland caribou, as well as for preying on domestic animals, there is continued legal and illegal applications of strychnine, and sodium fluoroacetate, both of which can and do cause death in non-target species.
Persistence of 1080 in the environment in baits, and in the carcasses of poisoned carnivores, causes secondary poisoning in unintended animals. Even for those animals not directly consuming the bait,
other predators and scavengers can be intoxicated by feeding on the poisoned carcass. Non-target animals that may have consumed some of the bait will not behave normally, making themselves more susceptible to predation, and thus provide yet another route for poisoning non-target animals.
Affected,non-target species have include native small mammals, owls, hawks, other birds of prey, scavengers including endangered species of vulture, ravens, magpies, foxes, seed eating birds, insectivorous birds, bobcats, plus domestic dogs.
Predator Control Officer
The characteristic form of a wolf or coyote killed by strychnine displayed is described in the following expert testimonial by Dwight Rodtka, a retired provincial wildlife official for Alberta who worked as a predator control officer:
All the muscles try to work at once so you get the fore and rear legs extended rigidly as far as they will go and the back arched downward with the head and neck extended forward and upward. This is the classic form and easily recognizable once seen. Of course deterioration changes this and then a check for toxicants must be done. If the animal is skinned the flesh side of the hide will be bruised caused by the rupturing of blood vessels during convulsions but this too changes with deterioration.
I am completely against strychnine being used in this cull because it is inhumane and simply will not effectively kill wolves in either a cull situation or livestock depredation. It causes bait aversion very quickly as well as (killing) non targets and there is secondary poisoning. It's use causes the needless death of countless animals.
Dr. Gilbert Proulx
Alpha Wildlife Research & Management Ltd.
November 2, 2017
To Whom it May Concern:
With this letter, I join my voice to those of all responsible Canadian citizens who are concerned with the use of strychnine in Canada. In the last years, it has been used by the Government of Alberta to kill wolves in an alleged attempt to recover the Little Smoky caribou population. While the wolf killing program is not based on scientific facts and is a false attempt to save caribou from habitat destruction by industry, the use of strychnine to kill wolves and non-target species is unacceptable. Death by strychnine ingestion is inhumane, as it causes frequent periods of tetanic seizures, occasional cessation of breathing, hyperthermia, extreme suffering, and death from exhaustion or asphyxiation, which typically occurs within 1–2 hours of the onset of clinical signs. However, death can take up to 24 hours or longer if the dose is low.
Since 1998, liquid strychnine has been re-introduced in our Canadian ecosystems to control northern pocket gophers and Richardson’s ground squirrels. However, scientific assessments of the efficacy of this poison to control these fossorial rodents showed that strychnine poison baits were unreliable and ineffective to control populations. Furthermore, their misuse by producers had led to the endangerment of carnivores in the Prairies, notably the American badger.
As a wildlife expert and a scientist who has conducted most of the strychnine evaluations in Canada, I strongly recommend that this poison be eradicated from our ecosystems, and I urge authorities to deny Alberta’s application to renew its permit to use strychnine to kill wolves and other wildlife.