Wolf Awareness is a non-profit Canadian organization dedicated to the conservation of wolves through research and public education about wolf ecology.

Poison – WARNING!

Image courtesy of Peter A. Dettling

Alberta’s use of the highly controversial poisons Strychnine, Compound 1080 and Sodium Cyanide cause extreme and prolonged suffering to hundreds of wild canids each year as well as many non-target species, including endangered species, domestic and companion animals.

Alberta is currently the only province or territory in Canada that is using all of these indiscriminate and harmful poisons.  Saskatchewan also has permits for use.  The expiry date for Alberta’s use of strychnine ends December 31, 2017, meaning that Strychnine use is currently up for renewal in Alberta.  Despite not being legally allowed for use in other provinces, as long as they remain available in Canada these poisons will continue to show up in dead animals across the country, such as these recent strychnine deaths in British Columbia .

These poisons pose a very serious danger to everything sharing a landscape.  Use our list of 5 critical points below to comment on Alberta’s use of these non-selective and inhumane poisons; contact information is provided below.   Many countries around the world have now banned these harmful substances that are still in use in Canada.

It’s time to end the use of these poisons across Canada once and for all. 

Wolf Awareness believes a national ban on Compound 1080, Sodium Cyanide and Strychnine is warranted for the following reasons:

  1. 1. These chemicals are a cruel method of killing wildlife

Compound 1080, Strychnine and sodium cyanide are each widely acknowledged as an inhumane method of killing animals due to the intensity and duration of the suffering they cause. Animals that ingest Compound 1080 or strychnine can suffer excruciating pain for several hours; sometimes even days with 1080, before finally losing consciousness. Symptoms can include but are not limited to severe and prolonged convulsions, vomiting, unusual vocalizations, excessive salivation, muscular weakness and respiratory distress. Poisoned animals can become injured or suffer tissue trauma if they come in contact with rigid objects during their uncontrollable muscle spasms. Poisoned 1080 victims will typically die from respiratory or nervous system failure or from a cardiac attack.  Watch this informative video about 1080 from New Zealand.

Strychnine and Sodium Cyanide also cause similar violent symptoms and convulsions to victims and lead to prolonged suffering prior to death.  Watch this video of a dog suffering in the throes of strychnine.

Proulx et al.’s scientific publication Poisoning wolves with strychnine is unacceptable in experimental studies and conservation programmes (2015) outlines the following:

“According to the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC 2003), a killing method is humane if it causes rapid (immediate) unconsciousness and subsequent death without pain or distress. 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 (Khan 2010).
However, death can take up to 24 hours or longer if the dose is low (Eason & Wickstrom 2001).

The use of strychnine to kill wolves is in contravention of CCAC guidelines (CCAC 2003), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA 2013), the Canadian Veterinary
Medical Association (2014), and the American Society of Mammalogists (Sikes et al. 2011)”.

Although the above quotes reference strychnine, both Compound 1080 and Sodium Cyanide also fit into this rationale.

2. These poisons are a threat to species at risk and biodiversity

Poison baits are often the subject of vigorous debate over the impact they have on non-target animals, including endangered species, domestic animals and companion animals. The residual poison left in the tissues of victims is toxic to scavengers as well.  These toxins can virtually render a landscape sterile, effecting everything sharing a food chain.

Despite all three poisons being equally inhumane, wildlife managers often attempt to persuade the public that Compound 1080 is a more selective poison that the others, specifically targeting wolves and coyotes or any animal in the dog family – Canidae – because they metabolize the toxin differently.   Compound 1080 was originally believed to be specific to canids, because canids are up to ten times more susceptible to the poison compared to most other mammals, however in reality it is highly toxic to all mammals and birds, and has varying potential toxicity levels on fish and invertebrates.  While 1080 is mainly used to target rodents and wild canids, many other animals have been unintentionally killed by it, including endangered species, livestock and pets.

For this reason, we will focus on how indiscriminate a killer Compound 1080 actually is.  Because of its non-selectivity (PMRA 2014), Compound 1080 has killed humans, pets, eagles, badgers, bobcats, raccoons, bears, wolves, coyotes and various other wildlife species (Defenders  1982). Additionally, victims vomit after ingesting this slow-acting poison, thereby spreading it across the landscape until they are killed  (Randall 1981).   Veterinarians of the Canadian Cooperative of Wildlife Health (CCWHC), (1999) classified 1080 as  “moderately selective for canids”.

