WARNING: The story below is tragic and deeply disturing. We share it because we firmly believe wildlife poisons like the sodium cyanide in M-44s must be banned. We have been working since 1990 to do just that, and legislation we've been working on was just reintroduced in Congress on Mar. 30, 2017. Details | How you can help
While a family enjoys a favorite
walk on public prairie land, two dogs
are killed by a wildlife poison ejector
while an 8-year-old girl watches.
The dogs died a horrific death while
their family tried to save them.
— On March 11, 2017, a Wyoming nurse named Amy went out for a day trip with her family to enjoy a walk on the Wyoming prairie about 50 miles northwest of Casper. They had been to the particular spot many times before to antler hunt, let their dogs get exercise, climb on the beautiful asymmetric sandstone rock outcroppings, and have lunch together.
Amy’s companions on this beautiful pre-spring morning included her husband, her 8-year old daughter, and their two Drahthaar dogs—Abby and Vita. Amy’s sister and brother-in-law also came along for the adventure and brought their two Weimaraners—Molly and Stella. Molly was a rescue dog from Colorado, the third rescue Amy’s sister had the privilege of adding to their family. She and her husband had not had children, and had dedicated their lives to their dogs.
Their destination was public land. They were aware of private land in the area and very much respected landowners rights, but they had studied the map and were not worried about entering private land because it was further than they planned on going. After leaving the highway, they crossed many cattle guards. Towards the end they drove through a closed gate, which they reclosed to keep any potential livestock contained. They then drove approximately 1/4 of a mile to where they had parked many times before. They paid careful attention for cyanide trap signs because they had their beloved dogs with them, and Amy’s young daughter, Roxy Marie.
Unmarked gate on Wyoming land
where Amy, her extended family,
and their dogs frequently went for
a walk. On March 11, 2017 that
walk turned deadly.
They walked for a few hours, looking for antlers, climbing on the rocks, and taking pictures. Then they headed back to the truck to have lunch while the dogs stayed close exploring the prairie. After lunch they decided to walk a different way, returning after about an hour and a half to where they had stopped before lunch. At one point Amy’s husband was a little ways away and she thought she heard him hollering at the dogs to come closer.
That’s when the horror began. She looked up saw him running down a hill holding their 15-year-old dog Abby. Abby had cataracts and Amy assumed she had fallen off of an edge or large rock and hurt her legs. She asked what happened and her husband yelled in a loud panicked voice that the dogs had gotten into a cyanide trap. Amy could not believe what was happening. They ran to a nearby creek to try and help Abby by washing her face and mouth out. Amy tried to pry Abby’s mouth open but her jaw was clenched too tightly.
They were unaware of the magnitude of what just happened. They could hear she was having difficulty breathing and was unable to stand and her eyes were fixed looking straight ahead.
Before they got to the water Amy looked up the hill and saw her brother-in-law carrying his 7-year-old Weimaraner Molly. She said she felt like they were in a war zone. Her husband yelled for her to get the other two dogs and to keep them close.
Amy's brother-in-law Todd, with
photo of his dog Molly, who was
tragically killed by an M-44
By the time they got Abby to the creek they knew that trying to wash the cyanide out of her body was not working and she was dying. Amy glanced up towards the bank of the creek and saw her sister and brother-in-law carrying Molly by her feet, upside-down. No one could believe this was happening to them.
Abby’s breathing continued to get worse. Amy’s family petted Abby and kissed her face while telling her they loved her, wanting to show her as much love as they could to ease her dying. In retrospect they realized they were exposing themselves to the cyanide that had sprayed on Abby’s face and was going to be the cause of her death.
Amy walked a few steps over to her sister and brother-in-law where they had Molly lying. Amy’s brother-in-law was on his knees with his forehead resting close to Molly’s face and he was sobbing. Molly was not breathing, she was gone. They all kissed her and told her how much they loved her, again exposing themselves to the deadly cyanide.
Amy walked back over to Abby. Her husband was holding her and they hear the last few gasping breaths of their sweet dog, Abby was now gone. They were all crying, Roxie Marie was sobbing, and the two dogs that were still alive kept coming over and smelling their companions. This was the worst, saddest, and most traumatic day they had ever been through. They sat there holding their dead dogs for some time in disbelief. Amy said she remembers thinking “This is complete, unnecessary horror.”
The group needed to get the dogs that were still alive back to the truck immediately to keep them safe and alive. Amy took Vita by the collar and began walking back to the truck with Roxy Marie and her husband. Her sister took Stella by the collar and followed. Before putting the dogs in the back, Amy’s husband went to his tool box and got two shovels. She realized at that time that they were going home with only two of their beloved dogs. Amy’s husband walked back over to where the dogs had died, where her brother-in-law had stayed.
“We decided to bury our beloved dogs together because in their world they are cousins,” Amy said. “We couldn’t take them home with us for cremation because we did not want to harm the dogs that we still had alive.”
We will let Amy continue to tell the rest of the story in her own words:
“Some time passed…it seemed like an eternity,” Amy said. “Then we saw the two of them walking on top of the cedar ridge. They each had a shovel in their hands resting on their shoulders. My sister and I broke down. I guess we were still in disbelief and hoping to see two dogs following behind them. We stayed by the truck for a while all facing back where the dogs had been buried, crying and hugging. Then we all slowly got into the truck and drove out. This day has been hell.”
