As this teenage boy was out walking his pet dog, he stumbled across an unusual object and approached it with curiosity. But what happened next would kill his beloved pet. Naturally, the incident devastated the boy and his family – but their grief turned into anger when they found out that the device had been deliberately planted by the government.
Like many young boys, Canyon Mansfield was best friends with his dog. After all, the 14-year-old had owned Casey for three years, and they did practically everything together. More often than not, for instance, the pair spent their days exploring their home city of Pocatello in Idaho.
And one day in March 2017, the pair were doing just that: enjoying a walk near their family home. But little did they know that one of them would never make it back from their walk.
As they were strolling along, Canyon noticed an object sticking out from the ground. Curiosity got the better of him, and he approached and touched the thing. Suddenly, there was a popping noise followed by a small hiss as the object ejected an orange powder.
This strange sight startled Canyon, and he leapt back from the peculiar object. But then he saw Casey – and he didn’t look good.
“He just stayed on the ground mumbling,” Canyon told the Idaho State Journal in March 2017. “I thought he was playing with his toy, but I saw the toy a couple of yards away from him. So I called him again and got really scared.”
With Casey not responding, Canyon rushed towards him. However, as he got closer, the teen realized just how bad the situation was. “[I] saw this red froth coming from his mouth and his eyes turning glassy and he was having a seizure,” Canyon recalled.
The terrified youngster then rushed down the hill to fetch help. However, when he returned with his parents, they discovered the dog was already dead. Naturally, the ordeal devastated Canyon and the rest of his family.
However, there was little time for Canyon to grieve his pet. That’s because he soon discovered that he had stumbled upon an unmarked cyanide booby trap. And as a result, his life now hung in the balance.
Cyanide is an extremely potent poison which effectively strangles the cells that transport blood around the body. As it does so, it makes it impossible for the body to absorb oxygen, essentially suffocating its victims from the inside out.
So Canyon’s parents quickly stripped off the boy’s powder-covered clothes. Then his father, who is himself a doctor, rushed him to the nearest emergency room. Thankfully, staff there said the youngster was okay, aside from being traumatized.
But when the shocking source of the cyanide bomb emerged, the family’s anguish only grew. The trap, known as an M44, is used by the United States government to kill so-called pests such as coyotes. It works because the animals are drawn to the traps via scented bait before being poisoned by the cyanide.
Each year, however, the Wildlife Service section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inadvertently kills thousand of animals. According to the agency, M44s erroneously poisoned 3,400 animals between the years 2006 and 2012. Some campaigners, though, believe that this number could be even higher.
So Casey certainly wasn’t the first dog to die as a result of an encounter with one of the devices. In fact, that same month two more pets lost their lives to a M44 in Casper, Wyoming. Once again, their owner said the cyanide bomb in question was unmarked.
The Mansfield family had no idea such devices existed so close to their property. And the county sheriff didn’t even know they were there, either. The person who planted the M44s, however, claimed that he had permission to do so.
“My son Canyon, who witnessed it all, is really struggling with what happened,” the teen’s mom, Theresa, told The Dodo. “It was above our house. It makes me not feel safe. I feel like I had terrorism in my own backyard, with my own government.”
In a statement, a spokesperson from the USDA said it “understands the close bonds between people and their pets and sincerely regrets such losses.” However, that was not enough for Theresa.
Indeed, she has joined a number of other campaigners in the fight against the government’s use of M44 cyanide traps. Following Casey’s death, then, a group of 19 wildlife and conservation organizations teamed up to file a petition to Wildlife Services. The petition called for the removal of all explosive cyanide devices and the banning of M44s in Idaho.
Impressively, their campaign worked. So in April 2017, just one month after Casey’s death, Wildlife Services vowed to stop using cyanide devices in Idaho. Now campaigners such as the Mansfield family hope the ban can be spread nationwide.
Brooks Fahy, director of Predator Defense, a nonprofit organization that promotes coexistence of people and predators, welcomed the news, too. “This could well be the tipping point that leads to a nationwide ban of these extraordinarily dangerous devices,” she told The Dodo.