Before discontinuing use of Compound 1080 in the late 1990’s, a BC government report found that 20-28% of wolf baits containing the poison were taken by non-target species. Similarly in the US, a federal predator control supervisor found the poison in the carcasses of golden eagles, bobcats, black bears, pine martens, badgers, dogs and Canada Jays. The poison is believed to be at least partly responsible for the decline of several species at risk in North America, including the Kit fox, California Condor and Black-footed ferrets in the US. Environment Canada has reported that the poison is at least partly responsible for a drastic 71% decline of a breeding colony of Burrowing Owls over a 2-year period.

This is of great concern not only for Burrowing Owls but other species at risk in Alberta and Saskatchewan where Compound 1080 and other poisons are permitted. Vulnerable scavengers include Swift fox, American badger, Grizzly bear and Short-eared owl, among others.

3. These poisons are unnecessary and ineffective

Only a small percentage of livestock deaths are caused by wild predators. Pre-emptive and/or indiscriminate wolf and coyote kill programs (whether through poisoning, traps or aerial gunning) can result in higher wolf and coyote numbers and greater livestock depredation because it disrupts their natural behaviours and pack dynamics. Humane alternatives exist that are much more effective at preventing and reducing livestock depredation.  See Wolf Awareness Ranchers Guide to Coexistence Among People, Livestock and Wolves 2nd Ed.

As the ends do not justify the means, the use of poison in a conservation campaign aimed at caribou recovery is hypocritical and ludicrous.  Not only are the methods of death inhumane to all species that encounter the poison, but there is no evidence to indicate that the province’s wolf kill program has significantly increased caribou populations, despite killing more than 800 wolves since 2005.

4. They pose a serious threat to the health and safety of Canadians

One teaspoon of Compound 1080 can kill 30 – 100 people and there is no antidote.

Labelled as a Class 1a poison (the most toxic category) by the World Health Organization (WHO) and considered a super poison by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Compound 1080 is a colourless, odourless salt that is highly soluble in water. The FBI has added it to its list of highly toxic pesticides considered likely to be used by terrorists.

While intended for wildlife deemed a ‘nuisance’, Compound 1080 has resulted in accidental human deaths in the U.S.

The federal government has devolved the responsibility of administering and monitoring Compound 1080 to provincial governments which have delegated it to the municipal/local level. Our research suggests that it is not regulated well enough in Canada to ensure the public’s safety or the protection of wild and domesticated animals that are not the intended targets.

A young boy recently lost his companion dog and nearly his own life to a Sodium Cyanide cartridge, prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove cyanide devices and announce that it is ending its use of the M-44 mechanisms in Idaho indefinitely.

5. These toxins have been banned in several jurisdictions

Compound 1080, often considered to be the least harmful of these three predacides, has been banned in Brazil, Belize, Cuba, Slovenia, Thailand, Laos, China, South Africa, and several US states including California, Washington State and Oregon.

__________________________NOTE: More details below on specific poisons________________________________

Join us in asking the Minister of Health to ban the use, production, processing and sale of Compound 1080, Strychnine and Sodium Cyanide outright across Canada.  Alberta’s Strychnine permit will be reviewed federally for renewal in 2017, so we are also asking Alberta to end use and stop renewing permits for these harmful poisons.



Compound 1080SODIUM MONOFLUOROACE, commonly called Sodium fluoroacetate or Compound 1080 is a highly toxic substance that has been used as a poison to kill off vertebrate species considered undesirable (“pests”) by humans. The use of this compound is highly controversial as it presents great risks to numerous species sharing a landscape (Alberta Sustainable Resources Development Report 2008).

The properties of this compound render its ecological impacts as long term and far-reaching.

There is no antidote to 1080. It is highly toxic to mammals and birds, and has varying potential toxicity levels on fish and invertebrates. Because of its non-selectivity (Pesticide Management Regulation Agency 2014), Compound 1080 has killed humans, pets, eagles, badgers, bobcats, raccoons, bears, wolves, coyotes and various other wildlife species. The residual poison left in the tissues of 1080 victims are toxic to scavengers, and the vomit from a victim can also pass the poison on to others if it is ingested (Randall 1981). Furthermore, animals that are subjected to a non-lethal dose of the poison have a reduced chance of survival due to other causes after being weakened, as wildlife depend upon alertness, agility, hunting and/or escape skills to survive (Defenders of Wildlife 1982).

