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A teenaged Pocatello, Idaho boy was playing with his dog along a hillside behind his family’s home when he saw what he thought was a sprinkler head on the ground and touched it. The device immediately exploded, killing the young dog, and knocking the boy to the ground.
When it detonated, the device sprayed 14-year old Canyon Mansfield and 3-year old, 90-pound yellow Labrador, Casey, in an orange substance that they later learned was cyanide gas.
When the boy’s father contacted authorities, they discovered that the device had been placed on the hillside to control predators like coyotes. More commonly known as a ‘cyanide bomb’, when a predator comes in contact with the explosive, it releases a spray of deadly cyanide gas. The device was placed by an individual working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. Authorities investigating the incident discovered a second, undetonated cyanide bomb nearby.
The Bannock County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement:
“The Bannock County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an incident involving a predator control device that detonated killing a family’s dog. The Sheriff’s Office received the call earlier this date from the father indicating an unknown device had detonated in close proximity to his son and the family’s dog. The incident occurred on a ridge line located above a residence on Buckskin Rd. The father indicated that the family dog had been killed and his son had been covered in an unknown substance as the device detonated. Luckily this child was not seriously injured. It was later determined that the device was placed at it’s location by the Department of Agriculture. The device is used by the Department of Agriculture for predator control and when activated releases a burst of Cyanide. The device is a M-44 device but is commonly referred to as a “Cyanide Bomb”. This device is extremely dangerous to animals and humans. A picture of the device in included in this release for the public’s knowledge. If a device such as this is ever located please do not touch or go near the device and contact your local law enforcement agency. The family involved in this incident were evaluated at a local hospital and were released.”
Canyon Mansfield was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was tested for cyanide poisoning and later released without serious physical injuries. The emotional injuries to the family will take much longer to heal.
The area where the incident occurred is behind the family’s home, where the children often played. Not only are Canyon’s parents afraid to let their children play there again, they say Canyon has been deeply scarred by watching his dog writhing in pain and dying right in front of him.
“That is going to be on his mind forever,” she told the Idaho State Journal. “Seeing something like that stays with you.”
A Wildlife Services spokesperson said the devices are placed with permission or at the request of properly owners and that they are spring-activated, not explosive. They agency also said they attempt to minimize risks to pets and humans by posting warnings. But, Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said he was not made aware of any such devices being placed in Pocatello.
“I’ve been a sheriff here for 20 years and worked for the office for 39 years, and I’ve never heard of leaving around a device that emits poisonous gas,” he said.
The Mansfield family, local police, and neighbors assert that they were never notified that such a device was placed near their home and no signs were posted indicating they were there. The police on scene were not aware such a device even existed.