“Not a word was spoken on the long 50-mile drive home. All you could hear in the cab of the truck was crying and sniffling. I looked into the back of the truck through the window and saw Vita and Stella setting under the shell of the truck looking at us and I am sure wondering where their sister dogs were.”
“This is my story, and no matter how horrible it is for me to tell it I must do it. I don’t want anyone else to go through such horror. We love you and will miss you desperately Abby and Molly!”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Amy wanted us to add that at no time while being in the area did they see “private property” or “no trespassing” signs. After the tragedy they did more research and discovered there was a 10-15 acre section of private land in the area that is land-locked by public land. Using their GPS they found they had unknowingly entered that small section of private property by approximately 100 yards when their dogs found the cyanide traps.
- USDA halts use of M-44 'cyanide bombs' in Idaho following death of family pet - FOX News, Apr. 11, 2017
- Feds ban Idaho cyanide bombs, still want Wyoming use - WyoFile, Apr. 11, 2017
- E. Oregon counties drop cyanide trap use: Wildlife agencies halt practice after gray wolf accidentally killed - Baker City Herald, Mar. 31, 2017
- Legislation introduced to ban use of cyanide for predator control - Idaho State Journal, Mar. 30, 2017
- Cyanide bomb kills two Casper dogs - WyoFile.com, Mar. 31, 2017
- Rein in wildlife agency - RegisterGuard editorial, Mar. 28, 2017
- Controversial bomb that killed dog a common tool in Utah, West - 'I feel like I've had terrorism in my backyard,' Pocatello mom says. Deseret News, Mar. 26, 2017
- THE NEW WEST: The Real Prey - Todd Wilkinson goes in-depth on how an Idaho boy almost became a casualty of the Western war waged on predators - Planet Jackson Hole, Mar. 22, 2017
- 'Cyanide Bomb' that killed dog, poisoned owner placed illegally by Wildlife Services - Fox 13, Mar. 21, 2017
- Family's dog was just killed by this tool — and the U.S. Government put it there - The Dodo, Mar. 21, 2017
- USDA must rethink cyanide bombs that injured boy, killed pets, lawmaker says - Fox News , Mar. 21, 2017
- Labrador killed by cyanide device in Idaho, boy knocked to the ground -
The Oregonian, Mar. 18, 2017
- 'Horrific incident': Family speaks out after pet dog killed by 'cyanide bomb' - Idaho State Journal, Mar. 17, 2017 (Article features video of 14 year-old boy who accidentally set off M-44 "cyanide bomb" that killed his dog.)
- Gov't agency issues statement after family dog killed by 'cyanide bomb' -
East Idaho News, Mar. 17, 2017
- Pocatello boy watches family dog die after 'cyanide bomb' explodes -
Idaho State Journal, Mar. 16, 2017
- Feds kill wolf in Wallowa County on private land with cyanide trap -
The Oregonian, Mar. 2, 2017
- NE Oregon wolf poisoned by a trap set to kill coyotes -
Capital Press, Mar. 2, 2017
The tragic and unnecessary loss of beloved companion animals like Abby and Molly is only part of the story of what goes on across the country, due to wildlife management agencies attempting to prevent livestock losses and property damage by using indiscriminate poisons and traps to kill native wildlife.
If the government followed their own regulations and directives, or adopted recommended changes to protect public safety, we would not have to memorialize the deaths and near deaths of the wonderful companion animals on our website.
The case above is just one out of countless. The reality is that this is a nationwide epidemic. The number of pets killed is grossly under-reported. Thousands of pets that owners presume have gone missing have more likely fallen victim to government traps. We know this because former federal agents have told us that when they trap a dog and are certain no one witnessed it, they routinely remove the dog's collar and dispose of the body where no one will discover it. This is unconscionable.
Learn more in our whistleblower film, "EXPOSED: USDA's Secret War on Wildlife." and at the links below:
- Other M-44 victims tell their stories
- The USDA's war on wildlife
- List of documented "non-target victims" of Wildlife Services, 1990-2011
- "Sacramento Bee" expose on Wildlife Services - in-depth features, editorials, and followup articles calling for a Congressional investigation and agency reform
Please help us stop tragedies like Abby's and Molly's deaths by taking action today:
- AMERICANS: Please support H.R. 1817, "The Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017." This federal legislation would ban wildlife poisons like M-44 "cyanide bombs" nationwide. It was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 30, 2017 by Rep. Peter Defazio (D-Oreg.). Find your Representative and urge them to sign on to and/or support H.R. 1817. Tell them it is common-sense, tax-saving, nonpartisan legislation and should be supported without resistance as an essential public safety measure by all elected officials. Then spread the word to every possible person.
- OREGONIANS: Contact Rep. Peter DeFazio and let him know you support his legislation to ban M-44s and all wildlife poisons. Then contact Governor Kate Brown and ask her to permanently cut state funding for USDA Wildlife Services.
- Sign petition to ban M-44s
- Spread the word to everyone you know who cares about wolves and wildlife. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and share our posts.
- Support our work with a donation today. Any amount helps and is greatly appreciated.