Sodium Monofluoroace, commonly called Sodium fluoroacetate or Compound 1080, is one of the most toxic poisons used in Canadian farming. Regulated under the federal Pest Control Products Act (PCPA) it is currently authorized for use in two provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, to kill wolves and coyotes which can predate on livestock. The poison can be placed in meat baits set out to attract the predators or placed in collars worn by livestock (usually sheep). Compound 1080 has been used to poison rodents and rabbits as well.

Manitoba and B.C. have discontinued the use of Compound 1080.

STRYCHNINE is a neurotoxin being used by the Alberta government as part of the wolf kill program under the guise of caribou recovery.  Laced bait stations are placed within caribou ranges to attract wolves. It is also available in a 2% liquid form that can be purchased for use on gophers, ground squirrels and other small animals.  Strychnine is a central nervous system stimulant that is toxic to ALL wildlife.  It causes extremely painful muscular convulsions with asphyxiation being the final cause of death.  There is no antidote to strychnine poisoning.

Strychnine was first used in Canada in 1928.  However, according to Pesticide Management Regulation Agency records it was first registered for use in Alberta in 1987 for the control of wolves, coyotes and black bears.

Read this paper by Dr. Gilbert Proulx and other experts titled Why poisoning wolves with strychnine is unacceptable in experimental studies and conservation programs, stating;

“the use of strychnine in scientific investigations is unethical according to contemporary animal
care guidelines, and adversely affects sympatric predators and scavengers. Accordingly, we believe that the use of strychnine poisoning in wildlife conservation should be prohibited and
condemned by the scientific community, governments, and conservation groups” (Proulx et al. 2015).

The most recent government approval of Strychnine use in Alberta occurred in 2012, during which time registration was approved and renewed.  Strychnine use is currently up for renewal in Alberta.

Since 2005, more than 800 wolves have been killed under the guise of protecting the Little Smokey Caribou herd in habitat 95% disturbed by oil and gas infrastructure. Wolves were killed in strangling snares, gunned down from helicopters and poisoned using elk and moose killed and laced with strychnine.  Indiscriminate weapons, snares killed 676 other animals, including 2 caribou. There is no way to estimate how many non-target animals died of strychnine poisoning.

SODIUM CYANIDE is another predacide used in Alberta targeting wolves and coyotes.  A recent publication by Wild Wolf Press titled ALBERTA’S WILD WOLVES a call from the wild describes this potent poison in the following way:

“In Alberta cyanide is used in a mechanical device called an M-44.  A small cylinder containing the deadly dose of sodium cyanide is driven into the ground on a stake, and spring-loaded to deliver a deadly dose of sodium cyanide when an animal licks, bites, or pulls on the fabric covering of the cylinder which sprays cyanide into the animal’s mouth and face which turns into gas in the throat or stomach.  The ejector can spray the cyanide up to 5 feet.

Since cattle, horses and other livestock will lick or step on the device; they too are risk, as are pets and people who investigate not knowing the danger. A poisoned animal can die within minutes 15 to 20 minutes or as long as 8 hours (78.74). The victim suffers: excitement/panic, loss of balance, and will stagger, struggle and collapse. Weakness, rapid breathing which may stop and start. Foaming at the mouth, excessive tears, loss of bladder and bowel control. Vomiting (especially in pigs), bright red mucus membranes as in the case of strychnine. Convulsions and myocardial hypoxia ensue, with the animal eventually dying due to respiratory failure -severe asphyxia/suffocation.”

References used:

Proulx, G., R.K. Brook, M. Cattet and P. Paquet.  (2015).  Poisoning wolves with strychnine is unacceptable in experimental studies and conservation programmes.  Environmental Conservation.  doi:10.1017/S0376892915000211

PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency)Health Canada.  (2014).  Re-evaluation Decision: Special Review Decision for Compound 1080, Ref. no. RVD2014-03.   ISSN: 1925-1017 (print) 1925-1025 (online)  Catalogue number: H113-28/2014-03E (print version)  H113-28/2014-03E-  PDF (PDF version) 10pp.

Randall, D. (1981)“Bitter Truths About 1080”.  Defenders of Wildlife. Vol. 96, No. 5pp. 18-21.

Defenders  Of Wildlife. (1982). 1080, the case against poisoning our wildlife. Washington, D.C., special report.

CCWHC(Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Center). (1999) 1080 Review.  Unpublished report prepared for the Wildlife Branch BC Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria. 8 pages.